I didn’t cry until I heard his voice.
On my way to the gym in the early morning darkness, even NPR couldn’t make him sound better. How dare he try to sound conciliatory. Just one more artless con, I thought, spilling tears so fat I heard them splat onto my spandex.
I bumbled through body pump class, staring straight ahead, knowing that any number of people in the room had colored in a dot next to the name of an international joke. I recalled the November, 2004 cover of London’s Daily Mirror, which featured a picture of George W Bush and the headline, “How Could 59,054,087 people be so dumb?”
The only folks I could see benefitting from this election are the cast and crew from Saturday Night Live, but I’m not sure Alec Baldwin really wanted a fulltime gig.
At Starbucks, I ran into my friend, Susan. We hugged and cried in the parking lot then walked in together. I pulled my jacket around me tighter. I wished I had on baggier clothes. Lots of them. Because now it’s apparently okay to leer at women and make disgusting remarks. It’s so okay, that people elected a man clearly prone to this behavior, as their president. I looked at the floor and Susan and bags of coffee. She talked about her daughters. I thought about a moment earlier in the campaign when I’d seen a little girl watching him speak, and I’d wanted to cover her ears.
Driving home though, I was forced to note traffic milling along at its normal pace. Buildings still stood, the sun was rising. Indeed, the heavy curtain at the temple of Jerusalem had not torn. America didn’t seem broken… at least the Edgewater part of it. But I felt broken. Or at least soundly kicked.
Back home the girls hovered, nosing at my hands and leaning into my legs. I’m amazed at how they understand when I’m sad and do their best to bubble wrap my shriveled little soul.
My friend Jenn had asked Lillian and me to pay a visit to their neighbor, Andy, who was now in Hospice. She and her husband Craig had helped him out – cleaning up his yard and keeping an eye out – as his disease claimed more and more of his mobility.
I did not feel like visiting with strangers, but I’d said I’d go, so I bathed both girls and headed to Pasadena.
“Oh look who’s here!” one of the nurses called out, gleefully.
God, who could be happy today?
“Our regular therapy dog is out this week. People will be so glad to see you!”
Normally there are only a few patients well enough to visit, but there were many, along with their dog-loving visitors. We spent some time with Andy, who petted Lilly, gave her a treat and called her “pretty.” We traveled the halls, bestowing licks and love and accepting the compliments of sick and weary strangers with sloppy, happy grace. Lillian does not mind admiring glances. We stopped back in on Andy before we left.
On the way home we went to Jon’s office where both Lillian and Delilah frolicked from room to room, putting on a great show of irreverence and misbehavior. The girls obviously hadn’t listened to NPR that morning, and had ignored Chuck Todd the night before. They were soft, furry, exploding swirls of pure joy.
Later that same evening, I attended a fundraiser, dreadfully certain that I would be surrounded by victorious Trumpettes. But two women, for no apparent reason, immediately befriended me, and I had quite a nice time getting to know them and about the cause: FoodLink, which at that moment needed emergency cash to buy meals and diapers for local families. I offered them free writing services.
The next morning, I checked to see if the President-elect had become bored with his national prank. No luck. I summoned my seeped energy to attend a veterans’ event hosted at the Washington Post. My friend Gina had invited me to watch what turned out to be an interesting series of interviews. She bought me lunch after. And she gave me some great tips and leads to find a few new clients. She was sad too, but still generous, kind and helpful.
Sometime that afternoon, I got texts from Jenn and Craig. Andy had passed away. They both thanked me for visiting. He’d mentioned us. It seemed a bright moment for him. We’d done a good thing.
The fog was beginning to lift.
I appreciate President Obama’s calls for unity. I’m humbled by Michelle Obama’s ability to politely host her incoming replacement. But I’m not ready. Not yet. Because I cannot unite with hate, exclusion and bigotry. I don’t embrace narcissism. I’m still shaking off the shell-shock -the realization that half of this country threw its support behind an immature bully, who has so little regard for others.
But the last 48 hours have reminded me: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Each act that attempts to tear us down must be met with a powerful thrust of thoughtfulness. Every bruising blow must be mended by the sweet salve of kindness. Insults- paid forward with hugs and dog kisses.
That is how we will fight. We will put on our furry bubble wrap and hold on to our truths and our values. We can run happily from room to room and bring joy to others. That is how we will fight and how, in the end, we will win.