The essay below is an unfinished first draft (everything here is a first draft). I am too close to the current events I discuss here to go further with it now.
My husband the pacifist, the feminist, who in our almost eight years together has never raised his voice to me, yelled at me.
We’ve had disagreements, like the primaries, he was Team Bernie, I was Team Hillary.
We always remained respectful, tried to see things from the other’s perspective, not to change minds but to better understand.
Matt yelling at me shook me to my core, it brought back memories of my previous relationship. I resisted the urge to yell back. I was driving, on our way to pick up our daughter from daycare.
“We should have a bucket of popcorn handy for every time he does something stupid and laugh our asses off from the comfort of the California bubble.” I said, trying to make light of how to deal with the incoming administration.
It was not my best moment but it worked for me before. Joking my way out of a life threatening situation was one of the ways I survived an abusive relationship, therapy was another.
My therapist, who was caring and professional, chastised me for making her laugh when I made light of my ex’s behavior.
“He tried to cut the brakes off my bike with a pair of rusty scissors. You should have seen him in his Yoda underwear, his man boobs shaking the more strength he used to cut the brake cable.”
She tried to suppress a giggle.
“You can’t say it like that.” She said.
“Say it like what?”
“Like a stand-up comic. Your delivery is funny. Why do you do that?
Blank stare from me.
“Whenever you talk about him, you somehow make it sound funny. Do you know why you do that?” She said, back in therapist mode.
“Oh, ha! Maybe it’s the Neil Simon in me.” I said, pleased with myself.
We both laughed and then, she remembered her place.
“That, what you just did, you need to stop it.”
After the divorce I opened up to my brother about the relationship with my ex.
“I should have known to run for the hills when he called his mother a dirty whore.” I said. My brother, mortified for a few seconds, proceeded to crack up like he did when we were kids watching a Police Academy marathon. I was hoping he’d say something along the lines of “Do you want me to find that animal con ropa and kick his ass?” Or something along those lines.
“I’m glad you find my misery funny.” I said, stomping my way out of the room.
“Oh Come on, can you imagine one of us calling Mami a cuero sucio?
No, I couldn’t imagine, I busted out laughing too, it was absurd. Mami would have killed the brave soul who would have dared say such a thing to her. No Dominican kid would ever disrespect their mother that way. We were raised with buenas costumbres or good habits, the proper meaning is lost in the translation. It’s more than good habits or good manners.
“If you don’t want me to laugh, you shouldn’t have said it that way.”
I’m sure if I dig enough, I can come up with plenty of times when I hid my pain in subconscious humor. Malas costumbres die hard.
There is no comparing my husband with the ex. Matt listens and takes his time before answering, usually saying “I understand” when he does. If he doesn’t, he asks questions and then sits with your answer. He is empathetic, kind and generous. He does not interrupt, he does not mansplain.
The night of the election, we ordered Thai food, I dressed Hudson in her “Future President” onesie and we sat in front of MSNBC. We weren’t smug or felt it was in the bag. We knew it would not be an easy victory and there was a chance that Hillary could lose. When Iowa went Republican, the newscaster Brian Williams let out an audible sigh that pierced my heart and rippled through my entire body. I knew it was over but hung on to the hope of a miracle.
Matt let out a cry that sounded like a wounded animal being kicked in the head. I felt dizzy, as if I was on a roller coaster ride with no end in sight.
“How can this be?” Matt said in a quiet scream, face palming and burying his face on his hands.
Hudson was so freaked out she nearly jumped out of my arms. I wasn’t sure if she was reacting to Matt or me. My daughter startled me into regaining my composure. She was crying, not the easily recognizable cry of hunger or a wet diaper. This was the second time I witnessed her experience fear.
When she was three months old, I put her on the stroller in the kitchen so I could make a smoothie. When I turned on the blender, her lower lip pouted and she started crying, big globs of wet, chunky tears, my baby had never done that. I turned off the blender, took her out of the stroller and walked out of the kitchen ready to forget the smoothie. As I soothed and calmed her, I decided to teach my daughter to face her fears. I walked in to the kitchen with her in my arms.
“This is the blender, it makes mommies food. I’m going to turn it on, and it’s going to make a noise, it’s OK, mommy is right here.” I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead.
I was skeptical and hoped that I was not about to traumatize my baby. I turned on the blender, I left it on for a few seconds. Hudson stared at it and then at me.
“See, everything is fine. I’m going to make my food, OK.”
On election night, my daughter was five months old. She was smiling and happy until she sensed the anxiety of the adults that are supposed to take care of he.
“We need to figure out a way to deal with this, look at how it’s affecting her.”
Matt took her from my arms and anchored himself to her. Neither of us knew what to say, how to soothe or calm.
“How are we going to get through the next four years?” He asked.
I didn’t know the answer then and I don’t know the answer now. I turned off the television and changed Hudson into her pajamas. I flung the Future President onesie across the room, wishing I could do the same to the misogyny my daughter will experience in her lifetime.
I barely slept that night. My daughter’s whimpers woke me right before the climax of my nightmares; before my body hit the ground from a fall, before the orange monster got a chance to squash me, before the serial killer’s axe decapitated me. Each time, I would wake up to soothe her so she could soothe me.
The only thing I could compare the election and its aftermath is to September 11. I am experiencing the same fear I did then; waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“How can you normalize his behavior that way? Why would you say something like that?” My husband yelled.
Why would I say something like that? Because the new president triggers me. I wasn’t trying to normalize deplorable behavior, I was falling into old patterns. Had Matt spoken in his normal voice he would have sounded like my old therapist. Maybe my old therapist wanted to yell at me instead of calmly telling me that “you can’t stay with him, he will kill you.”
I have come to terms with the guilt and shame I felt after I left the ex. I can openly admit, on most days, to most people that yes, I was in an abusive relationship. I know why and how I got there.
I worked very hard at making sure that the next person I ended up in a relationship with was not a similar version of my ex. I could do that because with good therapy and a strong support system, I felt those things were in my control.
The results of the election is not something I had power over. It doesn’t make me feel better that he lost California, it makes me feel like I don’t count, like my voice and my vote don’t matter.
I was contemplating a social media diet starting with Twitter but when I accepted the challenge to write #52Essays2017 I decided to use social media to make my voice heard. I have not done much sharing of essays, mostly due to time constraints . I will get there. My voice, my writing matters.