Here we are
Stuck by this river,
You and I
Underneath a sky that's ever falling down, down, down
Ever falling down
The verse floats in an expanse of white adjacent to a similar page with only two typed words: For Christy. I wiped a tear away before it might have stained my husband’s newly published book, Take Me To The River, a heavy one splayed open in my lap.
The words seeped into me. I felt them ache in my bones. I do feel stuck ... in this town by the river. The sky does feel as if it is ever falling down—Calvin’s increased and relentless seizures, his many missed days of school, the recent election of a man whom I wager may never earn the respect I require to call him my president. Life feels bleak. No way out. This sinking feeling.
I woke up to the season’s first dusting of snow. Though I’ve relished the dry, mild days this autumn, the white was a welcome change to the drab drudgery of same. My boy is having seizures on average every couple-few days. The grand mals, albeit reliable, come slightly less frequently, though still too often. I wish I knew the culprit, and I find myself asking the same questions:
is it the moon? the barometric pressure? puberty? is it too much medication? not enough? is it the benzo withdrawal? a growth spurt? lack of sleep? constipation? stress of the election?
Never can I know. But whatever the culprit, we are stuck, Calvin and I. We are literally and figuratively going nowhere, spinning our wheels in this goofy little town in Maine, my boy and I treading in the same sorry circles that we have for years, forever within inches of each other.
Yes, the sky is ever falling down. As if the election outcome was not bad enough, last week I had a knock-down, drag-out fight with someone I love. He began by playfully needling me about the protesters, many who are from marginalized and vulnerable communities—women, Latinos, African Americans, LGBTQ people, the Disabled. At first I chuckled, then mentioned his White privilege. He bristled, stated the obvious—that people are born equal—then went on to say that folks simply need to work hard to get ahead. I emphasized that, although we are born equal, we come into this world in unequal circumstances, some of us with clear advantages and some without (I think of Calvin). He rebuffed well-documented truth that being White means enjoying better odds of avoiding stop-and-frisk, harassment, hate crimes, arrest, fines, incarceration, harsh sentencing and capital punishment. Being White means enjoying a greater chance at being picked up by a taxi cab, renting an apartment or securing one on Airbnb, getting that job interview, getting the job, getting the promotion, a better chance at being given a loan and being free to vote. Our White children enjoy better odds of avoiding corporeal punishment at school, bullying, detention, suspension, being hand cuffed, being shot by a neighborhood watchman for wearing a hoodie, or by the police for playing with a toy gun. When you are a Person of Color, especially if you are Black, it doesn't matter if you are a hard worker, a veteran, a student at Yale or a Harvard professor; to some, you're considered fair game.
During most of our conversation I remained calm despite his frequent interruptions; I pride myself on being capable of having an adult exchange even about controversial subjects. Partway through, though, he began raising his voice and barking, as he is sometimes wont to do—Christy! Christy! Christy! He began steamrolling over me. From there it escalated, because I wasn’t about to submit to such lame ass bullshit harassment. In the end, I was screaming at him full-throttle just as he was yelling, until I heard the line drop.
Stepping into the cold yesterday, tiny flakes falling over me like ash, I reflected on that conversation. What I saw clearly in play this time was the sexism—the bullying, interruption, false accusation—regrettably all too familiar and yet only now palpable to me. Nellie pulled me along at a good clip. I set her free at the fields where she ran like mad with the other dogs. I often marvel at the female creature—fierce, strong, confident, fearless. She could tear a male opponent apart; she receives no social cues deriding her gender, faces no imposed barriers or hurdles, isn’t defined by her features. In many ways, she and I are the same; I have lifted my weight in iron. In other ways she has the advantage; I was born into a patriarchy.
Once home, I bought an airline ticket to Washington DC for a flight the day after what's-his-face's inauguration. If Calvin were healthy, able-bodied and cognizant of such things, at just shy of thirteen-years-old, no doubt he'd be coming along. It grieves me deeply that I cannot bring him. I’ll be there not only to protest the inauguration of a miscreant—a dangerous man, a clown, a sexual predator, a bigoted, greedy, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, tax-dodging, fraudulent white supremacist—but mostly to celebrate women, and our rights, alongside other fierce, strong, fearless humans. We'll all be there underneath the same sky that, of late, has been falling down, down, down. But we'll use our love for each other and our righteous strength in numbers to lift it up to where it belongs.
|March on Washington, 1963|