I spoon cobbler with nectarines from my aunt and uncle’s tree from a ramekin at Sunday Dinner. Mention the pumpkin and key lime pies with Paleo crust I’m bringing for Thanksgiving. I humor my aunt’s Paleo. I’m from LA: the land of weird diets.
My beloved family in Reno took me in after being nearly evicted in Los Angeles. I wait in transition in grandma’s basement for my promised house to be vacant. Serve as eccentric relation to delightful children and the elderly. This is my life now.
After dinner I look at Twitter. Recoil at the water cannons used on Lakota protesters in North Dakota. Thanksgiving celebrates when European refugees were welcomed. Fed corn and turkey until they went batshit colonialist. Took over their natives host’s land. Gave them smallpox blankets in return. At Thanksgiving families come together all over America to cover genocide with gravy. Commemorate a feast that did not go so well for all parties involved. Native protesters freeze protecting the water colonialists steal from them. I bake pies. The cruel irony pains me. Outrages me.
But how valid is my pain in the face of far greater pain? I dwell on cruelty. The world is cruel. I am well aware. 2016 took Los Angeles, my dream apartment, my boyfriend and all my friends from me. 2016 took Prince. David Bowie. Leonard Cohen. Katherine Dunn. The Obama presidency. 2016 ushered in a new era of white supremacist Republican fascism.
The roachpocalypse drove me out of Hollywood. The Trumpocalypse is now. I await the apocalypse to top it all off like that inevitable dollop of whipped cream on my pumpkin pie.
I think about privilege swathed in familial benevolence. Getting out of Hollywood not a casualty of the porn industry was an act of Mommy and Daddy. How terrible should I feel to be sheltered in a mountain town where there are no protests in the streets? My intersectional identity is hidden by passing as long as the potential attacker doesn’t Google me. I look benign. I am. On Reno local evening news I see commercials for a used car dealership called “Internet Auto Rent & Sales.” Is that so far as Nevada understands this newfangled World Wide Web? I doubt it.
Typing late at night on my dreadful NaNoWriMo novel I text my sister about survival tactics during a Trump presidency. I know my Los Angeles born invisibly disabled femme bisexuality is scant disguise. Is it enough? Am I white, cis and passive enough to survive the next four to eight years? Should I lay off the bronzer? Stay out of the sun? My near 100-year-old abuela munches her chicharrones upstairs.
I am horrified by such problematic questions. Disgusted by my privilege to even ask. For many survival is already not happening. Desperate times.
Flimsy tendrils of passing privilege may not be enough to protect me in these difficult years to come. Like that red chiffon Sexy Angel costume I wore to a college Halloween party that ended in date rape. An IUD and vow of celibacy are my condoms against the Handmaids Tale future unfolding. I am thankful I had all that sex while I still could because it’s certainly off the table now. I’ll take celibate widow over baby factory for as long as I have that option. Until menopause delivers me. Will grey hair protect my pussy from being grabbed as I wither into crone? Or are my Adidas leggings still too tight for Reno?
Everything is uncertain. I am disgusted by my cowardice. I must toe the line to survive. Will I watch all this go down on CNN from a safe distance? Far away from the tumult of Los Angeles protests? I grow scared to even write. Tweet. Go outside. Exist.
With this uncertainty and terror I step into my aunt and uncle’s house for Thanksgiving. Grandma and I are very late. Grandma took her time in the pink tiled powder room putting on clownish makeup. At her age she does not need to care how bright her rouge. That she is putting on lipstick and gold bangles at all is a good sign that she wants to reach 100.
By the time we wheel her walker up the slate steps my uncle carves the turkey. A toddler hugs my sparkly knee in greeting.
“Strawberry Shortcake isn’t for boys,” my cousin tells his two-year-old as they look through Netflix. Indulgently the father lets his son watch his fill of fruit flavored BFFs.
My quietly Trump-supporting cousin gives me rides to the train station and Sunday Dinner. We never ever talk about politics. Only wonder together when it will snow. He brings his angel child over often to visit Nana and I. His wife gives me an ice scraper. I appreciate their kindness in the face of my turmoil. I forgive him his vote. He knew not what he did.
I am willing not to talk about politics at Thanksgiving. I too would prefer not to. My compliance is necessary. My complicity disturbs me. Trump-supporting family are not the enemy, I hope. I have another louder Trump-supporting cousin in Colorado. We rarely speak. He Facebook chats me that he is sending a Christmas gift. Asks for my address. I am touched and surprised.
I slowly learn the awkward dance of dependance, love, boundaries and tolerance danced in families.
I clothe my insignificant white guilt with a burgundy lace Forever 21 dress. I hope it is high necked, long sleeved and long enough to be family appropriate. I call this my “good woman” dress. I place domestic tranquility over politics this Thanksgiving. Offer homemade pies to ensure a roof over my head. Survival is a higher priority then my California opinions.
Is this how we break? Breaking wishbones over lavish Thanksgiving feasts? Oppression, privilege, cruelty, pain, all of it is relative and ambiguous with the prospect of mashed potatoes and gravy. I pile a white china plate with Paleo stuffing made from cranberries, sweet potatoes and pork sausage. Sedate myself on tryptophan. Try not to think too hard about what may lie ahead. Sip ice water while everyone else has red wine. I must toe the line to survive.
Desperately I dig into the pea and cashew salad. I am hungry for tolerance. Disappearing civil rights. Disappearing LGBT rights. Disappearing reproductive rights. I am hungry but all I have to eat is a second plate of succulent dark meat falling off the bone. I will take it. I am thankful. Ashamed. Grateful for my family’s generous hospitality. It isn’t their fault that the election made me feel this way.
As the old commercial goes, “Turkey: the other white meat. It’s what’s for dinner.” A silver platter of grease-luscious turkey is what’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I eat because I don’t see a lot of other options for me. I am a “good woman.” I am hungry.
I am relieved by the sanctuary of no politics at the dinner table. The Internet was alit today with guides for navigating hazardous Thanksgiving election talk. My good family wishes to avoid conflict. I bask in their warm glow. My cousin’s toddler struggles to get out of his high chair after two bites of stuffing. Lapdogs beg at our feet.
I must submit and hide to survive. The survivors guilt of widowhood. Witnessing HIV consume my friends. Escaping doomed cities in the nick of time. My guilt at not joining the resistance bears down on me. My survivor’s guilt will increase in the years to come. I eat guilt mixed with greens in vinaigrette dappled with pomegranates. I eat complicity with Key Lime Pie smothered in whipped cream. Taste of ashes in the tart finish.
My wife’s ashes I scattered at Echo Park Lake. I had a lesbian wedding in a bygone era when queer identity was encouraged. Even then Prop 8 stole gay marriage from us. Gay marriage only became legal a year after my domestic partner committed suicide. Will the Los Angeles Times photos of me kissing my wife in wedding clothes doom me under a Trump regime?
Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
They will come for the undocumented immigrants and Muslims first. That was already in his campaign promises. Will they come for the LGBT? Disabled? Artists who paint blowjobs? Writers who speak the unspeakable? If and when they do there will be no one left to speak for me. I am too afraid to speak already. Will daring to pen this craven armchair essay assuage my guilt? Or doom me? Is what I do enough? Is what I have done already too much? Everything is uncertain in Trumps’s new America.
Everything is uncertain at the Thanksgiving table. I rise after eating not knowing where to put my body. Clear dishes dutifully. Bring grandma both kinds of pie. Sit mute on the couch. Fear is the new normal.
The comic relief of the evening comes when my host’s drunk friends show up for dessert. The bald husband does suburban male pea-cocking with my uncle. The wife gushes about the Venetian casino’s second tower: The Palazzo in Vegas. I smirk demurely into my decaf. The middle-aged couple talk loudly about a high-maintenance acquaintance they were trapped with on their cruise to Rome.
As the ex-neighbor gets up for her umpteenth vodka she asks me, “So do they call you Auntie?” I realize I have aged into an Auntie. Sitting alone overdressed without children or spouse.
“Auntie, cousin, niece, grand-daughter, I’m just the all-purpose eccentric relation,” I say teetering on a rose-gold heel. I flatter myself wth “eccentric” to temper the batshit crazy in my eyes with the French Circus etsy necklace I wear. I am not an aunt yet as my sister hasn’t found a suitable man on OK Cupid yet to breed with. A technicality. Not my place to quibble.
We do what we can. I am not as brave as some. I am not as in danger as some. I can’t go to protests. I can’t be arrested and taken off my meds. Yet I went into downtown Oakland during an anti-Trump protest this month to do a lesbian reading. We do what we can. The disabled do what we have the spoons for. Writing I can do. Baking pies I can do. Taking care of grandma I can do. I know it is not even close to enough. I watch CNN in horror. Scroll Twitter and Facebook from my basement bunker watching the country explode outside.
It is not my duty to avert the inevitable Trumpocalypse. That’s impossible. I have only to drive grandma home from Thanksgiving. That I can do. In AA we recited, “We admitted we were powerless.” I will never drink again. I turned the Page of Swords repeatedly in last night’s tarot session. The Page of Swords reversed meant “powerlessness before stronger forces.”
I pull into grandma’s driveway. Unfold her walker from the trunk. Accept I am powerless to do anything about the current political situation as much as it concerns me. I can only watch CNN with the space heater at my back. Scroll Twitter as worrisome developments predate imagined atrocities. Worry.
The terror of this new era is all around me in the freezing air with the smell of Pumpkin Spice.