“Yesterday was a bad day. Today is a good day.” My mother, January 21st, 2017, in a group text between her, my dad, my sister and I.
My sister replies, “Yes! I keep wanting to cry—but in a good way.”
I know what she means. In a café far away, my throat starts to close as I finish my Americano.
I spent election night in an expats bar in Quito, Ecuador. There was a Trump piñata for people to beat, and Trump toilet paper for people to shit on, but no Hillary paraphernalia. A man who I’d seen often and never heard speak told my table about his journey to Hillary. He’d started out a Bernie supporter, been dismayed by the primary, and got really into anarchy for a little while before coming around. By that time, of course, it was too late to vote from abroad. Hours later, his state, South Carolina, would go red.
Back at the start of the night, a girl from Minnesota gave me an American flag temporary tattoo. I put it on my cheek and posted a selfie on instagram. Like every other young, female Hillary supporter, I wrote something about shattering the glass ceiling. Later, I would look at this and cry. I would do a lot of crying in the next few months, but I didn’t know that yet. I felt certain Hillary would win. The polls said she would. I went home. I had a class to teach at seven the next morning.
But then I checked the results from my bed and saw South Carolina go red. I was on the phone with my boyfriend when I realized we might not break that glass ceiling. I laughed hysterically. I called my sister, someone who had worked multiple campaigns and knew politics, and asked if Trump could actually win. She said, “looks that way.” I started sobbing. She hung up, uncertain what to do with my emotions or her own. My roommate knocked on my door. She’d brought Doritos. We cried and cried and checked the results and snacked and cried.
Friday arrives and all of us volunteers gather in our boss’ apartment to discuss. A man from Nebraska starts us off. In the days following the election, around a dozen of his former ESL students emailed him asking if their families were going to be safe. He doesn’t know what to say. Nobody has any suggestions. A Trinidadian woman goes next. She describes how people back home are telling her to try and understand where the disenfranchised white voter is coming from. Her face turns red. “Why should I try and understand their plight, when they don’t see mine? They see me as a trope. They assume I don’t work. They call me a mooch.” We nod. A gay man asks if America hates him. We’re silent. I try to talk about my rape, but am interrupted by my own wails. The woman next to me grabs my hand and says she was molested as a girl. Then another woman says she was raped too and that Trump makes her feel powerless.
There’s one conservative in the group. It’s her birthday today. We sing Happy Birthday. She starts crying.
Two months later, I leave these people and move to Costa Rica. I’m now 2,220 miles from home, curled over my phone and an Americano as my sister sends my family text updates from the women’s march in DC. There are 225 times as many people protesting in DC alone as there are miles in between me and my home. My sister says she feels like crying—“but in a good way” and I understand. I know it’s bigger than this, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like my country supports me. My throat starts to close up, but then I get another text and it makes me laugh,
“Someone just shouted, ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get this cheeto, out of here.’”
I’m not marching. There are no marches in Costa Rica, but I have my period today for the first time since I left the States. In a weird, superstitious way, this comforts me. I feel proud of my womanhood though I know many women who don’t have periods. I want to send my bloody tampons to the white house. I don’t have stamps. I want to smear my blood across my cheeks like war paint and walk around town. I’m not yet ready to be this confrontational, this nasty. I make a new year’s goal: I will react to hate without fear of reaction.
My friends send me pictures of their marches from around the world—Connecticut, Boston, California, Canada, London, and Edinburgh. There are hundreds more. I ask my sister to send me all the fun chants she hears. Throughout the rest of the day, I get these texts:
“We need a leader, not a freaky cheater.”
“We pay taxes, what about you.”
“We don’t want your small hands in our underpants.”
“We will not go away, welcome to your first day.”
“Fuck Mike Pence.”
“Love, not hate, makes America great.”
Before bed, in the privacy of my own room, I put on my war paint, and the bar behind the house takes a break from it's usual salsa music to play Sweet Child O’ Mine.
BY: EVIE JONES