All day long I felt so good, up until just now. The fact that so many people voted for someone who maligns the ones I love is painful. I have hinted at it before, but this is a watershed moment for me. All the fears I had lurking about the men and the theologies and politics of the culture I was raised with--they are turning out to be true. How do you move forward from that?
We fasted most of the day and then went to a taco truck for an early dinner because we are weak people. The tacos were delicious, and I could see the sun glinting behind the large pawn shop sign as we sat at a picnic table underneath a white-and-red striped canopy. It was a strangely beautiful, unseasonably warm day for Oregon. We walked across the street to the playground, and I saw a group of women I recognized, women from the apartment complex. They waved me over, and I sat down with them on a bench. One of them had made pizza, Afghan-style: thick, chewy bread smeared with a bit of tomato sauce, covered in all sorts of ingredients: olives and bell peppers and jalapenos and mushrooms and pickles and cheese. They had brought their own plates and a thermos of tea and delicate china cups. They sat on a bench and ate their meal together while their children ran and screamed with delight.
I asked them about the election. Two mentioned they liked Hilary, the third looked me in the eye and told me she would make a better president than those two. We all laughed, and we all knew it was true.
They made me eat some pizza, even though I swore I was stuffed with tacos. One of them said it seemed like I had moved away to another country, instead of just down the street. I wanted to cry, because I felt that this was incredibly true. They all enjoy my English class/Welcome center on Tuesdays and wanted to know why I couldn't do it 5 days a week. I told them it was partly because I wasn't getting paid to do it, and partly because I cared for my son. They talked to each other and then asked me how much money I wanted, that they themselves would try and pay me. Again, the tears sprung up in my eyes. People who have so little always want to give away the most. I told them no, that wouldn't work, but I would try and come to their apartments once a week for tutoring. This made them happy, I could see it in their faces.
We sat on the bench as the sun sank lower, the air beginning to cool. I said I needed to get going, that my son was tired because he has been up since 4:15. My friend looked at me in shock. "your son is a Muslim!" she said. "He is a Muslim because he gets up so early to pray!" I smiled and told her that if he was a real Muslim he would get up at 5, not 4AM. Oh no, my friend told me, looking very serious, your son is just a very very good Muslim. And then she burst out laughing, and I did too. She eventually translated the joke for her friends, and they giggled, and then urged me to take home some food. It was getting dark when we said goodbye, and I knew I would see them in the morning at school.
Those few moments, that impromptu pizza and tea party at the park, it heals me. The loneliness, the truth that so many live with fear and hatred of my friend in their hearts, it lessened in my soul a bit. This is what I know tonight: If we are ever going to move forward, it is going to be under the leadership of those who have picked up the pieces time and time again.