A Post-Election Story
Nina and I are walking to her barn. I came to meet her two new baby goats, who are safely housed in the big barn until old enough to become pasture goats, keeping the horses company.
It is a warm November day — two days after Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the twenty minute ride to the country. Twenty minutes alone, twenty minutes of quiet, twenty minutes of the air swirling through the open window and dancing with my hair. I’ve been reclusive recently so the outing is good for me.
The sky is pale blue dotted with pillow-shaped clouds that seem immobile as though hanging out, enjoying the weather, not wanting to travel north where there is snow and ice and travel delays.
Nina and I are talking about anything but the one topic that everyone is talking about, the one we want to avoid. Because it makes us sad. Because it makes us angry. Because it makes us afraid.
We walk past the small one-bedroom apartment attached to her large open-air barn. Nina and her wife lived there while their house was under construction several years ago. The barn looks neater than usual and I comment on its tidiness.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Nina says as we walk into the barn, her dog running furiously ahead of us as if to say I win! I beat you!
“Allison sold her house. She’s bought some land about five miles from here. Just signed with a builder. He’ll start construction next month and her house should be complete by May. Meanwhile, she’s going to live in our barn apartment. Sort of forced me to clean up around here,” she says with a smirk.
I chuckle, “Great motivation. It looks good.”
She opens a stall door and there stand two brown and white very young goats who quickly scamper to the back of the straw-filled room, bleating in fear. “Don’t take offense,” Nina says, “They don’t like new faces.”
She takes the top off a round barrel, grabs some sort of greenish goat treats and uses them to encourage the little ones to come out of hiding. It takes several minutes, but they finally come forward, very tentatively, and eventually allow me to rub their heads and scratch behind their ears. Now I am an old face.
We leave the stall and Nina latches the half-door behind us as I notice a box marked Fireworks sitting on the floor near the opposite wall. “Getting ready for New Year’s?” I ask with a nod in that direction.
Nina sadly stares at the ground. “Nope, they were for something else.”
I wait. She says nothing more. “So, are you going to tell me? Can’t be Fourth of July — too long past and too long in the future. Anyway, you aren’t really a Fourth of July type of gal,” I say, confused.
Nina kicks at the barn’s dirt floor and sighs, “I found them in my mom’s shed back in October. Tested one and it worked,” she pauses and I wait. “She didn’t want ’em so I thought brought them here for. . .for. . .the election.” She sighs deeply, “We were going to set them off to celebrate our first female president.”
I cringe. The subject we did not want to discuss is now out there, floating in the warm air, like a swarm of angry mosquitoes.
I start to say sorry or something equally mundane, but instead I pick up a rock by the barn door and lob it at an old log lying near the fence. Nina finds another and throws it with greater force at the same log. I walk over and kick the log and rotten pieces of it fly into the air.
“I am so goddamn angry!” I scream, “Angry at all the people who voted for hate!” I kick the log again, harder, more pieces fly. “All those fucking hypocrites! All those idiots who believe his lies.” Tears start coursing down my cheeks. I kick the log again and again and again until I am exhausted.
Nina grabs an ax by the door of the barn, strides purposefully to the log and starts hacking it. Over and over, she assaults the log. I watch silently. Sweat forms on her brow and still she hacks and hacks until the log is obliterated.
“WHY?” She screams. I am startled. She is the quiet one. An outburst like that is so out of character for her.
Nina and her wife were offered asylum in Canada, so they can live in a place where their love is not vilified, not discounted, not outlawed. Several other of my friends are leaving the country — people who are LGBTQ or Muslim or Spanish-speaking immigrants. Educated, successful people. People who own businesses. People who pay taxes. People who are as American as white, natural-born, Christian-raised, straight me. People who can no longer accept a home that does not accept them. Fortunate people who can afford to leave, who have jobs that transfer easily to other places. Nina has chosen to stay due to her mother; I cannot afford to go.
Nina stops, ax in mid-air. She breathes deeply and lets her arm fall to her side, dropping the ax on the ground. We stand there silent and sad and angry. Minutes pass.
“I am so fucking scared,” I say, my voice barely a whisper.
“Yeah,” says Nina, “Me, too.”
She and I turn toward her house. We walk slowly, silently.
There is nothing more to say.