You make dinner early for your small, by American family standards, family–a guy, your tween-guy you would die for, and you–except you shove your dinner portion into the freezer.
And hurry upstairs.
HERE! you declare with a carny-smile and bowlful of crockpot BBQ chicken that’s been the source of your home’s major fragrance for the last few hours and he, your tween-guy you would die for, tears his eyes from his computer screen, cries WHAT THE HECK as he takes the bowl, knowing something’s up because you have forbidden him from ever eating meals in his bedroom while playing a video game. His delight in this taboo you are encouraging him to violate, that he believes you are, for this moment, a ‘cool mom’, activates your colossal, juicy-love heart. You place your hand on your chest as though about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. You blow him a kiss. Twiddle fingers with a reassuring nod he acknowledges with skepticism and a dash of suspicion, but accepts.
You rush downstairs.
You grab your blood pressure cuff from the butler’s pantry’s secret drawer, plop on the couch and turn on the TV, wondering if your face looks as desperate as you feel: A heady-lead inner-devastation, a fast-encroaching, dismally lit Dadaist wasteland, aging you.
But then a water-logged-orange enters your living room, and another form that looks and acts human strides elegantly to a podium. You respond to this form’s wave to the camera with a hopeful wave of your own, as ready as you’ll ever be.
And the birth of a nation begins.
Immediately you realize stillness is not an option and begin pacing the downstairs of your home, listening to the TV.
You are pacing when your other guy arrives. You gesture at his dinner on the counter and he gets it, knows the survival of your small family depends on your pacing and you’re grateful he knows this—but then it is obvious he can stay seated on the couch as he eats. Can, in fact, eat. Benignly. And well. As though eating while watching a cooking show. Or maybe Bugs Bunny.
Your BP cuff tightens on your wrist.
You are outside, on the back patio, silent-screaming at the hummingbird feeder and indigenous growth on the hill behind your fence rising into a star-pinged horizon and of course that’s when it happens: The bloated orange admits to committing a heinous crime and you miss it.
Oh! No! You!
Your guy yells. You rush inside and he explains the horror as you grab your phone and look it up on social media and it’s there, the clip is already there (!!!), people amazing you, how their fingers have mutated into the quickness of little fish evading the homemade nets of evil children.
You watch the clip and pump the BP cuff. You can’t breathe: An entire country blocks your lungs. Air cannot slip by Florida’s iron thrust, the gritty-gritty mass of Texas, or your own red hot state, California.
NO, you say, elongating the word like they do in the movies, scaring your guy: He spits out a mouthful of BBQ chicken and you throw a roll of paper towels at him, perhaps an attempt at emphasizing irony.
From here on out you never pace out of sight/earshot of the TV, which is now the size of the TV screen the woman in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman purchased for her personal viewing before she was exterminated.
Your tween-guy you would die for galumphs downstairs and asks what the heck is going on and you let your other guy explain as explaining anything comes easier to him than you and you’re grateful—if you open your mouth you will regurgitate red ribbons from every Greek tragedy, or worse: You will regurgitate Medea, whole.
You pace for your tween-guy you would die for. You pace for Greta. George. Breonna. You pace for your parakeets and your organic face cream. You pace for the planet—including that lady exposed on social media for ripping down a facemask display in Target in her weird, shrieky style…Or maybe not her.
And when it’s over and your tween-guy is back upstairs, brushing his teeth, locating his PJ’s, you grip your other guy’s hands and he pulls you onto the couch as he tells you that he knows and you tell him you know he knows and that you know you know he knows that you know how he feels, too.
You hold hands and watch aftermath on the TV. You’ve not held hands like this in some time. You both experience a reupholstered (the pricy kind) wonder. And when your guy suggests you breathe, you give it a shot.
And even though the birth of a country is cruel, tampered with, never over, and even though there’s a rattle in your throat and your arteries might explode, air fills your lungs.