Dispersion – Chapter One

Dispersion: Part Two of the Specious Series is now available! Download it here.

*Obvious spoiler warning if you haven’t read Specious yet.*

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Dispersion – Chapter One

I flinch at the rotting smell lingering in the living room, waiting for it to get worse, and swallow down the pit of anxiety that refuses to leave. Down the hallway is the room where it all started. I sacrificed so much in the vain hope this might work.

The sheets I placed in front of the door remain in the same position. For the first time since we left Potentia, I address my older brother. “I don’t know what state Matt’s going to be in.”

Dominic’s eyes don’t leave mine. “As long as he is still tied up like you said, it will be easy enough.” He pulls out his medical bag and rummages through it.

Allison bites her nails, chest frantically heaving. When I catch her eye, she stops her nervous chewing. Beside her, Jess stares blankly at the sheets, nose still at an awkward angle. The bruising around her eyes somehow makes her appear even more haunted. Her sharp features are relaxed in a vague expression.

I was wrong. That room isn’t where it all began. It’s where everything fell apart.

Without thinking, I take a step forward. Jess flinches away and lowers her eyes. I bite my tongue. This is all my fault.

Dominic speaks calmly. “The two of us will go in first to make sure he is properly secured.”

“I need to go in there with you,” Allison says, pushing her unruly red hair out of her face.

Before Dominic can respond, I say, “As soon as we make sure it’s safe for you to go in there, I’ll let you know. We don’t want you to put the baby in danger.”

Allison looks down at her stomach, nodding reluctantly.

Dominic tests the feel of the syringe before returning his steady gaze to mine. “No time like the present, Joe. You take the lead.”

I force myself not to react to his cruel nickname. We need him to cooperate. I take a big step forward to remove the sheets from the cracks and toss them away carelessly. I pull the door open, my sweaty palms forcing me to tighten my grip.

We lost so much for the possibility of getting Matt back. He has to get better. How else can I justify what’s happened to us this past month? If this doesn’t work, how could I ever look at Jess again?

Matt must come back to us. There’s no other option.

Taking a deep breath, I push the door open and retch, eyes watering. No matter how much I’m exposed to the smell of rotting flesh, nothing can prepare me for it.

I look around…and don’t see Matt in this bedroom.

My eyes close. It was all for nothing. He must have escaped.

“He is on the other side of the bed,” my brother says. At the sound of his voice, a weak moan escapes from behind the bed.

A decomposing hand is tied to the bed with his arm at an awkward angle. I move to the other side of the room, and the rest of Matt comes into view. I suck in a breath.

When we left, he had turned only hours before. His body hadn’t truly started to decompose yet and still had at least a little bit of life in it.

The isolation from a food source forced its body to turn on itself, and the result is horrifying. Its skin has turned an unhealthy gray as it’s wasted away. An empty shell has replaced the once-solid frame. Its head turns and snaps menacingly, teeth shining through a ruined bottom lip.

It stumbles to its feet and lunges toward me. Even though it’s no longer the person Matt was before, I can’t help but feel bad for this creature. It must’ve been in agony this whole time we’ve been gone. Solitary isn’t something I would wish on anyone…unless it were my older brother who put me there in the first place.

“If you’re not going to do anything, get out of the way,” Dominic says, pushing me to the side. He shoves the creature back on the bed. There’s a small crack as he pops its shoulder out of its socket.

Before it can react, he stabs the syringe in its neck and takes a step back. Within seconds, the creature goes limp. Its yellowed eyes close to hide its insanity.

Matt’s entire body is motionless.

“What did you do?” I ask.

“I gave him a sedative so we could administer the medicine properly.” Each word Dominic speaks is measured and even. He pulls another syringe out of his pocket and twists off the cap. Methodically, he measures certain parts of Matt’s decomposing body to insert medicine.

Dominic crinkles his nose in disgust as he touches him, but offers no other sign of emotion as he upholds his promise.

Even though I don’t want to acknowledge him, I still ask, “Why are you doing it like that?”

“Why would I waste my time explaining something to you that you will not understand?”

I clench my jaw. “Why do you talk to me like that?” I spit back.

“Because I can.” Before I can respond, he continues. “It is going to take several hours before we know if it is going to be successful. The cancer needs time to fight off the infection.”

“Do you think it’s going to work?” I ask.

“Honestly, Joe, I am not entirely sure. He has not been able to feed on anything but his own body since he turned. Even if he does make it back, it is not going to be for long. As soon as this is taken care of, I want to leave this place and find the group out in Acroisia. Don’t forget your part of the deal.”

“We’re not leaving with Matt sick,” I say. It’s important that I make this clear now. “We need to give him as much time as we can.”

“My word might not mean much to you, but I will help him stay alive as long as I can. I will fulfill my part of the arrangement,” Dominic says. “But then you have to fulfill yours.” He takes a seat in a chair.

I gently move Matt’s body under the tan comforter to hide his appearance as much as possible from Allison. With only his head uncovered, I take a step back. It’s still blatantly apparent he’s lost way too much weight. His cheekbones accent his bony face, erasing the warmth his wide features used to bring.

I open the window to get some fresh air. The vehicle we used to travel here is visible through the corner of the window. During the drive, I was eager to get away from Dominic after being trapped in such a small space with him.

It appears I haven’t been able to.

“Allison, the two of you can come in here now,” I say. It’s going to be a shock for them to see him like this, as it was for me, but at least his deteriorated body is somewhat hidden now.

I take a seat on the floor and wait to find out if our friend will come back to us. If there is a reason for all of our recent suffering—a reason for why Jess won’t make eye contact with me anymore.

The memories of our captivity suddenly come flooding back. The seemingly endless passage of time stuck in my windowless cell. While Allison was treated fairly and I only had to endure some uncomfortable genetic tests, Jess was subjected to much worse. Neither she nor Dominic have disclosed what happened exactly, but I have my guesses.

Allison’s unsure footsteps enter the room, followed by a desperate sob when she spots Matt.

“Dominic says it’s going to take several hours before we’ll know if it worked,” I say. I look past her in the hope of seeing Jess. There’s only Allison. “Where is she?”

“She wanted to take a shower,” Allison says.

She glares angrily at Dominic, but he doesn’t notice. He’s too preoccupied with observing his experiment. Allison takes a few tentative steps toward the bed and stares down. She caresses some dark hair off of Matt’s forehead and sits down on the bed beside him.

“So now we wait?” she asks, voice full of anticipation.

“Now we wait.” I stare out of the open window. The fresh air helps hide the stench of death, but not enough to fully override the evidence of the disaster.

Out in the distance, I spot the creek where Jess and I shared our first kiss. That night was when Matt turned into one of the mindless beasts. There’s never enough time.

Dominic clears his throat, reminding me why we’re here in the first place. He’s the reason this happened. If it weren’t for him, Jess wouldn’t be so broken. I want to hit him in his smug face and break his nose again.

My eyes tear away from him and fall onto Allison and Matt. We have to put up with Dominic for Matt’s sake.

I sigh. “I’m going to walk around the property and make sure all of the fences are still in place.” I need to get out of this room and away from Dominic.

“Be safe,” Allison says. Even though she addresses me, her attention remains focused on Matt. Her hair has fallen over her face, hiding her expression.

I hesitate before I leave the room, watching my brother. He rubs his beard as he reads through his notes, eyes darting across the pages. Did he take the same copious notes when he ran his experiments on me? After he forced me into giving him some of my spinal fluid to run genetic tests on, I wonder if he had that same thoughtful expression while he recorded it all.

How about with Andrew, when he turned him into one of the Letum only to see if he could bring him back? Are those the notes he’s going over now, or are they someone else’s? He never admitted how many people he ran those experiments on. I’m not sure I even want to know.

And Jess? Did he write down everything he did to her in there? All of the beating and breaking her—both physically and mentally—does he think he has that down to a science? Does the answer to how far his abuse went lie in that notebook?

For all the importance placed on genetics, I don’t understand how Dominic and I come from the same parents. We went to him for help because I was naïve enough to believe there was still some good left in him. I can’t make that mistake again.

I close the door behind me, taking a deep breath of the—relatively—better air. The shower is still running.

I grab a machete and head outdoors with fresh determination. This is something I understand. I can go out there and kill the Letum. I may not be able to get Jess to look at me, but at least I can do this.

I sprint toward the fence and follow it clockwise around the cabin. With every step, I’m more desperate to find one of the Letum. Out of all the times I wanted to avoid them and they showed up anyway, none are here the one time I actually want them.

I exhale air. What’s becoming of me if I’m almost begging to find the Letum? I push that thought away and start running, trying to escape its implication.

My side aches in protest at the physical exercise. A small voice in my head cautions me to slow down. It reminds me of my prolonged captivity. I ignore it.

If I can kill some of these creatures, maybe the balance will return.

I spot the awkward movement right past the fence and exclaim in relief. Without another thought, I jump over the fence and race toward it. The infected reacts to my noise and moans in excitement. It used to be a young woman. Its dress has been torn down its body. Its yellowed, dead eyes register my movement as it moans in its version of excitement.

I run toward it. In one fluid motion, I slam my arm down and the machete crushes its face inward. Its eyes split apart, revealing the gray mush inside its head.

It falls instantly. Its face is unrecognizable, and it’s hard to believe it ever belonged to a person. The hair attached to the head is a shade of brown similar to Jess’s. Its left boob hangs out of its dress. It’s such a vulnerable, shocking sight that I automatically readjust the dress to cover it.

This used to be someone. If a cure is possible, did I rob this person of her potential to be saved?

I drop my head. So much is wrong, and I don’t know the way to correct any of it. All I know is I need to be strong for Jess and Allison. I let the tears flow down my face but resolve that these will be the last.

I take a few deep breaths and get back to my feet. I leave the girl behind and cross back over the fence. While I made the first half of my walk in a fury, wishing to encounter some of the infected, I spend the remainder walking slowly, hoping for avoidance.

Luckily, I don’t see any other Letum and complete the circle around the fence. The sun rises to its full height and sweat drips down my back. I make my way back up the patio. I set my weapon down, the darkened blood drying, and open the front door to go back inside.

The shower is still running. I frown. I must’ve been outside for over an hour. I take large steps toward the noise and pass by Matt’s tomb. Allison and Dominic haven’t changed positions.

Even though I know the answer, I still ask, “Is Jess still in the shower?” The unease raises my voice.

Allison’s eyes widen. I run to the bathroom and bang on the door.

“Jess? Are you okay?” I call out.

Her silence is deafening. Pain shoots through my hand while I continue my desperate pounding. I shouldn’t have left her alone.

I slam my shoulder against the door again and again until I force it open.

Jess doesn’t even turn her head at my loud entrance. She sits naked in the shower while the water slides down her body, weighing down her normally curly hair. Her lips have a bluish tinge and her teeth chatter.

The water heater wasn’t built to last this long.

“Are you okay?” I repeat.

She doesn’t react.

Bruises cover her entire body along with various cuts and scrapes.

I clench my fists and struggle to breathe. Dominic decided he could do that to someone else. He took something and hit her, bruising her all over. He must’ve held her down with a knife when he cut her. All she did was choose me, and he saw that as reason enough to ruin her life.

Someone like him doesn’t deserve to live.

“Jess…” Allison’s soft voice comes from behind.

Allison pushes past me and grabs a towel from under the sink. She turns the water off, and Jess finally notices we’re in the room with her. Her eyes are blank.

“You’re going to get through this,” Allison says. She steps into the tub and drapes the towel around her. “You’re strong enough for this.” Allison’s hands rest on Jess’s shoulders. The two of them make eye contact.

Very slowly, Jess shakes her head.

Dominic joins us and says, “What is going on in here?”

Jess drops her head. Allison jerks up in fury. There’s only one thing I can think to do. I push Dominic out of the room and close the door behind me.

“I don’t know why you’re trying to hide her. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” he says.

My gut tells me he did much more than look at her. The obvious physical abuse is one thing, but if he did more…I can’t accept that. It’s all my fault.

He turns away and walks down the hallway. I shove him into the wall—hard. His arms rise to catch himself. When he turns to face me, our father’s strong features etched across his face, there’s an angry amusement in his expression.

I wish we were back in the territories so I could take the tools he used on Jess and punish him with them.

Dominic chuckles darkly and faces me. “There’s nothing you can do to change the past. That must be eating you alive right now.”

I tighten my jaw and struggle to remind myself that we need his help with Matt. My hands shake with tension.

“I bet you’re overwhelmed imagining what I did to her.” Dominic smiles smugly. “I hope you fall asleep at night wondering what I did when we were alone.”

He steps even closer and his head is now inches away. I tilt my chin up to maintain eye contact.

“Whatever you think happened, whatever your worst fear is, I did more,” he says quietly. “And you brought her to me so willingly.”

He smiles again and walks away.

The moment he disappears into Matt’s room, my body slumps as I sit on the floor. He takes pleasure in making me squirm, but what if he isn’t talking it up? What if he did do more?

My hands won’t stop shaking.

I don’t care that we’re brothers. I don’t care that we need his help. If he hadn’t walked away, I’m not confident I could keep control. I want him dead…and I want to be the one to do it.

Once Matt is back, there won’t be anything to stop me.

My breathing hitches. Even if I kill Dominic, that won’t be enough to reverse what happened to Jess. There’s nothing I can do to take that back.

 

 

What do you value?

Over this last week, there has been an increase in bullying and harassment, including within our education system. Instead of having the ability to focus on learning, students are now being threatened and going to school scared.

Even in the high school I graduated from, there have been several reports of instances of racial slurs and attacks. And this is coming from a very diverse school with only about a third of the population being white. This makes me so sad to think that this is happening – not just in far off places – but in my own hometown.

One of the major fears since Trump won the election is the belief by many that his voters looked past his comments regarding women, Latinos, the Muslim community, and other minorities. Whether or not you think he will follow through with his outlandish campaign rhetoric when he actually gets into office, that is a different story. The problem is this has created an open space where people feel comfortable sharing these extreme views. Seeing these types of messages all across the media for so long has almost numbed us to the hateful implications of what they could mean for our society.

I am really trying not make this about which political party you belong to or who you voted for; rather, more about how we need to be more inclusive – not less. In fact, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has condemned the hateful rhetoric and actions by stating that those people are “not republican” and has disassociated from them. Every single person, no matter who you voted for, needs to stand up and say this behavior will not be tolerated. In addition, those who are protesting against this behavior cannot turn into the very people they are angry with in the first place.
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Andrew Kipp, who teaches Chemistry/Honors Chemistry for 10th-12th grade, shared his perspective on this last week.

“What do you value?”

I wrote this on the whiteboard near the end of a graded debate in my honors chemistry class. The discussion was over the investment of space exploration. Half of the students were for it and the other half were not. When we started the discussion, students mentioned the surface issues such as economies, technological advancements, and curiosity to explore. However, it took a turn after a student mentioned the safety of the people that were exploring space. It got a little more heated. I sat there patiently until I heard my first personal attack: “You guys clearly don’t understand how little we are investing!”

At that point, the debate was personal.  What was interesting was how divided the classroom had become in such a short period of time. Students that were friends before the debate were pissed at each other.

After a brief moment of ‘Oh shit, what do I do?’, I gave students a five minutes break as I wrote on the board. When they started trickling back into the classroom, they noticed what was on the board.

“What do you value?”

When everyone was back into the room, we made a list on the front board. Students mentioned many things I value and other things I do not value. The final part of the exercise was to go through the list, one-by-one, and see what you personally valued the most. I rose my hand with the following:

  • Friends and family
  • Acceptance of all people
  • Safety

Only some of the students raised their hand for those same values as I did. Many students mentioned their religion, their education, or pride of their cultural heritage. Finally, after students completed the task, they self-reflected. We went back to discussing our values. Many students did not realize the diverse values in the classroom. But after that lesson, students were brought closer to their classmates.

This was back in September.

Fast-forward to the election. I checked CNN and the headline was: President Trump.

How could America have elected somebody that made such racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and even xenophobic comments? Every value I have been teaching was just thrown of the window. “Be an asshole; become our president.”

My personal values were attacked.

And it hurt.

The only reason I made it to school that day was to help those students that felt similar to me. There was no other reason.

School that day did not feel right. Teachers and students were both discouraged, while some students were walking with a pep in their step. For half of the school, they were mourning a death in the family, and the other half had just learned they won a million dollars.

The best way to describe it was fucked up.

The morning after Trump became our future president, students were taking a test. Before the test, I told them, “No matter what, I will be here to teach you and keep you safe and continue to be involved in politics.” I did not know what else to say from that. I felt so discouraged, yet could not communicate that to my students.

My students were also a mixed bag of emotions, many of them uncertain how to approach the situation. Some of my students were embarrassed that their parents voted for Trump or felt they were unfairly labeled a “racist” or “homophobe” for having very valid reasons for siding with him. At the same time, students that sided with Clinton generalized that all Trumps supporters were inconsiderate to minority populations. All of my students felt this: their values were being stepped on and they felt hurt from it. What message could I send to help students move on, despite their diverse differences in opinion?

I slogged through the rest of the day telling them my message that felt like it rang hollow.

Now, I know the message I want to give.

Speak to your fellow Americans. If they voted for Hillary, learn why they did. If they voted for Trump, understand their reasoning. Be empathetic to others and care about them. Be an advocate for your own values while at the same time listen to other people and their values. To move forward, we need to be able to listen and understand that our values are what make us. It is how we identify with ourselves. It is why I was so hurt when Trump got elected, because I feel that, based on what he has said, he will not help minorities and their needs. Does he have the empathy to help all people in this country and not just the white, Christian population? We will find out. But for now, I will continue to be an advocate against people who are racist, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic.

To do this I need to be empathetic and will continue to ask the this question:

“What do you value?”

Now is the time to come together to promote inclusion and tolerance instead of division and hate. When speaking with someone with a different set of beliefs, use the opportunity for a productive conversation. Learn their perspective; understand where they are coming from.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “What do you value?”

“We shall love; we shall not hate!”

Let’s talk about something that has been gaining a lot of attention over these last few days – the protests since Donald Trump has been elected. On social media, people have praised the efforts, while others have berated them. When I saw on Facebook that a group was coming together in Tulsa, OK last night, I made sure I was there.

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The event was in downtown Tulsa. The demographics were very young (a lot of millennials) and mostly white. The LGBT community was very well represented. There were probably about a hundred or so people who showed up.

It was interesting to talk to people about why they were there. A lot of assumptions have gone into these protests and why people are participating in the first place. I have heard statements that the protestors are trying to undermine our democracy, refuse to accept the results of the election, or even that they are just sore losers. From talking with the participants at the event, that simply was not the case. It appeared to be more for people to gather together in solidarity. No one seemed to think that this protest would actually prevent Trump from getting in the White House. It was more about wanting their voices heard and their dissatisfaction acknowledged.

“I’m here because the guy that I think about 25% of the country elected – 50% turnout and about half of that voted for him – doesn’t represent what the country was founded on nor does he represent the progressive direction that the country is following as a whole. The incredible exclusive mentality that is being promoted…is a complete crock and mockery of everything that this country stands for.”

“I’m here because I feel like a person like Donald Trump should not be able to discriminate against everyone other than people who look like him and people who act like him. He is against black people. He is against women. He has a bunch of reports about sexual assault…As a sexual assault victim, it made me feel terrified and almost like hopeless seeing that someone who did this to all these people can become our leader. That is what represents America. That’s what little kids look up to. It’s ridiculous.”

img_5829The split between positive and negative reactions toward the group was probably about 60-40, with the majority encouraging. There were cars tapping their horns to offer support, people clapping and cheering as we walked by, and even those offering kind words. At the end of our loop, one man called out, “I appreciate everybody here.”

There were also a lot of negative reactions…and these seemed to be a lot louder. A white guy yelled out, “You guys are all fucking retards; do some research!” At another point, another white man leaned out of the window of his car to scream, “motherfuckers!”

Fairly early on, when we were crossing a street, a young, white woman started harassing everyone. In the midst of her screaming profanities, one of the protestors said back, “We stand up for peace! All lives matter!”

“My life matters, too,” she yelled.

“Yeah, it does.”

After this altercation (which went on for a couple of minutes), I asked one of the women at the protest her thoughts on what just happened.

“We kind of magically ended up at this protest tonight – super peaceful. A lot of people just gathering together in support of each other and other people’s lives and peace and love. As does happen at protests, we ran into…not very nice people. It makes sense, we are in Oklahoma and it is very conservative. The hostility is mind-blowing to me because it is exactly what we are trying to raise awareness for. This is peaceful and we are trying to come together and people attack that. This movement that has been created by Trump and this whole campaign is based on hate. It is more apparent now than I have ever experienced. I’m not one to put myself in situations where I feel unsafe, but now I feel unsafe walking down this street.

It is a weird mixture of feelings because it is exactly what I expect but it is also a scary reality that I don’t want to accept. I don’t want to say, ‘This is okay; this is how people are. They are going to attack us. They are going to be hostile.’ But this is the reality of it. You see stuff all over social media saying this is Trump’s America with hate – people attacking all sorts of minorities for no reason. There was no reason for her to even say a word to us and here it is. It’s scary. It’s more real and solidifying when it happens to you and you’re around it as opposed to hearing about it. But it’s here.”

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This demonstration was more about sharing common human decency than a Hillary vs. Trump attitude. I cannot stress that enough.

“We need to make it where people are okay to be themselves and people are okay to express their opinion without being hurt or betrayed. I think that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story needs to be told in their own way. Peaceful protest is the way to get our voices heard and draw attention to the minorities who are getting skipped over every single day. By the end of the presidency, I hope that people sit down and talk. I want people to recognize that they contributed to the hate.”

By 10pm, the cops were flashing their lights reminding us to stay on the sidewalk. People in the crowd called out gratitude for them supporting their right to peacefully protest. I stayed with the group for an hour and a half before leaving to start writing this post.

It really was not about trying to change the results of the election; it seemed more about people wanting to have their voices heard and coming together for a sense of empowerment. One woman articulated the theme very clearly when she said, “It’s not about being Democrat or Republican; it’s about feeling like our lives matter.”

And that is what is so important in our country right now. Whether you agree with whether minorities should be feeling scared, the fact is a lot of them are terrified. That means it is on us to make every single person in our communities feel safe, valued, and loved.

That is the message we need to send.

Why This Election Feels So Damn Personal

 

The only thing more surprising to me than last night’s election was how I felt afterward.

I never truly imagined this could actually happen. I assumed we were better than this. Though I was anxious before the election, I left work excited. After all of the horrible things Trump has said/done, the American people were about to smash his hatred away. I was looking forward to a vote where all those he discriminated against were going to have a voice. I was ready for that message to be sent so all of us could move forward.

A message was sent…and it has shaken me to my core.

Now, let me be clear: the focus of this post is not the political differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A decision has been made, and we have to deal with it. Rather, I want to talk about the implications of the society that elected him in the first place.

The American people screamed their vote last night. We elected a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women. When faced with the numerous women who have accused him of such, he claimed that they were not attractive enough for him to have assaulted them. After he was called out for his disparaging comments about women, he attacked the female reporter saying she had “blood coming out of her…wherever.”

Okay, okay, I hear you. You did not vote for him because of his “locker room talk.” But by dismissing everything he has said and done to women, I interpret this as the American people saying that it is okay to sexually assault women. After all, we just elected our next president who has bragged that he can “grab (women) by the pussy.”

That vote sends the message that it is okay if I am sexually assaulted. Yes, I do take this personally. I cannot tell you how much I wish I did not. I have never felt so unvalued and belittled. I am deeply struggling to come to terms with this. Some people probably voted for Trump without agreeing or caring about his stance on women. By casting a vote for him (or a protest vote for a third party candidate) that is declaring that everything he has said, done, and been accused of is acceptable.

At the end of the day, this is so painful. I cannot get over how much this hurts…and I come from a conservative family. While I know many of my family likely voted for Trump in spite of the things he said, I wonder if they realize how hurtful this feels for me right now. What would happen if I called my grandparents – called other members of my family – and told them what their vote for Trump meant to me? Would it change their mind, knowing that I interpret their vote as a tolerance for sexual assault, or would they continue to dismiss it? If they can read this, disgusted that I voted for Hillary, then it is only fair that I get to be flabbergasted over their support of her opposition.

Here’s the deal. We are fools to think that sexism does not exist. In Hillary’s concession speech, she said, “To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” I heard men scoff at this remark. So, go ahead and tell me this is not important. Try and convince me this is not still a major, real problem.

And all of these feelings that I am struggling with, that is with me being a white, straight citizen. My family has been born in the US for generations. I am still insanely privileged because I happened to be born this way. Yet, I feel like a stranger in my own country. As scared and threatened as I feel, there are others who are being even more discriminated against.

To add another perspective, I asked Stephanie Loredo to contribute to this post.

I am a multi-faceted, complex, ever-changing human. I was born Mexican and became American merely 15 years ago. I grew up in white affluent America, in a “good neighborhood” with other “good christian” kids. I lived in a bubble, in a sheltered vacuum of what I believed America was — equal to all.

It wasn’t until college I realized just how different I was from my fellow peers. I didn’t fit in with the white kids, and I didn’t quite fit in with the brown kids. I speak fluent spanish but sound just like Becky from the ‘burbs. Let’s add on another layer. I’m a lesbian. I’m a woman-loving human being who was born into a conservative, traditional Latino family. I don’t fit in with my family either. I’ve had to quietly find safe places of other queer people of color who can somewhat identify with what it is to be a double minority.

Over the past eight years I finally felt like maybe America was ready to accept all of my intersectionalities— queer, female of color. Last night, I was proven so wrong.

Trump winning is more than Trump winning. It’s how loud Americans spoke last night in opposition to women, in opposition to people of color — especially immigrants, in opposition of the LGBTQIA community. It feels personal because it is.

To be honest, I’ve actually never had a conversation with a Trump supporter. My grandfather, who survived his tour in Japan during World War II, voted for Mr. Trump. The VP of my company also voted Trump. These humans, who are very involved in my life, seem so nice and normal.

Maybe the problem is me. Maybe it’s my own privilege that I need to check. While I may not look like I belong, I still sound like it. Nobody ever pegs me as a lesbian because I don’t look like a Home Depot loving butch woman. In The Community, we call this “passing privilege.” I don’t get harassed for being gay because nobody knows I am until I disclose this information. What will happen to those who do not have “passing privilege” in Trump’s America?

I saw a former classmate post, “…we should let it go and set a good example for Trump and his supporters….” You know who says things like this? People with privilege who have nothing at stake, nothing to lose. I have many a white friend, and I have nothing against white people. Then again my white friends are always on the frontlines fighting for marriage equality, racial equality, gender equality, etc. My friends are using their privilege for good. My friends are using their privilege to inform the rest of America that yes there is still, in the year 2016, rampant inequalities for so many who are not White, Christian, straight, cis-gendered men.

Change is not going to happen by attacking those who think differently. It begins by starting an open dialogue and discussing other viewpoints – by not only accepting what makes us different, but by loving our individuality. You disagree with things in this post? Let’s start a conversation. Trust me, I would love to have my mind changed.

There is nothing more damaging than staying silent. This is a pivotal moment in our society. Are we going to accept the hatred, or will this be a wakeup call to turn our country into one that we are proud of?

We are better than this. You have a voice. Use it.

Live To Scream Another Day

I startle out of a deep sleep, utterly confused as to what I’m hearing. Juno perks her head up as there’s another round of flapping and crashing noises.

Am I getting robbed? Wait, my alarm system was set. No one got in my house. What the hell is going on?

I close my eyes again, hoping that I can just ignore what’s happening and go back to sleep. There’s more ruckus in my house so I force myself out of bed. Juno excitedly jumps down as the two of us leave to investigate this intrusion.

I tentatively make my way to the kitchen where a black thing is flying across the cabinets. I scream and run back to my room. Juno loyally follows me.

I close (and lock) both of the doors to my bedroom.

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We All Float Down Here

After one of our summer interns continually advocated for total sensory deprivation, I called up the local company that does it, The Float Spot, and made an appointment.

The idea is pretty straightforward. You get into a tank filled with Epsom salt water in complete darkness and chill. It’s supposed to be fairly meditative. Some athletes will use it because there have been studies supporting improved performance, musicians will go to boast creativity, and everyday folks will use them to relieve stress. For the first 10 minutes and last couple, there is music playing and a dim blue light to ease you in and out.

So, this morning, I went floating. Luckily, I wasn’t in a Steven King book and didn’t have to worry about Pennywise.

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Unexpected Sentiment

We don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty details, but through college, I was in a very serious relationship. When I got out of it, honestly, it was something that I was embarrassed and ashamed of. I didn’t want to talk about it and I expect my mom told everyone not to bring it up.

Fast-forward to now – about 2.5 years since it all happened. I saw one of my aunts, the one that looks the most similar to my mom, for the first time since then. I want to discuss a seemingly innocent, brief conversation that took place and the meaning it had on me.

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