During this pandemic, I’ve quarantined during the week. I didn’t go anywhere.
Why? Because I took this opportunity to go to my parents house in the suburbs. Every weekend.
The official reason is to do my laundry so I didn’t have to go to a public laundromat.
That’s true, but the real reason is to spend time with them.
We wore masks at all times, my dad is a cancer survivor, my mom is in contact with him.
A little subtext, I’m a twin. We lost him near our 19th birthday. 2 months after to be exact.
We’ll never forget that day.
It was devastating. I remember the day we found out. Police knocked on our door. I heard a scream from my dad I’d never heard before.
My birthday has been tainted ever since. A reminder that he hasn’t turned the age I have. I’ve learned to live half alive.
Back to the pandemic. My parents got the vaccine, obviously sooner Than I did.
Still, I came every weekend, with my laundry, and an idea of what to cook.
I heard my mom on the phone to her friends on the weekends telling people about our silver lining.
“She comes to do her laundry so she doesn’t have to do it there.”
“Then, we cook dinner.”
It’s really the latter that counts. Cooking together. Spending time with each other.
My parents are now both fully vaccinated.
I got a wonderful letter from my job, stating that I’m eligible for a vaccine. Technically, I’m a forward facing employee.
I got vaccinated, twice, my 14th day was our birthday.
March 26th used to be a day I was devastated. I felt on that day I was only half. Twins left behind will understand.
On that day, I hugged my mom. The first hug in a year. I don’t think either of us realized it until we lingered.
On that day, My dad went above and beyond and found a song to play for me. “If I Could”. It was perfect, and it gave me the perfect opportunity to do what I’ve wanted to do for a year. Melt into a hug with him.
Now, March 26th 2021, is the day that we, my mom, dad and myself were all fully vaccinated.
March 26th used to be a day I cringed at.
This year, instead of being the day my twin didn’t turn the age I am, it’s now the day I was safe to show my love to my mom and dad.
Never imagined a couple of hugs could be so life affirming.
You rock the boat. Everything was fine until you got here.
Everyone accepted what was given to them. They might’ve asked a question or two but didn’t follow up.
But you! You asked questions from the moment you got here and you wouldn’t shut up! You wanted “answers”, you wanted what’s “right”.
Just be grateful to be here! You get what you get and you don’tget to complain!!
Fine! Be that way! You can take all the heat for everything that goes wrong! You want to speak up? You better be ready to handle whatever comes your way!
We’ll make you feel like the problem you are! You might’ve thought you had allies, watch and see how they scatter when voices are raised and tempers are flared! We’ve trained these people to fall in line, to accept what’s been given.
Let’s see how loud you are when we bring the hammer down. On you and you alone! We’ll make shit up!
We’ll interrogate and imply, never accuse, that would be too easy! You’ll want to cry! Hopefully you do so we can point at you, prove how “unstable” and “difficult” you really are!
What have you got to say now!?
Me? Just this…. YOU MESSED WITH THE WRONG FUCKING ONE!!!!!!
I’m at a social event and I touch a pretty young woman on her back. She bats my hand away so I grab her face and kiss her on the cheek.
What’s her problem? Why is she upset? It’s affection? Does she hate affection? Sorry I’m so nice and loving!
A man put his hand on the small of my back. I was shocked! My body stiffened when he touched me! I slapped his hand away. He smiled at me, grabbed my face with both hands and kissed my cheek! He was drunk and sloppy but held my face with force. For a moment I thought he was going to stick his tongue down my throat! I felt completely helpless! People were watching. I felt like a child being yelled at in public! Humiliating! I felt threatened, physically and sexually!
Now people are calling me “sexist”! ME!! I love women! They’re beautiful! Soft and pleasant. They have nice voices. Some can cook really well like my mom. I love my mom!! I’m a great son! These people have no idea what they’re talking about!
He does great things! He’s the only one who does great things! If he weren’t here, no great things would ever be done again by anyone! So what if he touches women when they don’t want him too! Big deal! Can’t they just get over it? Actually, there’s nothing to get over! Does this mean everyone who’s ever touched anyone in any way has committed sexual harassment!? This is the kind of “snowflake” mentality that’s ruining our country and more importantly, ANNOYING TO ME BECAUSE I DON’T SEE A PROBLEM!!!!!!
Now, people are saying what he did to me was “no big deal.” If that’s true, why am I so angry about it! Why was I so weak! Why didn’t I punch him in the face!? Because I was in a state of shock. But that’s probably not what he meant me to feel. I was wearing a pretty revealing dress. I was dancing, maybe he thought I was coming on to him? These people are probably right. Wait!! No they’re fucking NOT!! Everyone was dancing!!
They don’t know how I feel! I’m not some over sensitive child throwing a temper tantrum! Maybe I am, that’s what people are saying. Wait! NO!! I have a right to my own personal safety!!! I still remember that touch and that grab! God I’m so FUCKING ANGRY!!!!!
This is a matter of respect. When you put your hands on someone, not a pat on the back, a shake of the hand, a tap on the shoulder, I mean a lingering touch on any body part, a press down on an erogenous zone or near one, a stroke or caress, you are relaying intent. You are sending a message. If this is between lovers the intent is welcome.
If you are strangers, it is not and relays a different message. I will have you no matter what. You are here for my pleasure. Only that. Nothing else. I am strong and you are weak. I can and will overpower you, physically and mentally. You have sent this message right to the core of the person you’ve assaulted. Yes, assaulted. It will become part of them. You’ve left a permanent impression.
Legal definition of Assault: an act, criminal or tortious, that threatens physical harm to a person, whether or not actual harm is done.
Sexual Harassment definition: behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.
This is a piece of the same story as my previous short fiction post “The Protester” which I have updated. I’m playing around with timing. Right now, in the writing, this happens right afterMariah and crew begin their protest but in the world the story takes place in, about a week before. Please let me know what you think! Do you like it? The flow of it? Does it seem like the same story? Thank you!!
Alex barreled through her office door. She was livid. The new city budget was so far right it might as well have just cut everything. Road repairs in underserved areas, repairs to public schools, libraries and hospitals, the people of New York City who didn’t make millions, could just fuck right off. That’s what she’d written in a tweet the night before after tossing and turning getting angrier and angrier by the second. She’d taken it down minutes later but not before it was retweeted. 75 times. God Damn Twitter! She sipped her coffee and sat down at her desk.
She winced when John, her assistant, came into her office. No doubt he saw the tweet. She was embarrassed at her temporary loss of judgement. She couldn’t look him in the eye.
“You saw?” She thought it best to just get it out of the way. There was never time to avoid conflict. Not in politics.
“I did.” He was actively avoiding looking at her, ruffling papers in a folder he was holding.
John was good. He was honest with her at all times but never confrontational.
“We’ll have to get ahead of this.” He handed her a piece of paper. “Gwen wrote a statement if the press gets ahold this.”
She looked over the statement. Apologetic but not, reiterating her initial disappointment in the final decision to cut vital services. Alex made a mental note to email Gwen with a thank you.
“Do you want me to send a thank you email to her?” Good old John. Always kept her respectful public persona in mind.
“I’ll do it.” Alex stopped to look at him for a moment. He’d looked tired lately. His energy was down.
“Everything okay with your grandma?” She had to show she cared. Especially now that some of the cuts were for senior services. If there’s one thing she’d learned from her father, it was to keep your employees happy. Make them want you to succeed.
John hesitated for a moment. She clocked his subtle raise of an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry… your mom.” He was raised by his grandmother. As much as she didn’t see the point of calling someone something they’re not, this bothered him. He got drunk at last year’s Christmas party and all but begged her to call his grandma his “mother”. He said anything less was “disrespectful”. It had taken him three tries to get that word out correctly. She should have been disappointed with him but given her past, and given her first experience in being harsh with a damaged person, she couldn’t risk it. Not now that she had the mayor’s office in her sight. She needed him and despite her better judgment, liked him.
She silently cursed herself for being a woman. A man would’ve fired him for insubordination without a second thought. She’d spent her entire career convincing her constituents that her empathy for the downtrodden was her strength and ultimately theirs. It had worked so far for them but convincing herself was another story.
“She’s doing well! Thank you for asking!” John pulled up a chair and sat across from her. He had bad news. He’d always told her something she didn’t want to hear sitting down. “There’s rumblings on the internet.”
“Oh shit. Of course. Give it to me.” Alex braced herself for comments filtered by John. She only had to triple the negativity of the ones he’d choose to share with her.
John put on his glasses. She tried not to smile. He didn’t need them, he’d told her that also last Christmas. He thought they made him look more serious. To be fair, at 35 he did have boyish good looks and soft green eyes.
This is a draft of something I’m working on. Read if you like. I’ll be taking it down for maintenance soon. Any feedback would be much appreciated! Thank you!!
Mariah locked her apartment door, making sure to check it before heading down the stairs. It was a compulsion ingrained in her since childhood. She’d had recurring nightmares that she’d locked the door but it wasn’t really locked and masked men would come in and do terrible things. She’d always woken up before they did whatever it was they’d planned to do but it left her with a lifelong fear.
Nowadays, living with her elderly parents and autistic 7 year old son, her fear had intensified. She told herself they’d be fine. There was a chance she’d be arrested but she’d done her homework. She knew her rights, this would be a peaceful protest, on public property. She’d even gained the support from other moms, rich white moms. They’d promised to be there. She belonged to a Facebook group for parents of children with developmental disabilities. They were all in agreement that the recent decision to cut funding for special education in the 28th district had to be rectified.
When she got to the lobby she was happy to see her comrades. Isla, a mom with an autistic son and Shay, a mom with a schizophrenic daughter, who had also suffered brain damage from a fall out a third story window. She’d jumped.
Their kids were all in the same program at the local public school. The one that had lost funding and would be gone at the end of the school year. There were others in the neighborhood but couldn’t get anyone to watch their kids. That’s okay. She’d enlisted Someone to Facebook live the whole thing.
“Hi ladies! Ready?” Isla and Shay held their signs up. “Ready!” They answered. “Paperwork?” She unzipped the top of her coat and reached for the lanyard around her neck. She’d fastened a sandwich ziplock bag to the end of it with her state ID and an index card with her emergency contact info written on it. The ladies did the same.
“Remember, stay cool, no matter what. Let me see the back of those signs!” She had written out the law allowing for peaceful protest on the back. They had done the same. On the front, each woman had a blown up picture of their child with the message – Don’t leave my child behind Overturn prop. 83 District 28.
“Where’s that little punk?” Shay looked around for their 23 year old documentarian, Tara. “Yo! This is live!” Tara jumped out from behind a column in the lobby. Tara was an aspiring filmmaker with a younger brother who had Down’s syndrome. She had no training but had managed to build a following on her you tube channel. Her posts were mostly movie Television and video game reviews but she was working on a documentary about her family. Her parents were immigrants from China. They’d moved here when her mother was pregnant with her brother. Tara was five.
“You got me on the wrong side!” Isla immediately turned away.
“She’s messin with you. Right?” Mariah eyed Tara hoping she was right.
Tara laughed. “It’s not live.”
“Alright ladies! Time to check in!” Mariah took her phone out and posted to their Facebook page. Isla, Shea and Tara did the same.
They waited a moment for the other moms to reply. There was a moment of doubt. Mariah had organized a zoom meeting the night before with all seven of them. All but one attended. She’d never met the white moms in person but they promised they were committed to this.
Three Facebook notifications came in simultaneously. There they were. Melissa from the west village, Beth from Soho, and Lisa from the upper west side.
Mariah could see by the look on her comrades faces that they’d doubted their commitment too. After all, their districts still had funding but moms had a tendency to stick together. Mariah was banking on that.
She was also banking on the empathy of their Congress woman who had opposed the cuts, but didn’t do anything to fight the decision once it was made. Surely she was planning on doing so but just in case she wasn’t, they’d be there to remind her of her promise to “give a voice to the voiceless.”
Tara had some inside information from a friend who worked for a delivery service. He’d delivered to her building and seen her coming and going on multiple occasions.
“Alright ladies! Let’s do this!” Mariah led the charge out into the frigid January air.
Mariah looked up at the front of the luxury high rise, guarding its massive front lawn, Central Park. She hadn’t spent much time in this neighborhood. There was an unwritten rule that if you didn’t have money, you were trespassing and if caught standing still for too long you could be forcibly tossed out. Her fear got the best of her and she led the ladies to the corner, as if they were crossing the street or waiting for a bus. Luckily the building was on the corner of 72nd street. She’d wait for the other moms there. She enlisted Tara to wait by the front.
She saw a woman bundled up in Arctic gear walking toward them with a sign. As she got closer, she recognized Melissa. Melissa held up her sign and waved as she approached. Her sign was different. She’d photographed her bespectacled 11 year old daughter holding her own sign with their agreed upon slogan. A sign within a sign. Melissa was an artist.
“Oh that’s beautiful!” Isla admired the creativity.
“Thank you! She really wanted to come. I told her this was a way for her to be here.” Melissa had that hard goodbye look all the ladies recognized.
Shay took Melissa’s hand and squeezed it. “Mine was angry. He said if I don’t come back he’s never taking a bath.”
Mariah felt a secret pride. Lawrence, her boy, was excited for this. He didn’t know exactly why, he was probably just mirroring her father who at dinner that evening said he was proud to have a hero for a daughter.
Lawrence was really into comic books. He probably just saw her as Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. He’d even wrapped his blanket around her shoulders as a cape. She’d take it either way.
Their phones pinged.
Tara alerting them to come to the front of the building.
“Remember, we’re not gonna block the entrance. Let’s go!” Mariah lead the way to Tara and Beth.
“Lisa’s a block away.” Beth held her phone up. She and Lisa were old friends, thankfully from law school. Neither of them were practicing anymore but their knowledge was invaluable.
Tara pointed to a top floor window. “That’s her.” The light was on.
“Great. Do your thing, go live whenever you want.” Mariah trusted her. She’d seen some of the documentary.
Tara aimed her phone at an approaching cab. Mariah turned to look.
The cab pulled up and Lisa got out. Mariah didn’t see a sign. The taxi driver popped the trunk and got out.
Wow, Mariah thought. That’s some privilege! Using the trunk and waiting for the driver to get whatever’s inside.
Lisa was richer than she’d thought. The driver pulled out what looked like a walker. Lisa, helped an older woman out of the cab. The driver, opened up the walker and handed it to Lisa. The older woman thanked the driver and tinkered with it. Lisa went to the trunk and pulled out her sign then slipped some money to the driver.
“That’s class…” Shay whispered to Mariah.
The older woman lifted her walker onto the curb. All the ladies rushed to help her except Lisa.
“It’s okay! It’s a seat.” The woman got up to the sidewalk and introduced herself. “Rabbi Menkin. Sarah.”
Lisa waved the cab on and joined the ladies. She held her hand out to Mariah. “Mariah? Lovely to meet you.”
Mariah tried to place her accent. Lisa didn’t miss a beat. “I know that look! I’m Irish.”
Mariah was mortified that her online impression of Lisa was so far off. Even more-so when she caught herself wondering if Irish was a good thing?
“Don’t worry! I’m legal! Did your little ones give you the hell mine gave me when you left?”
Lisa immediately put everyone at ease. The ladies laughed and shook hands with her and Rabbi Menkin.
Beth whispered to Mariah. “It’s always good to have a member of the clergy just in case.”
Mariah felt a wave of fear wash over her. Just in case. This was real now. Surely the tenants in this building would see her brown skin, assume she’s homeless or a criminal and call the police who would come and shoot her in the back. She wanted to run. What was I thinking!? There’s probably a special police force for this building alone. Suddenly she felt watched. Under surveillance.
“Hey, you okay girl?” Shay put a hand on her arm. This was something she did when her daughter was lost in her fantasy world.
Oh my God! Mariah sank even deeper into her state of terror. This is worse for her! Mariah believed the police judged how much force to use and how dangerous a person was based on how dark they were. Shay was darker than she was. Pull yourself together!!
I’m someone who takes on the emotions of others. Not just in the moment as it’s happening, those emotions fester within me for an uncomfortable length of time.
I used to think this might be a personal flaw, a sign of emotional intolerance when it comes to others but I can handle my own emotions. I can talk myself of a ledge before reacting.
In my work or in my personal life, if someone has a meltdown and unleashes in a fit of anger, then breaths a sigh of relief because they’ve released their anger as it came, I keep it. At full volume. It’s gone out of that person and into the “atmosphere”, a.k.a, if I’m around, me.
This is a problem. I can’t blame anyone for reacting to anger, sadness, disappointment or frustration, so there’s no one to blame. No one to give this burden too.
This pandemic has been brutal. I can feel fear as soon as I open the door, on top of my own. Was it just my fear of opening the door? Quadrupled? Maybe. I doesn’t matter, I feel it.
Cats are like this too. If you’re upset, they’re upset. If you’re calm, they’re calm.
I credit my cats for getting me through these intrusive emotions. I’ll get spooked, then they’ll run and hide. My attention is immediately turned to making the cats feel better by faking calm.
They can see through this, so I have to keep using a soothing voice and deep breathing. Very soon, I’ve convinced myself that I’m okay therefore they’ll be okay. I know I’ve been successful when they come out from hiding and check in with me. There it is. Calm. Happiness when I hear purring.
I don’t know how I would’ve survived this time without them!