I made a super ragey video about the election. Which I was encouraged to post. And also encouraged not to post. Then I wrote this instead, because fiction is always a better place for my rage. Also, Gwen in H2 on Facebook was reading Gays of Our Lives and a few of us were like, “Ha ha ha, Emerson’s response to the election would be amazing.” So here it is.
This is not a polished, pristine story. This is working art, the kind of thing you make because you have a place for it, and maybe it ain’t beautiful, but it serves a purpose.
This piece serves a purpose for me. It may not for you.
As long as you understand that these are romance novels, you will not be spoiled by the fact that certain people get together and form committed relationships. In terms of the timeline, this story takes place somewhere in the middle of One Life to Lose, though it’s worth noting that I wasn’t psychic, and deliberately ignored the election while writing that book. It’s something of a parallel timeline AU, really, but let’s not split hairs.
We Need A TARDIS
On election night, 2016, Emerson and Obie go to Club Fred’s where, coincidentally, every other main character from all five QLV books just happens to be. Yep. I wrote eleven people all talking over one another. You’re welcome.
The first thing Fredi said when we approached the bar was, “What a goddamn clusterfuck. Beer?”
At least I wasn’t going to need my non existent happy face.
We took our beers and started wandering around, and it was one of those times when I both adored and resented Obie’s positive attitude. Not like really adored. Well, maybe. Anyway, it’s just that the whole motherfucking world was collapsing down around our heads, and he was still trying to not freak out. Which might be great and all, but I wanted to fucking hit someone. Preferably the next person who acted fucking surprised about the election.
Zane waved us over to a table with her, Mildred, and Jaq, which meant she and Mildred were pretending to be girlfriends so Jaq would leave Zane alone about dating. It was the kind of ass-backwards thing you’d totally expect out of lesbians (an observation Mildred had smacked me for when she was trying to explain it to me).
“Hey, where’s Hannah tonight?” Obie asked as we sat down.
“With her lawyer friends arguing about how possible it would be to get rid of the electoral college sometime last year.”
He raised his eyebrow. “So, time turner?”
“I think they decided that with some tweaks in the area of precision, it was down to either a DeLorean or the TARDIS,” Jaq said. “Oh my god, I can’t even fucking believe this is happening.”
Obie put his hand on my arm before I could bite her head off. Which was good. Because then she kept talking and I would have looked like a total asshole.
“I mean, it’s not like I can’t believe it. But I really, really don’t want to believe it.”
Mildred kicked back in her chair, raised her beer, and said, “I called it.”
Obie groaned and I slumped. Zane turned all the way in her seat, which meant that somehow, despite their whole quote-unquote “dating” thing, Mildred hadn’t lectured Zane about the likelihood of a Trump presidency.
Weird. Since not lecturing someone about politics was the kind of consideration you’d show if you were actually dating. Not pretend-dating. I almost opened my mouth to say so, except if I blew their cover, Mildred might really hurt me.
Zane was eyeing Mildred narrowly. “What do you mean, you called it?”
“I. Called. It. Fuckin’ President Trump.” Everybody winced, but Mildred just kept looking smug. “I called it.”
“You called it. Every pollster in the country is confused, but you knew this was going to happen.”
“Look, trusting polls is like trusting the weather report. I don’t know why people bother looking when you can assess shit for yourself and most of the time not be surprised. Is it fucking sunny out? Don’t bring an umbrella. Is America full of whining, victimized white people? The dude who’s telling those people he’ll fix everything might win the election.”
“Wait, but are you really telling me—”
“Hey, Cam,” Jaq interrupted, loudly. “You guys want to sit down?”
We made space for Cameron, Keith, and Josh, and we were still holding an empty chair for Hannah. It was getting damn crowded at the table, and I’d made the mistake of sitting with Obie on my better side, and Zane on my crummy side.
I was really not in the fucking mood to bust out my cane tonight. Unless I needed it to beat people over the head.
“Hey, so, Mildred claims she ‘called’ the election,” Zane said to the three of them. “What’d you guys think was going to happen?”
Josh and Keith looked at each other. They were young, and one of those perfect gay couples who should be on a commercial for wedding rings or Subarus or something. I found Cameron a lot harder to place, though I liked him, whenever I was around him. Mostly because he didn’t make me go out of my way to dislike him.
“I would have preferred a Clinton win,” Josh said cautiously. “But I didn’t get my hopes up.”
Zane threw her hands in the air. “What the hell were all of you looking at? Is this Monday morning quarterbacking? Now everyone’s going to pretend they knew all along?”
“Not all along.” Keith shrugged, glancing around. “But since Brexit…yeah.”
I blew out a breath. “It was the obvious precursor to the election. Christ, don’t you read things?”
“Uh, about whether or not the UK’s gonna leave the EU? Not very much, because weirdly, that doesn’t feel all that relevant to my life!”
A figure in a flowy dress-thing appeared over my shoulder. “Oh my god, are you guys talking about leaving the country? Let’s all move to the same place!”
“Make room!” Zane called, scooting her chair over and jostling my leg. “Shit, sorry—”
“It’s fine.” And it was. Because my leg was celebrating the election by being okay so far. It was probably just waiting until I was complacent before totally fucking me over.
Which, now that I thought about it, wasn’t a bad metaphor for the whole goddamn thing.
Still, when Obie nudged me a second later to switch seats, I did. Because any second now I was going to start twitching, and I’d rather do that…next to Obie.
That’s about the level of romance I’m capable of: If I have to twitch uncontrollably, you’re the one I want to sit next to.
Zane swigged her beer. “Ed! Tell us things! Has the Times-Record called it yet?”
Ed took the chair next to his girlfriend Alisha and shook his head. “Everyone’s way too morose. I mean, they’ll have to, since there’s basically no mathematical—”
“She could still take Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—” Jaq began.
Judging by Zane and Mildred groaning simultaneously, it wasn’t the first time.
“Oh, god, you didn’t hear?” Ed frowned deeply. “They called Pennsylvania. And Wisconsin’s gap is just…too big. Way too big.”
Zane tapped her fingers on the table. “Pennsylvania has…thirteen electoral votes?”
A few people said “Twenty” at the same time.
Jaq’s face fell, as in totally dropped, like a bad soufflé. “Oh fuck.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Are you really telling me you thought she was going to get every outstanding state on the map and somehow pull out an electoral win? Come on. What the hell rose colored bullshit is that?”
“It’s not bullshit, it’s hope.” Though even as she said it, she was pulling out her phone. “Oh, Hannah’s going to be so fucking depressed. She was sure the later results would come in and Clinton would start winning.”
“Goddammit.” I shook my head and leaned forward in my seat. “How can you possibly have been so fucking blind for months while he just did whatever he wanted and fucking half this country jerked him off for it? How were you not paying attention?”
“Hey,” Zane said sharply. “You want to back off?”
“You want to pay for my goddamn health insurance?”
And there it was. The table went quiet. Oops. I tried to feel sorry, but mostly I was still pissed off.
“I didn’t vote,” Alisha said, as if volunteering to draw fire. “Because I think both of them are terrible.”
“Oh my god,” I muttered, and dropped my face in my hands. “Oh my fucking god.”
“Jesus,” Jaq said. “You didn’t vote at all?”
“I voted on the propositions. And I like Kamala Harris. But I didn’t feel like I could vote for either one of the presidential candidates. And I’m not saying one’s not worse than the other, but neither of them were people I wanted to vote for.”
“Wow.” Zane shook her head. “Like…wow. Ed, did you—”
“Voted democratic all the way down the line. I like Clinton.”
Mildred rolled her eyes. “Seriously? I mean, like, you like Clinton? Or she was the best of a bad deal?”
Beside me I thought Obie cursed. I might have been wrong.
“No, I actually like her. Especially when she shows she has a personality.” Ed shrugged. “She would have made a great president. Not as good as Bernie Sanders, but I still liked her.”
The table exploded again. Everyone but Cameron and I were talking over each other now. Obie and Mildred—for once on the same side—were calling for an all-out moratorium on discussing Sanders, Zane and Jaq were already on some kind of mutual tirade about Bernie bros, Ed and Alisha were defending the man, and Keith and Josh were trying to get in with a reasoned explanation for why the electoral math would have been the same.
I caught Cameron’s eye and both of us shrugged. I hardly had the energy to shout louder than the table, and he looked like he just wasn’t interested.
“What did I miss?” Hannah called as she walked over, dropping her stuff under the empty chair.
“Tell Ed that Bernie Sanders has been in politics for thirty years and is not a fucking political underdog!”
Hannah groaned. “I swear to god, I can’t talk about Bernie Sanders anymore tonight. I need a drink, be right back.”
“Agreed, no Bernie.” Zane waved in my direction. “But seriously, what the hell are you talking about with Brexit? That wasn’t an election.”
“It was sure as hell a campaign. And it was a campaign that played on promising straight white people that their boogeymen could be taken care of and everything would go back to the way it used to be.”
Mildred tilted her head to the side. “Now what does that remind me of?”
“I agree with you,” Keith said. “Like, I completely agree with you. But what I don’t get is how so many people can believe in a totally fabricated ideal of ‘how things used to be’. Things…weren’t really that way.”
“They kind of were, though.” Ed leaned forward, and I was doubly glad we’d switched seats or he’d’ve been leaning over my leg. “I mean, not that there was a shiny happy time in the UK or the US when only polite white people existed, but that white people definitely used to have a lot more political power. Political power’s really not infinite. The more younger people, people of color, immigrants with citizenship vote, the less power old white people have to sway things in other directions. If more of all those people had voted this time, maybe we could have won the election.”
“For fuck’s sake!” Mildred glared at Ed like he’d just suggested she go blow Trump to get him to back down. “How could you say that shit? Like, I get white people saying it because they don’t want to feel responsible for this—which they are—but you should be fucking smarter than that.”
“I didn’t mean it’s the fault of people of color that Clinton didn’t win—”
“—you’re damn right, you didn’t mean that—”
“—but I think if democrats had mobilized more voters, and if Clinton or Sanders had been a lot better at talking to minority communities, the election might have gone a different way.”
“And we’re stuck with it now,” Alisha added. “There’s not much left to do but figure out how to live with what we’ve got.”
I gritted my teeth. “God, I’m fucking sick of hearing people say that. It hasn’t even been called yet, and already people are talking about taking the high road and still having hope and how to move on. I’m not moving on! I’m fucking pissed off! Christ, can’t I have a couple of days to be angry about this bullshit? The guy’s a monster. He’s a misogynist, and a racist. He’s xenophobic, he mocks disabled people, he pervs on teenage girls, he has no clue about history or the military or the economy. And he’s going to be the president of the United States. Can we please just be upset for fucking five minutes before you goddamn feel-good liberals make it about how awesome you all are?”
Maybe I was making it up, but I thought all of Fred’s went quiet while my face burned. Obie squeezed my hand, which was shaking. With rage, not MS.
From the bar, Fredi called, “Tom, get Emerson another drink. He needs it. And for the record, I agree with everything he just said. I don’t want to hear anyone shitting on anyone else for being steamed up about this crap.”
Cameron cleared his throat and everyone at the table turned toward him, maybe just for a good excuse to stop not-looking at me.
“I think some of the disbelief really isn’t disbelief. It’s bewilderment. And I understand that. It’s…like Hitchcock never winning an Oscar for directing. I know that it’s true, but I can’t process it. It doesn’t make sense.” Color lit his cheeks and Keith poked him gently in the arm, which only made him flush darker. “I know that seems like a silly comparison, but in another way…it’s not. Sometimes the things that motivate people only make sense when looked at in a certain light, from a certain angle.”
Zane threw up her hands. “In what universe does this make sense? Seriously.”
“Well. Would you move to Kentucky?”
Cameron nodded. “Me either. I think a lot of people in Kentucky probably feel the same about California. For that matter, a lot of people in other parts of California want to break the state apart because they don’t feel people like us represent them.”
“And we don’t,” Josh added. “You can’t look around at this table and tell me that our values, our votes, are representative of the average American. They aren’t.”
“That may be, sugar.” Hannah raised her wine glass. “But bear in mind that in all likelihood Clinton’s going to win the popular by a fair margin, so that tells us something about the average American, I think. And I’ll thank all of you to not bring up the electoral college again tonight, because I’ll weep.”
“But…” Alisha glanced around. “Doesn’t that leave us in the same place? If we have to work with this, then what’s the point of being angry about it? What does that get us, other than…more angry?”
“It’s not about what it gets us,” Obie said, squeezing my hand even tighter. “Look, I’m good at talking to people. We’ll get organized, and we’ll work our asses off, and next time if they want to beat us they’ll have to find even more disenfranchised middle class straight white people to vote for them, okay? And that’s fine. I’m down for that. I’ve got my game face on. But there’s another side of this, and everyone who says there’s no place for anger is totally missing it.” He paused, and in that pause I pressed my arm against his arm and waited. “I can’t do that a hundred percent of the time. I can’t be the friendly, not-too-flamboyant, unthreatening queer guy every second of the day. Sometimes I’m fucking tired of doing that. It’s exhausting.”
Cameron nodded. “And that’s when we come here.”
Nods all around the table in agreement.
Jaq downed the last of her beer and took a long minute to look at everyone. “I get all that. But what the hell am I gonna tell my kids tomorrow, you guys? When they ask me how this could happen, in 2016—how we could let it happen to them—what the fuck am I supposed to say?”
“Tell them we’re gonna fix it,” Keith said. “Even if we haven’t figured out how yet.”
“Damn right,” Josh agreed. “And then you can tell them to head down to the center. We’ll eat barbecue and plan the revolution.”
Fully half the table raised a glass and called, “To the revolution!” I would have been more annoyed, except Obie was grinning at me while he said it (he knows how much I hate Hamilton).
People started talking again, and Tom showed up with my hard-earned beer. I turned to Cameron, still curious about something. “So why didn’t Hitchcock win an Oscar?”
He offered a rueful smile. “No one could say for certain, but it probably comes down to the types of movies he made, and the time in which he made them. People didn’t necessarily believe the guy who directed thrillers deserved to win for that.”
Obie shifted just a little in his chair, as much as he could in cramped quarters to indicate he was paying attention. “If this was a Hitchcock film, Cam, what would happen next?”
“I’ve been wondering about that, actually. But Hitchcock wouldn’t respect Trump as a villain. He believed that villains had to be relatable. That you had to buy in to their humanity in order to truly find them frightening. Trump’s far too obvious. Still, if this were Hitchcock, I’d be waiting for the pivot, the twist, the thing that I didn’t quite expect, but that when I looked back I could see had been coming all along.”
I sighed. “So we can’t just dump him off the side of Mount Rushmore?”
“I don’t think that’s quite complex enough for the end of the movie.”
Obie kissed my cheek. “You can dream, though, babe.”
And yes, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and yes, small minded people are somehow rebelling against a system that benefits them in every way because they’ve been convinced they’re victims, and yes, probably my compassion meter could use some fine-tuning.
But as long as all that shit’s going on, I could do a lot worse than sitting in a bar with Obie at my side and a free beer in my hand.
“So how about them racist baseball franchises, am I right?” Mildred asked, smirking.
Almost everyone booed. Zane shoved her. Alisha threw a napkin.
Obie leaned in and kissed my cheek again. “You want to take off soon?”
“If we leave now, we’ll have the house to ourselves.”
He pulled the beer out of my hand and gave it to Ed. “With Emerson’s compliments. We have to go. Dred, feel free to stay out late.”
“Or even spend the night at Zane’s,” I added, smiling sweetly. “You know. Like y’do.”
The last thing I saw as we were heading away was Mildred’s look of death.
Yep. Everything’s going to hell, but at least some things never change.