Today I am more centered. Maybe it’s because I started feeding myself again, my stomach able now to keep anything down, to not boil up if I offer it a hunk of bread, a cracker. I made a choice to eat and grow strong because I have to be ready to fight now. 

On Wednesday after the election, I looked at my red-eyed students, at young LGBT people whose own parents voted against their rights, at black students afraid they would have to battle on the streets like their grandparents did. The more we wrote together, the more we talked, the more I felt our lives were a forge now, and if our metal had melted, we were our own blacksmiths. We could choose the shape of our new selves, and I would have to be a sword now, something to wield and cut.

All my life, I wanted to be a shield or to live behind one. Maybe I wanted something even less war-like. A spoon for soup. A fork to twirl through pasta. 

But there is Meredith, late to class, her hood pulled up tight around her blotchy face, asking me, “How could this happen?” And there is no answer to offer for the past, which I cannot change for her. There is only what comes next.

There is my student celebrating a scholarship she feels on the cusp of earning, a future she crafts for herself through the iron of her will, without a parent to guide her. I tell her she should leave the country, go abroad for college. I look at the color of her skin, think of her Arabic name, worry for her safety.

“Hell no,” she says. “I’m going to stay and fight.”

And I won’t let her fight alone.


 North Chesterfield, VA, USA (maybe not so united these days)

Gail GiewontComment