48 hours later, while my heart is still searing, we leave the safety of our home in the Green Mountains and head south, six hours, toward the southerly tip of the Jersey shore.
During the long nighttime drive, I wonder which cars hold Trump supporters, and which Clinton, and how to tell the difference; and how many others have family functions to attend on this particular weekend; and for whom has this brought relief and for whom has it brought dread, and for whom, like me, has it brought both?
As the sun begins to set, on a Friday evening, I sit beside a golf course, in a white plastic folding chair, beneath a dancing sky, beside a beloved aunt who once asked if I’d like the unopened copy of her Good Housekeeping subscription because First Lady Michelle Obama was on this issue.
One of my seven sisters, the one who also lives in Vermont, is seated in the row ahead of me, and since we haven’t seen each other since 11/9, I search for some way to give expression to how the world has been tilted, without drawing too much attention. (Though to her surprise and delight I still wear the henna tattoo of a phoenix across my forehead.)
“Are you missing lots of parties this weekend too?” I ask. “We were invited to: a WTF Happened Potluck, and a Let’s Burn Some Shit potluck, and a Celebration Brunch potluck (which no doubt has been renamed.)”
The ceremony begins. The light crosses the veil that covers my youngest cousin’s face; she, who carries the name of my mother and our grandmother.
Two children sit alone on a hill, picking grass, one in a bright red shirt and black vest, the other in a white dress.
The fading light colors the sky behind the altar where the Cape May County Clerk uses alliteration to guide the couple into their cojoined future:
May your marriage be loving and loyal and lasting.
The hearts of all those around me beat together indistinguishable from which circles we colored in on Tuesday.
And still, my mind categorizes each experience as a first after the day in which my world became a dystopia, and I understood, more acutely, how others, more marginalized, have always lived there, parallel to my oblivion and occasional outrage and generous grief.
There is a toast. A first dance. A photo booth. The Electric Slide.
There is no room for rancor or rage or rue-ing.
I had considered scrubbing off the phoenix from my forehead just ahead the ceremony. But for what purpose?
To fit in?
To not stand out?
What could be more important than remembering what is happening in the world around us and within us?
In the hours of 11/9, I had visions of scarification. Of taking a knife to my face. To carve truth into that which everyone sees. To not be beautiful–for him.
And still my searing heart has room enough to love all the people in my life, even those who have brought harm to my family, again and again, even as they stand beside me, with yet another drink in hand, asking:
When will that tattoo come off?
And I reply:
When there is a woman in the White House.
And he replies:
That’s gonna be a long wait.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of election day, and now all that remains of the phoenix rising across my forehead are the wings, and they are fading too.
I don’t know what to make of love in this moment.
My future self and my past self demand that I not be silent in the present, even as I love.