Back To The Routine.
The evening sunlight slipped behind the tops of the cypress and parota trees in the park. Once more, the time had come to sweep up the dirt, dust and fallen leaves from the sidewalk in front of our home. As I have said many times before, the act of sweeping is just a front. The real objective is to delight in an hour or two of current neighborhood gossip and intrigue.
Normally, I shlep along with my husband; make a perfunctory appearance with him and find a reason to disappear into the house once our neighbors and Carlos pivot from pleasantries to scandals. Our neighbors Edna, the housewife, and Doña Ana, the painter, are the de facto reigning queens of neighborhood gossip. Nary a secret lover, boob job or couple’s quarrel escapes their notice. Together they are the New York Times of gossip.
Over time, I have learned to accept the fact that my husband loves gossip. I can’t blame him; this is quintessentially Mexican – a cherished tradition. After the obligatory salutations have been exchanged; I wait for him to give me “the eye” or a nod which means I am free to leave.
A Most Important Cultural Protocol.
Trust me…I have become well versed in this important cultural protocol, woe betide the rude neighbor who darts away without the obligatory ten minutes of compliments and hellos.
In the past I have asked Carlos, “What do you think they say about us – the gays of the barrio?”
“Nothing,” he fires back, “they are nice people.”
To which I retort, “They gossip about everyone and everything in our neighborhood. Why do you think they would make an exception for us – a burly middle-aged black guy and a chatty chapparito (short) gay Mexican? Don’t you think, that has to be worth at least a couple of days’ of gossip?”
“You are just being paranoid,” he replies. Unfortunately, I knew this evening there would be no escape.
Home To Vote.
We had just returned from three weeks in Chicago. Everyone in our neighborhood knew I was eager to return home to vote in the presidential election. I had made myself a personal emissary from our colonia. Not only was I voting as an American citizen, but also representing a collect “F” you from Mexico to Señor Donald Trump. I had spent many evenings and nights calming my in-laws and neighbors.
“Sid, do you think Donald Trump will win?” my sister-in-law, Socorro asked me. “I don’t think so. Everything I read in American Newspapers and all of the polling data indicates Hillary Clinton is going to win easily,” I replied. I would use the Spanish word “estudios” (the studies) to emphasis an objective, scientific basis for my assertions. Everyone wanted reassurance.
“Good,” she responded, “I pray for Señora Hillary Clinton every day when I say the rosary.”
Colima is a very traditional state in Mexico. Praying the holy rosary is usually done during moments of extreme sadness (e.g., death or illness). The fact that Socorro was praying the rosary daily for Hillary Clinton meant that she genuinely feared the outcome. Despite her prayers and my brainy assessments, the unthinkable had occurred. Donald Trump won the election. “This is going to be the most humiliating day in my life,” I thought as I saw Edna and Doña Ana walking towards us. Time to the face the music.
I Was Wrong And Now I Cannot Sleep.
“Sid, what happened?” Doña Ana asked, “You told us that Hillary would win the election.”
Ouch. Painful. That was the question I feared most. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have a good response. With the exception of a couple of old friends in rural parts of Ohio, no one I knew voted, supported or liked Donald Trump.
I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for the past week. Every night I tossed and turned plagued by nightmares – tortured by orangey red devils with pitchforks and tridents.
I felt ill. “What is the matter with you,” Carlos asked. “I haven’t seen that expression since you thought you had to have open heart surgery.”
“This is worse.” I sighed. I felt like a parent telling his young children that after all of those years of believing – there really is no Santa Claus. No more Christmas. “Well,” I said, “Donald Trump lost the election by more than 2.5 million votes, but because we have a crazy election system he managed to win the Electoral College and the presidency.”
The End Of The World.
It was a complete dodge. I knew Doña Ana and Edna had no concept of our Electoral College, but I felt so guilty and bad; and I needed some sort of fig leaf. I wanted to provide them with a little bit of optimism. It was easier to blame it on something esoteric than to confess the truth. My husband chimed in, “He was so depressed that he started to cry.” He didn’t have to mention that.
Edna added, “My husband is an American citizen and he went back to California to vote. He is in shock that Trump won; I don’t think he has been able to sleep since he returned. Sid, who did you vote for?”
That question hurt my feelings. How could they think that I would possibly vote for someone like Donald Trump? It was a reminder that as much as I would love to be considered a local; I am an American. There is an automatic assumption that whatever Americans are doing at the moment also reflects my perspective and thinking. Sadly I am frequently defined by American popular culture and media. Don’t they know that I pride myself being among the two demographic groups (African Americans and Gays) that loathed Donald Trump the most?
“I voted for Hillary Clinton, of course,” I replied. “I would never vote against my family and friends.”
American Pride And Remorse.
I never expected to be in this position. In my neighborhood, I am a conduit to America and for the first time I felt a little ashamed. Proud to be an American and yet disgusted by the election results. For Edna and Doña Ana this was a shocking incident; for me it was a devastation. During the election I chided my friends back home that if Trump won I would prefer to stay on the other side of the wall in Mexico. Now I am faced with the ugly reality and I am left wondering…what’s next? Can I return? Should I return?
“I have a very bad feeling; I am frightened for my beloved country,” I said, “I think Trump is going to be bad for the United States and the world.”
“Pendejo,” Carlos, Edna and Doña Ana muttered in unison.
A couple of neighbors walked by with their freshly coiffed terriers in tow and waved, “Buenas noches vecinos!” The last rays of evening sunlight faded from twilight into night and we all said our goodnights and goodbyes and slowly walked back to our homes; uncertain what the future would behold.