Friday, December 2, 2016

No Surrender




I.

You were grouped together in the beginning because you were both white and similarly aged.
But right away you recognized the blissful obliviousness in her laugh, the shell to hide the shell that hid the expectations of her requests.
After a week, you knew how she took her coffee.
After a year, she still had trouble recalling the name of your daughter.
In time, you move seats, closer to the tea-colored skin of men and women whose warm manners and fragrant lunches stirred in you an interest for the unfamiliar.

II.

One day you wear your Hillary shirt to work.
She laughs. “I didn’t know you were one of them!”
She takes out her phone. More laughter. “For my husband, do you mind?”
You don’t. You even pose. I will be the one laughing soon, you think.
And why not? The stars seemed aligned. The familiar rhyme of HIStory was coming to an end.
Misogyny, goodbye.

III.

Morning after the first debate she calls you to her cubicle.
“She wiped the floor with him,” she says, her hands making a sweeping motion across her chest.
Your posture relaxes. Office walls cave in.
“I can’t vote for Trump,” she adds voluntarily. “I have a daughter.”
Then she offers all the reasons she’s voted red in the past:
Abortions, the economy, crime.
“White men get shot by cops too,” she argues.
You nod back a rebuke. She has switched sides. That is enough for now.

IV.

Election day you wear your shirt again. You write on your knuckles, in fat black letters, “NASTY.”
When you leave work for the polls, your co-worker who can’t vote yells after you,
“Congratulations, America!”

V.

Two days after the election you peel yourself from the couch and wipe off the spidery webs of shock and shame you feel for your nation long enough to shower for the first time in days.
The “N” has faded from your knuckle, but the other letters have remained. You think, “ASTY” could be anything. It might as well be “TASTY”—and you think, how appropriate.
(Because that’s how you feel. Consigned to nothing but the pretty tasty flesh you had hoped the election would free you from forever.)
In the meeting that morning, your fellow whitey won’t look at you, and you understand with a cold, sick certainty why.

VI.

The silent white voter. When the media talked about them, her face had filled your thoughts. She was one of them, you were certain. On election day she had said goodbye to everyone but you. She hadn’t talked about her change of heart in over a week. You had felt her slipping away from you, back into the velvety walls of white privilege, back to the late night Fox news marathons snuggled next to her husband and his thinly veiled red-blooded American male insecurity.
You had a hunch, but now you knew.
And you also knew this:
Whatever he did, it wasn’t enough. Misogyny, chauvinism, racism. It didn’t matter. In the end, the horror of his character could not outrace the momentum of her prejudice.

VII.

That morning two days after the election, she will not look at you and you think, good, she has some shame.
When the time comes to report your status, you say, “In Progress.”
Undeterred. Defiant.
No surrender.
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