By the time you knew love, The Rent-A-CD shop had become a branch of state government, demolished, like the rest of your city, in a summer that stretched into nearly a decade of detours.
— Elie Wiesel
The fluorescent light of a phone screen pierces the dark room for three, four, five seconds before fading. I glimpse the ceiling I have been watching blankly for the past two hours, lying on my back in our bed, flitting in and out of uneasy sleep. The phone’s light reminds me of hospital lights, prison lights, torture chambers. Unyielding and dehumanizing.
Your arms tighten around me. I wonder if you’ve slept at all or been rapt with apprehension ever since we got into bed, since we have made a silent social contract not to find out until it’s over.
I feel you trembling against me despite the warm temperature of our room. This bed is now serving as a torture device, a waiting and not knowing that constitutes agony, the type of pain that addicts the mind with its game-show anxiety. We decided together to exempt ourselves from the election coverage; the ceaseless barrage of sensationalized reporting on matters of life and death for the underrepresented, the disenfranchised, people battling to decolonize themselves from legacies of oppression. News coverage blurred into a sea of white faces, repeating the same information, greedily prolonging each element of the spectacle in a fight for ratings.
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to know. Let me stay in the old world for a little longer; don’t rip me from my exquisite torment. Ignorance is bliss when we are only bystanders.
I find your hand and hold it, seeking reassurance of my own fear of learning the verdict.
You reach out with one hand and turn on the bedside lamp. I look at you and see my racing thoughts reflected in your eyes. I ruffle your hair and try to smile, asking myself if the answer will destroy our right to marriage and allow my friends and loved ones to be fired, invalidated, and stripped of our rights. I don’t know if people like us will be sent to conversion camps for loving who we love, for being brave enough to live as who we are.
Will you, my love, be forced to use the wrong bathroom for the next four years, living every minute in fear of state-endorsed violence, humiliation, invalidation, assault? What will happen to the hormones that have lifted you out of depression, dysphoria, suicidal thoughts? Will we go back to living in shame and silence, as abominations? Which world will the two of us in this room enter when we look at that glowing phone screen?
“It’s going to be fine,” I hear you saying from very far away. “Just think, this could be the day we enter a country in which a woman can be president. Where human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Despite these words I can feel your hand getting clammier and colder within mine. “I love you,” I say. It isn’t enough, but it’s what I can say without choking on my rage tears. “I’ll fight for you and support you in every way I can.”
You laugh shakily, breaking our eye contact. I lean in closer to you, wishing to transform my body and its cisgenderism into armor; perhaps it can become an iron breastplate that can replace your daily indignity of needing to wear a binder.
“You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies,” you whisper softly to me, quoting Maya Angelou.
“You may tread me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.” I whisper back.
The screen lights up again. This time we will read its message.