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2265 words • 9 Minutes
Election day 2016. Axes and I had both voted early. We were also both terrified of the results of this election, but decided the best thing to do would be to completely ignore the results until things were official. Instead of watching the news or keeping tabs on update feeds on our phones, we went on our second date.
Since our first date was downtown – his territory – I got to pick things this time. So I dragged him out to the suburbs, to a little Mexican place in a strip mall that had delicious espinaca dip. I told him our after-dinner activity was a surprise, but he should bring “up to four books, preferably children’s books, that he wouldn’t mind giving away.”
It was chilly (Google says it was in the 40’s) but he was wearing a t-shirt, no jacket. “Aren’t you cold?” I asked him. “I have a hoodie in my car if you need it.”
He blushed and look down. “You’re really going to make me say it, aren’t you?” He sighed. “I wore this shirt because it makes my arms look good, okay. I was trying to show off for you.
And then it was my turn to blush and stare at the table.
He was under strict guidelines to take turns asking questions, and he stuck to them admirably. I asked him about his religion and what it meant to be a pagan priest, and he asked me about my writing and my dogs. He told me about his family – his chosen family – who he was doing a religious ceremony with later in the year to make their family official in the eyes of their gods. Again, I felt so strongly how much I wanted to be one of his people.
We left the restaurant (and having showed off his arms, Axes put on a hoodie) and took my car. It was time for my surprise. I explained the concept of a “Little Free Library” to him, and then drove him round to the few in my area. He was so completely enamored with them. We stood in people’s lawns in the dark and the cold, shivering as we pointed out our favorite children’s books, dropped off his collection of picture books, and left notes in the little libraries that had notebooks.
“I was worried you’d hate this,” I admitted. “You being all super awesome downtown guy with the adventurous hobbies.”
“Oh no, I’m so sorry I gave off such a terrible impression. I’m really not like that at all.”
We wandered back to My Coffee Shop (my only move) and our questions got deeper. Sex, times people hadn’t respected our consent, and how both of us grew up with an alcoholic parent. The coffee shop closed and we drove back to his car. “I’ve probably got an hour left before I have to go,” he said.
“You always wear those two necklaces. Is there some significance behind them?”
He tugged them out from his shirt. “This first one is my religious symbol, much like a Christian wearing a cross.”
“And the other one?”
“This one is, um. Well. It never comes off, because it’s my… collar.” Suddenly he was talking fast. “Does that freak you out? Please don’t let that freak you out. It’s like the first wedding ring I ever had, and our relationship isn’t as intense as it used to be because we live together now but I do defer to James in most decision making and-”
I was laughing. Not only because of how incredibly worried Axes was about my opinion, but because I had just had a conversation with my best friend that day about how very not into BDSM I am, yet I keep dating people who are *very* into BDSM. As my best friend stated, “You have an uncanny ability to attract subs and I want to steal this superpower.”
I had a move planned out, and was just working to build the courage. When it was my turn to ask a question, I was going to ask if I could hold his hand. (At this point, we had only hugged hello and goodbye) But each time I was up to ask a question, I chickened out. “This time,” I told myself. “I will ask it.” In my head, it was smooth, and he was charmed, and the moment was adorable.
“Okay your turn to ask a question.”
“So can I–”
His phone rang. “Oh, it’s James. He knew I was on a date and wouldn’t call unless it was important.”
He picked up, and I heard his husband’s tinny voice through the small cell phone speaker, quaking with panic, as he said “Trump is winning.”
Trump is winning.
We both immediately pulled up our phones and looked for results. “They haven’t tallied up all the states yet,” he said. “Clinton’s sure to win in…” he listed states, talked numbers, statistics.
I heard his small voice on the phone, talking a mile a minute about how scared he was, how this change would affect him and his girlfriend and their group at the bar and how desperately he wanted this to not be happening.
“Please,” he said. “Come home. I need you.”
Our date was over. He apologized six thousand times but seeing him take care of his life partner filled me with warmth and affection for him. He handled it so well, dropped everything to take care of his husband, despite being on a date. I respected him, saw him being solid, good, and fantastic long-term material. He kept saying how sorry he was, but really, I was so into him in that moment, it probably did more to make me want him than anything he could have done on his own. I wanted him in my life, ready to take care of me like that.
We parted ways and I went home to my empty house and stared at the election results. I was up for two more hours, watching the red and blue sections seem roughly equal, and texting Chris and Cute Boy, telling them how the date went and how the election was going.
Chris works nights, and he and his friends were in the break room with a bunch of Republicans cheering loudly about Trump winning and taunting him and his friends. Several of his group went home, and he called me form the break room and we comforted each other.
I wasn’t scared, though. For some reason, I just genuinely believed this couldn’t happen. There was no way that Trump could win, that I would live in a country that saw his racism, his lack of basic knowledge of politics, his … everything that he is, and would say “Yes, that guy. That’s who I want in charge of my government.”
I fell asleep with the lights on, the phone still in my hand, backwards in my bed.
I woke up to Trump winning the election.
The next day I was numb, depressed (sadness and hopelessness combined) in a way I hadn’t been in months. I went to work and stared at my monitors in a daze. I genuinely never thought it could happen. And I know, now, that it was that mindset that let him win. That I hadn’t taken him seriously as a threat, and so many other people did the same, and our lazy silence was one of the major reasons he won at all.
It was all my people were talking about. My best friend, husband, boyfriend, and the guy I had just started dating. My friends from all over the country were in mourning. My online communities were outraged, piling up lists of things you could do. Petitions started circling, suggestions to call your electors. I felt like my heart was just sore. I knew I needed to move, to act, but I was stuck at work and only one person and everything seemed so hopeless.
Axes and I were emailing from our work accounts about everything. He explained the drag show he and his wife did every Wednesday was putting on a special performance for the election, and it was going to be a night of mourning and anger and refusing to back down. I envied him his community in that moment – his in person, real life community. I had people all over the country who I was venting with and talking to, but no one nearby. I didn’t have a room full of LGBTQ friends I could wrap myself up in, people who got it and were willing to stand with me. The vast majority of my in-person friends were coworkers, who either voted for Trump or who “didn’t watch the news” or vote or care about anything.
Axes must have sensed this, or maybe I brought it up, because he invited me to drive to his work when I got off and hang out with him. “I have at least an hour and a half before I have to leave for the drag show. You seem like you could use a hug.”
Axes’ work was just ten minutes from mine. I drove there and sat awkwardly in the parking lot, texting him pictures of the building to be sure I was in the right place. I was, and he came out to meet me, and I got that aforementioned hug.
I also got to hold his hand. Sometime since our date, I’d confessed my *plot* to be smooth and sneaky and hold his hand as the answer to a question. When he got into my car, he gave me a look and held his hand in the air. “I heard you wanted this.”
Being that forward and direct is too much for my shy little brain, and as if on cue, I became a big pink-cheeked ball of awkward.
But I definitely wasn’t going to pass up holding his hand.
I’d sent him a list of movies I loved for him to double-check and make sure he hadn’t seen, and he’d been keeping a list on his phone. He was a “film buff” largely of movies about historical Japan. Our first date, when I had been zoning out at the drag bar, he had explained at least three separate pivotal battles in Japan’s history, using things on the table to illustrate troop movements and the personal grudges between generals. I had admired his passion, and his face was adorable with enthusiasm, but I hadn’t followed a word of it. I’m terrible at history, and even worse at anything to do with the military.
But his list was largely old Japanese war movies, or other historical films, black and white movies about wars all over the globe throughout history. “That’s just not interesting to me,” I told him. “A bunch of guys off fighting and feeling guy feelings… meh. Not here for it.”
My “guys doing guy things sounds boring af” response to two or three more of his movies had him frustrated again. “Why do you do that?” He said. “You reduce everything to such simplistic black and white terms.” He insisted these movies had merit as art, as story, as universal to the human condition. I argued that any movie without a single female character given any weight to the story is only universal to men, that any movie that won’t even acknowledge or respect my own existence does not deserve two hours of my undivided attention.
He drifted to more historical stuff, discussion of how these battles shaped the world, etc. By comparison, my list had at least six cartoons on it.
Axes: What is ‘Life is Beautiful?’ did you mean ‘It’s a beautiful life’?
Me: Oh my gosh. How do you, film buff and historical fiction nut, not know about Life is Beautiful.
Axes: Well what is it?
Me: It’s a romantic comedy set in the holocaust.
Me: It’s hilarious, and amazing, and wonderful. It’s in Italian and you have to watch it with subtitles – dubs are not allowed.
Axes: Oh so it’s some tiny indie film or-
Me: No, it won all kinds of awards. It’s a huge deal. Seriously I can’t believe you’ve never seen this.
The point of these lists was for each of us to find a movie the other hasn’t seen – but needed to see – so our next date could be a movie watching night. I had clearly found my movie.
We were in the car talking for over an hour, hands held over the gear shift, and I didn’t think about the election results once.
He hugged me tight once, twice, three times when I got out of the car. I kept saying goodbye and pulling away to go and he’d hug me again. At one point, I thought he might have wanted to kiss me. He kind of hovered there, looking at me while in sort of a half-hug, before I ducked my head, cheeks pink, and dashed to my car.
And the week after we would have our third date at his house.
Polycule: Axes Part Three will be posted May 3rd. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything!