As America Faces Down A Trump Presidency, One Unlikely Woman Gave Me Hope
It was 3 a.m. on election night. As I sat in an office surrounded by my co-workers, typing as tears intermittently hit my keyboard and President-elect Donald Trump gave his victory speech, an unexpected message appeared on my computer. I was mid-sentence writing an article covering the potential ramifications of Trump’s impending presidency, when I glanced over to see a message from a very unlikely individual. It was my former best friend, whom I had not spoken to in more than five years.
At one time she was my “person,” the sister I didn’t have and the foundation I stood on through college finals, multiple jobs, a seemingly unending line of inappropriate dates and failed relationships, and a much-needed abortion when I was a 23-year-old post-graduate. Then, thanks to miscommunication and a palpable sense of competition, jealousy, and judgment, our friendship ended. We endured a falling out that made every previous romantic breakup seem like an amicable, made-for-TV split. I said things I meant but shouldn’t have even uttered; she wished for my failure and refused to attend events when she saw I was on the guest list. We yelled at one another via text messages and emails, as if we knew saying the words out loud to one another would be too painful. Too damaging. Too much vitriol. Too real. We were horrible to one another in a way that only former-best-friends-turned-enemies can be; hatred and love so intertwined and tangled together that our obsession with despising one another proved that we still cared for one another, even if it was in some small, buried way neither one of us were willing to admit to.
She didn’t get a hold of me when I was sexually assaulted. She didn’t reach out to congratulate me when I found out I was pregnant for a second time. I didn’t hear from her when, 19 weeks into my pregnancy, one of my twin sons died. She was silent when my remaining son was born. I didn’t offer her my condolences when a family member of hers died. I didn’t reach out when her father had a significant health scare. I didn’t contact her when she endured what I heard to be a necessary but difficult breakup. We were unequivocally out of one another’s lives, only hearing bits and pieces of the other's now-separate existence through mutual friends and the occasional social media stalking session.
We didn’t want anything to do with one another. We didn’t see the need to speak to one another. We were happy to keep whatever was left of a failed friendship, in the past.
And yet, as the 2016 presidential election ended and the smoke cleared and I was filled with fear and anger and sadness, it was my ex-best friend who offered me comfort. Yes, I had my co-workers to lean on, my son to hold when I eventually went home and was able to find sleep, and my partner to console me when the reality of the situation was inescapable. But it was a now-stranger whom I had once shared cocktails with, spent an entire week sitting on the couch watching cooking show reruns with, who had carried me home on more than one occasion after a particularly drunk night, who gave me a true sense of hope.
It’s women, coming together under such dire and unfathomable circumstances, that are offering me the most comfort. Women, who despite their differences and past transgressions against one another, are reminding me that while this country is clearly divided, there are pockets of unbreakable unity. Women, who at one point in time have talked ill of one another and felt the need to compete against one another and have failed to support one another, are now coming together and pooling their strength and reminding one another of their undeniable worth. The tenacity and the humility and the support and the solidarity and the compassion of women is what’s currently aiding me; it is what will no doubt carry me through the next four years that we are now, collectively, forced to face.
My ex-best friend’s message doesn’t mean that all will heal itself, or that the blatant misogyny, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and xenophobia that Trump and his presidency embodies to me, will vanish. My ex-best friend’s message doesn’t mean that people in this country — especially marginalized people — won’t continue to face immense hardship. Her message, while vital in a moment of so much pain, can’t even negate the fact that more than 50 percent of white women who voted, voted for Trump. As the post-election days continue to evolve and America attempts to either find a new “normal,” or live with the fact that our country's racist and sexist past has been, and will continue to be, our undeniable present, I cannot point to my former friend’s kind words as proof that this election didn’t highlight the undeniable problems plaguing our own communities.
However, in the days since the election results were finalized, I have been looking for rays of hope from which I can draw strength and courage — so that the impending fights to end sexual assault and rape and harassment and systemic racism, and uphold reproductive rights and marriage equality and transgender rights and gender equality, won’t seem so daunting. I am searching for the “good,” and someone who once caused me so much pain (and who I have hurt immensely and on more than one occasion) gave me that hope. Hiding inside her words was the promise that while our next president won't be female, the future will be.
To that former friend who found the courage and grace to give me something I didn’t even know I needed: thank you. You reminded this Puerto Rican woman that while it’s easy to feel alone and isolated and afraid, I am not alone.
And neither are you.