by Joanna Arnow
You bring your phone, laptop and comforter to your dirty white couch.
You set up there to look at Facebook and the news.
The radiator crackles and hisses.
“Good morning,” Facebook says. “Stay dry today in New York. Rain is in the forecast.”
You call your parents and cry.
“This is the worst thing that has ever happened in my life,” you say.
“Then you’re lucky,” your Mom says.
She sounds angry.
You feel as if you have made a horrible mistake.
You feel dread like you are holding a too heavy weight, one you are about to drop.
You retweet Van Jones.
You invite Facebook friends to protests.
You are on a mission, as long as you are checking the boxes.
Everyone says they have been crying.
You want to say you have been crying too.
But feel you would be saying this to prove that you care enough.
To prove you care as much as everyone else.
Instead of saying you have cried, you punctuate your sentences with grimace faces.
The walls of your office are light green.
Your co-workers are quiet.
You edit a pharmaceutical training video.
In the interview shot, the psychologist sits on the right.
The actress portraying a depressed patient sits on the left.
A large leafy plant separates them.
“How do you see yourself when you look in the mirror?” the psychologist asks.
“I don’t understand the question,” the actress says.
Cassie comes in and her eyes are red.
She is a recent graduate, wears long skirts, smiles often and genuinely.
You feel it is your responsibility to hug her, since you were the one who hired her to do data entry.
She rests her skinny arms around your shoulders and you see her lips tremble.
“We were so happy yesterday,” you say.
You go to the kitchen and get your daily peanut-butter granola bar.
Your boss H. walks over.
“Do you have five minutes?” she asks.
“Yes,” you say.
You follow her down the hall.
She is a trim woman in her fifties with chin-length red hair.
She spent a long time trying to add you to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group yesterday.
She kept saying she did not understand Facebook because she is old.
She told you she liked the reclamation of pantsuits, pussy and nasty women.
She apologized for saying pussy to you in a corporate environment.
She told you that she knows you have heard the word pussy before.
You told her it was okay.
You hoped H. saying pussy meant she liked you.
Her poll had been out of I Voted stickers, so you gave her your extra one.
In her office now, you look at the Rorschach inkblot painting behind her.
She talks about organizing a Super PAC.
She says she needs to research Super PACs more.
Her face looks pinched.
At night, you and Cassie go to Union Square.
You push through the protesters so you can take a better picture.
Cassie looks around the crowd for her friends.
You take pictures of Cassie.
You feel self conscious chanting “Not My President” in front of her while she is quiet.
You tell her you don’t want to keep her from meeting people, and she goes.
You text five friends to see if they are around, but none respond.
You are glad to be alone in the protest, because you yell as loud as you want in front of strangers.
You see Michael Moore and tell him you liked his to-do list.
He says he’ll have another one tomorrow.
The rain stops and it gets colder.
At 55th street it becomes too packed to move.
A mysterious orange column spews steam towards the sky.
The people around you look young.
They sit above you on the metal poles of scaffolding.
You film with your phone, trying to pan from Trump Tower to their faces.
After awhile you get tired of being by yourself.
Your friend Jon has just posted a middle finger to Trump Tower on Instagram.
You find him and his friend standing in the middle of 5th avenue.
Jon is pale and skinny with long hair.
You hug and feel his shoulder bone against your neck.
You leave the protest with them to get food.
You walk east, away from the crowds.
Jon says he wants to talk to you more about organizing.
“You’ll do that with me, right?” he asks.
“Yes,” you say, because you feel like you have to.
“I’m a bad organizer though,” you add.
“Me too,” he says. “Artists are bad at organizing. It’s okay, we can be clichés.”
You go into a bagel place on 1st avenue with bright fluorescents.
You did not eat dinner before the protest and now you are hungry.
Jon and his friend Adam get bagels with cream cheese.
You order a Greek salad with lite dressing.
You think about the potential for weight loss in relation to protest activity.
The three of you sit around an orange plastic table.
You talk about why Adam is studying Yiddish.
“It’s funny,” you say, “I talked to someone exploring Jewish culture last night too. It’s like all the Jews are resurfacing now.”
Jon tears off more bagel.
You eat your romaine and feta with a plastic fork.
“It’s okay,” you say. “I can say that because I’m Jewish.”
“It wasn’t really offensive,” Jon says.
“No it is,” you say. “The connotation of resurfacing.“
“It’s like coming out of the subterranean underworld where the Jews dwell,” Adam says.
“Yes, the connotation of rats—” you say.
“Rats coming out of the woodwork,” Adam says.
“That is bad,” Jon says.
You look at the vats of different cream cheeses behind the glass case.
You look at the metal cages of different flavor bagels.
You offer to share your salad.
“Coming out of the woodwork is what I would have said, if I had slept more,” you say.
“I’m going to start wearing dresses to work, now that there’s nothing to lose,” Jon says.
“What kind of dresses do you wear?” you say.
“Black, mostly,” he says. “With high necks.”
“That’s nice,” you say.
On the train home you sit and listen to your music.
The car is crowded, people wear winter coats and mostly look tired.
A group of young men with face piercings stand by the door talking loudly.
The train pulls into a station and one of the boys yells, “Fuck Trump.”
“Fuck Trump,” you yell back, just like you have been in the protest chants.
You think they are going to continue, but the boys all get out when the doors open.
The train car is quiet now.
You avoid contact with the other passengers and put your earbuds back in.
The train stops at Brooklyn Bridge and goes out of service.
Two more out-of-service trains pass by, and the crowd on the platform grows.
You wonder if the city is trying to stop protesters from getting home and sharing their protest videos on Facebook, because you get a lot less likes if you post after midnight.
The skin under your eyebrow grows dry.
Even when it flakes off, more dry eyebrow grows back.
A mole appears under your ear.
While scratching your leg you feel a bump on your calf.
You roll up your jeans and find the largest zit you have ever seen.
On Facebook, you see one person post Leonard Cohen lyrics, then another.
You realize this means he has died.
When you were in college, you used to go to sleep to three Leonard Cohen songs every night.
You want to tell someone this, but you have no one to tell.
You check your likes on Facebook and Instagram over and over and over again.
You like other people’s posts too to support them, but mainly so that you are not a complete monster.
You read some of the articles.
You feel like you do when you think about death for too long.
You feel the nightmare sensation of being pressed down.
You go to a meeting in Williamsburg for filmmakers figuring out how to respond to the election.
Everyone sits on folding chairs pushed close together.
The room gets hotter and smells like sweat.
People argue about whether it is useful to try and understand Trump voters.
People talk about race, refugees, coalition-building and misogyny.
When it’s your turn to talk you just say it is important to support each other’s activism.
You say that you have made a hashtag for this event #FilmmakersGrabBack
A few people laugh quietly.
You feel inarticulate, insubstantial.
You had wanted to say you feel encouraged to be here in this room.
You hope that people will use #FilmmakersGrabBack but only one person posts.
When you get home, you have a brilliant new idea for Facebook.
You draft a post, “When they go low, we go high so that we have the better position to destroy them . . . that wasn’t what she said?”
You call a friend to ask about the wording.
She does not answer.
You keep calling friends until one picks up.
You ask her if the post sounds too violent.
She says no.
She says destroy could be metaphorical.
The small number of likes is lower than you expected.
Someone says their cat gets the higher position by going on the fridge.
You wake up with the realization that last night’s Facebook post needed a picture.
While you were sleeping, the cat comment has inspired you.
You google cat images.
You do not shower or get dressed, because you want to post as soon as possible
Cats Pounce, Cats Low Angle, Cats Airborne, Cat Attack, Cat Leap, Cat Hiss, Fierce Cat
You spend hours searching for the perfect cat.
You begin to sweat.
You did not notice you have been wearing too many clothes.
You move on to searches for big cats.
You research fur patterns of different species.
Lion In Tree finally gets you the right cat.
The yellow cat stands on a branch, looking dead at the camera.
The animal has flecks of ice on her nose.
You finally post around noon and this also only gets a handful of likes.
You would normally be writing every morning, but that has stopped since Tuesday.
You are too self-conscious to even write in your diary, because you think what you have to say will sound stupid.
You always hate rereading your diary from 9/11 when you were fourteen and wrote that the day would have historic repercussions.
You have been working on a self-referential film about your sexuality for two years.
You don’t see how you will be able to keep working on it now.
It seems like the worst most inwards-looking film to have been working on.
You consider cutting protest footage into the film, but it seems like a stretch.
You feel your dreams have been shattered and you know it is selfish to even worry about them now.
You also know you will never let anyone, ever stop you from making your self-referential sex films.
You will especially not let white supremacists stop you from making your self-referential sex films.
You will hold on to the idea that your self-referential sex films have value.
That your voice still has value.
You meet friends for dinner after work.
You and your friend Anne wait for a table in the entrance area.
It is a Columbian restaurant with multi-colored lights everywhere.
She orders bean dip because she is hungry.
Her skin looks pink and healthy.
She is a new friend.
You keep an eye on your phone since your other friends are coming later.
Claire comes in and you introduce her to Anne.
You do not like being the common denominator of new friends.
You stand to offer your seat to Claire, so she can better share the bean dip.
Claire says no, she would rather stand.
She will reach over you to get the bean dip.
Claire takes off her layers, smooths back her red-blonde hair.
She says she has been flying on adrenaline, she is high energy.
She orders white wine.
She says she has thrown herself into activism.
The three of you talk about Rust Belt voters.
You say no one has told them manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back.
Claire says there still will be some new manufacturing.
You agree, but say it would be different, like high-level windmills.
Claire gives you a look.
Anne says it’s important to reach out to Rust Belt voters.
Claire says fuck understanding their racist hate.
Anne says her father voted for Trump.
Claire says hers did too.
Mari texts you that she will be late.
You say you will pretend to just be a party of three, so the restaurant will seat you.
Claire says she won’t stay for dinner.
She says she is too high energy for you right now, and she will leave after her wine.
You tell her she can’t just arrange to have dinner and then leave before dinner.
Anne tells you that this is a hard time.
She says people respond in different ways.
Claire asks, don’t you see how high energy I am.
You say that sounds judgmental.
You say that sounds like we’re too low energy for you.
You start to cry.
You say we have energy.
You say we’re doing activist stuff too.
Claire says you are projecting your own guilt.
The waitress comes over and you pay for the bean dip.
Claire stays for dinner, you resolve your issues.
You eat the plantain chips on the table.
A song with a heavy beat comes on, and someone turns it up.
Mari joins the table, bringing cold air from outside with her.
Mari has wavy hair and large, dark eyes.
She says she is angry at the theatre community which is faux-gressive.
She talks about canvassing in Pennsylvania.
She tells you her canvassing partner said Pennsylvanians liked her because of her “Asian face.”
She talks about feeling reduced to her race.
She says she hopes people will see how racist the country is, which she knew all along.
She says white feminism has a history of excluding people of color.
She feels angry when people on Facebook only attribute the election results to misogyny, and never mention race.
She talks about how hardly anyone mentions the election’s impact on Asian Americans.
She says it makes her feel invisible.
She says all the other color communities of color are always mentioned — Muslims, Black people, and Hispanic, but Asian Americans aren’t safe outside cities either.
You notice black people at the tables to your left and right start to pay attention.
You try not to worry about how loudly Mari is talking about race.
You feel lectured at.
You worry that you never post about race on Facebook
The steaming food comes on big plates that crowd the table.
Mari says we live in a racist culture and everyone is racist — she distrusts people who say they’re not.
You start to feel annoyed that she’s lecturing you on a topic you agree with.
You want her to know that you agree with her.
You don’t want to say you agree to prove yourself though.
You pick at your chipotle salad.
Mari says she feels it’s her job to educate people about how they talk about race.
“Are you talking about it to educate us now?” you ask. “Because I also think that everyone is racist.”
“No, I know you guys agree,” she says.
“William Kunstler said everyone is racist,” you say.
She moves closer to hear you.
“Who’s that?” she asks.
“The lawyer who defended the Chicago Eight, Attica, the Central Park Five,” you say. “I interned on a documentary about him awhile back.”
“No,” she says. “It’s just on my mind and good to say to you guys.”
“Oh,” you say.
You see you have not just been listening to her.
You see you have been defending yourself.
The waiter comes over and clears the entrees.
“It’s good to talk about race, and be open about it,” she says.
“Yes,” you say. “It’s interesting I’m uncomfortable hearing you talk about race, even agreeing with what you’re saying.”
“I’m glad you said that,” she tells you.
Claire gives you a look.
You cannot read it this time.
You film pumpkins in Union Square with the police in the background.
You film a woman handing out safety pins.
You try to get arty-looking shots of people’s feet marching, but the shoes look too expensive. You worry this will send the wrong message about protesters.
You look for a low hanging tree, so that you can rack focus between autumn colors and the protesters, but there are none.
Your friends arrive.
Your photographer friend takes a picture of another friend’s yellow sign, and you tell him to do it again so you can film it.
It’s hard to film while marching in the crowd.
Sometimes when there’s a good chant, you run to the side and film as people go by.
At 23rd street you climb up on a rock, so you can get a better angle.
You run into your photographer friend again.
He is standing still in the middle of the protest with his camera raised, and the people marching go around him.
You do this too, and it works, no one runs you over.
Around 34th street, you film a handsome yellow dog.
It looks concerned as it watches the protest.
Sometimes it rushes at your camera lens.
On Sunday you masturbate for the first time since Trump was elected.
You think about writing a detailed account of this experience, but decide it would make too much light of the election.
You are angry again that you feel you cannot write self-referential sex material like usual because of Trump.
You feel guilty for expending anger over your changed relationship to your self-referential sex art.
Your vagina has had a bacterial imbalance for quite some time even though you have taken multiple courses of antibiotics that were supposed to cure it.
You want to write about your infected vagina as a metaphor for the virulent racism, sexism and homophobia that continues to pervade the country and resist progress (antibiotics).
The vaginal bacteria metaphor is even worse than the masturbation idea.
It is so bad that you like it.
You promise to fight against this deplorable vaginal bacteria — that of the country, and that of your own personal basket.
Today is the first day that you have had to regroup.
You are supposed to exercise, clean, rehearse, answer emails that have built up.
You do nothing instead.
You look at Facebook.
You post protest videos.
You post the dog watching the protest.
You finally rehearse Panis Angelicus for your acting class.
To brush up on the lyrics you sing the song over and over again.
Whenever you stop, you hear the neighbors upstairs walking around.
They probably think you have lost it.
You look up the English translation of the lyrics.
It starts, “Heavenly bread/That becomes the bread for all mankind.”
You try to sing like you mean it.
The driver calls before you are ready, and you say you will be right down.
You hurry out with the tripod heavy on one shoulder, the camera heavy on the other.
“There’s bad traffic today,” the driver tells you. “Everywhere.”
“Oh,” you say. “You’re not taking Flatbush, are you?
“No,” he says, “Flatbush is always bad now, night, day. It doesn’t matter.”
A few more blocks go by.
“It looks like you’re taking Flatbush though,” you say.
“I’m not,” he says. “People keep taking Flatbush and they just sit there. I don’t know why they keep taking Flatbush.”
He looks like he wants to talk more about traffic, but you don’t want to.
You put in your earbuds and look out the window at people walking to the subway.
The route he is taking seems very roundabout.
You worry you will be late for your shoot and keep refreshing Maps.
The traffic is stop and start on 34th street.
At a red light near your drop off, you get out your wallet.
“You can go ahead and swipe your card, sweetie,” he says.
“Please don’t call me sweetie,” you say.
You feel good about saying this, and your decision to speak up more since the election.
You think next time you should not say please.
“Fine,” he says. “But you were nervous from the moment you saw me.”
“No, I wasn’t,” you say.
“You were very nervous about me,” he says again.
“I just don’t want you to call me sweetie,” you say. “I’m not nervous about you.”
You look at the license posted on the back of his seat and see his name is Mohammed.
You finish paying and sit back in silence again.
The light turns green, and the traffic inches forward.
“Okay, I won’t call you that,” he says. “Everyone’s been having a hard week.”
“Yes, everyone’s been having a hard week,” you say.
You think about how you have done nothing wrong or racist like he thinks you have, how he is misunderstanding you.
You think about how you were anxious about being late, which he read as anxiety about him.
You think it was not nice of you to ignore him when he wanted to talk, and block him out with music.
You realize you haven’t thought at all about what this week must have been like for him.
You feel, writing this, that you are trying too hard to show you are good.
At night, you talk to a family member on the phone while you put away dishes.
You mention you have donated money to Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood?” she shrieks.
“Yes,” you say.
“I’m very angry at them. Very very angry.”
“Why?” you ask.
“I don’t remember,” she says. “I think they did something anti-abortion.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” you say.
You sweep the kitchen floor with a dustpan.
There are large pieces of cracker everywhere.
Sitting on your white couch with your laptop open to Facebook, you call your congressional representatives to tell them to take a stand against the Bannon appointment.
No one picks up except for the office of your congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
You read the statement from the Facebook post stumbling when you say “constituent” “white supremacist” “anti-Semitic.”
The man on the other end of the line tries to interrupt, but you push forward with reading the script.
Finally, he stops you and says that Yvette Clarke has already issued a statement.
“She did?” you ask, feeling like you should not believe him.
“Yes,” he says. “She did it last night.”
You realize you are disappointed now to be without a mission or a demand.
You feel like you should ask for something else while you’re on the phone, about the environment or the supreme court nomination, but the script you have in front of you was just about the Bannon appointment.
“Where is the statement?” you ask.
“You can google it,” he says. “It’s online.”
You hear now that he sounds African American, and you start to feel ridiculous for your stumbling scripted speech demanding that your progressive African American congresswoman take a firmer stand against white supremacy.
“Oh okay, I’m so glad to hear,” you say. “Please tell her thank you for making a statement.”
“I will be to sure to pass it along,” he says.
You think about white fragility in relation to yourself, and then feel good about yourself for your race consciousness.
You tweet and facebook Yvette Clarke’s statement, then spend a lot of time checking to see who has liked the posts.
It is blue sky and clear today.
From H.’s window, you can see west down 34th street all the way to Macy’s.
H. says she is going to charter a bus to the Million Women March.
She says she wants you to film it.
She says she ordinarily wouldn’t bring it up at work, but you were the one who invited her on Facebook.
You feel like you have to say yes.
You imagine crouching to film on a moving bus packed with H.’s friends.
You had wanted to go the Million Women March with your friends.
You tell H. that you are going earlier and she looks disappointed.
H. says the mission of her Super PAC will be to elect a progressive woman in 2020.
The phone rings.
She says she has to take it.
You stand to leave and she says sorry.
You write this story about the first week of the election.
You write this to confess your faults.
You write this to be forgiven.
Your idea was that the story could somehow contribute, but you know you are writing this for yourself.
JOANNA ARNOW is a filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn. She has directed several films including a personal documentary feature i hate myself :) and a narrative short Bad at Dancing. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Press, Monkeybicycle and Dogzplot. You can find her on twitter at @arnowjo