I grew up on a small farm in western Massachusetts. Our only source of income came from our farm stand, an 8 by 12 shed made from pallets my father had pulled apart. When the door to the shed was open, which it was from dawn to dusk, our farm stand was open for business. At eight years old, I tended to the customers, weighed their vegetables, cut the grubs from the end of the corn (we were organic), counted change, and recorded all our sales in the ledger. Sometimes now, I'll be out with my mother and an old customer will remember me as that little girl. Mom will say, "Oh, you remember So-and-so," but I don't. I don't remember any of them. Except Ben.
Ben had two cars, one gold and one maroon. He was in his sixties, and he came to the farm once a week, sometimes twice, to buy his vegetables. The first time he kissed me was after my parents had stacked a whole bunch of milk crates against the shed. The crates made it so the door wouldn't stay open all the way, and thus, they blocked the view between the shed door and our house. He blocked my way, so I couldn't get out of the shed. And then, when he was done, he gave me fifty cents and told me to keep it. It was my tip.
Once a week, sometimes twice, he came to the farm. Sometimes he drove the gold car, and sometimes he drove the maroon one. I tried and tried and tried to get my brother to tend to the stand when I saw Ben's car in our driveway. I tried and tried and tried to slip out a different door before my parents could notice. But the money in my wallet grew, fifty cents at a time.
I remember the feel of his tongue in my mouth. It was mushy, and while I never saw it, I can still see its pink, because the eight-year-old me imagined what it looked like. And the nine-year-old. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. That has never left my mind.
Do you know what else has never left my mind? Anyone someone steps in front of me to block my path, even if it's in jest, my heart flattens. What else hasn't left my mind? Snickers bars. I can't see a Snickers bar without remembering the one time I went trick-or-treating and accidentally ended up at Ben's house. He gave me a full size Snickers bar. My daughter got one this year when she was trick-or-treating. From an older gentleman. And every time I see it in her Halloween bucket, my heart flattens.
And then there was the time I was in seventh grade, when a boy from my science class would grab my butt because he thought it was funny when I turned bright red and hurriedly asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom so I could get away. And then there was the time...I wanted to kill myself because it was so bad. I almost killed myself because I couldn't cope. You know the time. You were here for it.
I've been doing better. You haven't heard from me in a long time, I know, but I haven't had a panic attack since June. I've stopped hearing screams at night. I've started sleeping again. My dreams are almost normal. My psychiatrist has lowered my depression meds. And I've stopped taking my anxiety meds altogether. I've started sewing again. I've even started to write again.
You didn't know this, but this is where I've been, putting my life back together. But since the day the video of Donald Trump was released - you know the one - things have been harder. I wake up screaming again. I've had to take my anxiety meds to fend off the attacks I feel coming. My dreams are stressful and violent again. And sometimes, I have to get out of bed at night to make sure that those screams I know I hear are not my daughter's.
So, when I post on my private facebook page, that I think we, as Americans screwed up (that's not the word I used), it's not because I'm being a sore loser. It's not because I'm hating on or bashing anyone who voted or didn't vote in any particular way.
It's because I don't feel safe.
And there are millions of other people - POC, LGBTQ+, women - who don't feel safe either. And millions of their family and friends who see that they don't feel safe. We're going to surround ourselves by people who love us, people who will protect us.