I’m Just Waiting for the Swelling to Go Down

Yesterday, I looked up from my computer to my window on the driveway and found myself, once again, hurtling out the door to stalk a red-headed man who was walking down my street.

I did this with no conscious plan of what I might do if I caught him. I did not think to take my phone so that I might capture his image or, if necessary, call someone (the police? my husband? my children?) for help. I just looked up, saw him glancing around furtively, saw his cloth grocery bag bulging with what appeared to be a large, square box, and off I went.

Because I’m losing my mind.

Or, more specifically, because I’ve carved out a deep section of brain that I used to use for solving problems (like backed-up drains or drawers that mysteriously no longer close or characters who refuse to be anything but stereotypes) and filled it full of rage.

You guys, I’m so angry.

What’s that you say? Haven’t I always been that way?

Can you do me a favor and go DIE IN A HOLE?

But I mean, well, yes, sure, if you want to get specific about it, my Ancestry.com DNA results did show that I am 37 % Eastern European Jewish, 36 % British, 7 % Irish, a tiny bit Asian and African, and 18 % Overdeveloped Western Sense of Injustice, but those figures are based on comparisons to the DNA of regional populations. I’m talking about a comparison of my own rage at this particular moment to my own rage of, say, November 7th or 8th.

Which, comparatively speaking, is now Yuuuuge.

That’s right: I’m talking about the election. But before you say something brilliant and original like maybe I should just put on my big girl panties and get over it, let me warn you that I appear to have broken my husband’s paper shredder, and if I get it apart, as I plan to, in order to solve the problem of its brokenness the way I used to, which I won’t be able to, because of that deep section of brain thing I described above, SERIOUSLY? Are you talking to me? ARE YOU TALKING TO ME ABOUT PANTIES??

And what is that, anyway, that “put on your big girl panties” thing? Did you think I had been sitting around wearing little girl panties? Or little boy panties? Or big boy panties, for that matter? Or, for that matter, no panties at all? Are you a pervert, as well as an insufferable, sartorial-advice-giving fuckwit, which is a British term I have decided to adopt because there simply aren’t enough American ways to describe the utter kakistocracy—a Greek word for government by douchebags—that we are just beginning to –

Hang on: FedEx truck. Have to focus.

Okay, okay. Woman with stroller; baby foot visible in air. Man with dog on leash. Car. Car. Bicyclist with bulging backpack.

BACKPACK!

But can catch bicyclist? Am wearing shoes? Phone?

Phone! Where is phone?

Here is phone! But where is Bicyclist?

Bicyclist gone.

Okay, never mind. I can’t win everything.

In fact, I can’t win anything.

Because this is 2016, a year that was only ten days old when it began its reign of terror, a serial killer specializing in the deaths of the extraordinarily gifted, whose body count includes not only David Bowie and Alan Rickman in a single, horrible week, but Muhammed Ali and Leonard Cohen. Edward Albee. Gene Motherfucking Wilder. Prince, you murderous son of a bitch.

Not content with the universal, 2016 made it personal, wiping out both of my husband’s parents within the space of a month. It gave one of my daughters a case of mono that put her to bed from early spring to late summer, and in the fall, it put the other daughter in a TSA detention-situation that scared her so badly it caused a resurgence of a neurological issue she’d finally managed to get under control. It shook my husband awake on the morning of his father’s funeral with a crippling bout of sciatica that has only now begun to abate. And just to be a total asshole, it had me serve not just once, but twice as a pallbearer with a broken wrist, having snapped my Tequila bone when all I was doing was reaching into my stupid purse for my fucking phone.

(Okay, fine: maybe it’s called the tricunem or triquetrum bone or something. I tend to turn words I don’t understand into words that I do, and if there’s one thing that I do understand, it’s alcohol. “Tequila bone” makes perfect sense, in context: it’s the bone you’d find at the base of your palm, to the left, as you rubbed lime and salt on your forearm. Conversely, if you’d flipped your hand over to study it while shrieking “Ow ow ow!! Stop hurting! I’m just trying to read a text!!” it’s the bone you’d find on the right—the one that hurts so bad that you pretty much need a margarita to even contemplate the 45-minute drive home from the airport that you usually require both your arms to make.)

And then this total dick of a year, probably realizing how bad it was making itself look, decided to pale in comparison to the horror of the years to come by ushering in the era of Trump.

You guys.

Just, every day. Every day I wake up, and it’s: Trump has announced the nomination of Satan to serve as the head of Kill Me Now. Monster McNightmare Pants, who is on probation for giving his mistress secret government documents, will chair the Committee for Keeping Government Documents Secret. The KKK will be put in charge of the NAACP. Melania will campaign against bullying.

THEY DON’T MAKE PANTIES BIG ENOUGH TO—

Hold up: UPS.

I’m just gonna go, umm, check on the hydrangeas, to see if they’re still, you know, dead.

I am totally not going to follow anybody to see if they’re trying to steal packages, because, ha ha, I’m not even expecting a package today and it’s not like I’m some sort of self-appointed holiday superhero who is going to single-handedly keep our block safe from one small shitty thing in a year of massively shitty things except—

RED ALERT! RED ALERT! It’s that guy with red hair, who had the shopping bag!!! And he’s—

he’s—

going into the apartment building across the street.

He, um, lives in the apartment building across the street.

Yep, yep. Hydrangeas still dead.

Okay, so where were we?

Right. Panties.

So here’s the thing: back in the fall, when my older daughter was detained by the TSA for being the sweetest, tiniest and, because, of a dormant neurological issue, least capable of dealing with random acts of petty power of all of my children who were traveling internationally with her but without their father (who was returning the following day alone because he didn’t want to feel bad about sitting in First Class while his kids rode coach, because he’s an utter DOU—)

Nope, nope, I can do this. YOU CALM DOWN.

So anyway, when they pulled her out of the security line and left her alone in a room with no explanation for why she was there or what might be her fate, her connecting flight minutes away from departure and her phone detained for its own presumptive crimes, she just lost it, as any tiny 19 year-old with heretofore dormant neurological issues might. She sobbed. She ticced. She ticced and she sobbed. And when the TSA finally released her, she tore out of the detention room, ticcing and sobbing and trying to reach her siblings at their departure gate, so what happened next was inevitable: she ran into a waiter carrying a tray of sushi, and smashed her arm.

(Wait, two things: 1) No, I don’t know why a waiter would be carrying a tray of sushi in an airport, especially just outside a TSA holding room, but I am willing to entertain any rage-fueled theories involving how our tax dollars are being spent; and 2) I feel compelled to admit, at this point, that she eventually suggested that the collision might not, entirely, have been an accident. “He had sushi,” she said. “I wanted sushi! The whole thing was so unfair!”)

So but when I picked the kids up from the airport after they miraculously made their flight, my daughter held out her arm to show me the injury. I gasped and clucked—her upper arm was swollen, a bruise the lush colors of a Florida sunset winding its way from her shoulder to her elbow–but she set her chin to its bravest height and suppressed yet another tic.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m just waiting for the swelling to go down.”

And that is the story of how our family motto for 2016 was born. And as I write this, I realize that I should have ordered pillows or samplers with the motto stitched onto them for each family member, but then that would have just given me another set of packages to worry about.

Because my point is that the swelling isn’t going down.

Instead of getting better, instead of healing, instead of doing the sorts of things that allow us to get over whatever it is that hurts, this has been a year where the injuries seem not just to linger, but to magnify. Drawers that won’t close still won’t slide into place, even after I’ve taken them apart and watched YouTube videos on how to put them back together. The paper shredder is in shreds. The drain is still clogged. My novel is full of drug dealers with hearts of gold. If I pick up anything even slightly heavy with my left wrist, my Tequila bone throbs. My husband still walks with a slight limp. My younger daughter comes home from school and falls asleep for hours at a stretch, where she never used to nap. My oldest daughter’s tics have begun to interfere with her ability to make it through lecture classes. My in-laws, who had started to fill in tiny spaces in my heart that the deaths of my own parents had opened wide, are gone.

As are Bowie. And Gene Motherfucking Wilder. And Prince.

And every day. Every goddamn day: Trump.

And now you think that I should just put on some giant underwear and get over the fact that not only did the woman who should have been the first woman president after we should have had a first woman president long, long ago not win, but that she lost to TRUMP and all he stands for, including greed and misogyny and racism and homophobia and narcissism and, above all, hate?

Listen up, 2016: maybe, eventually, I will get over you. But right now, the only thing you have on 2015 is that none of the holiday gifts I’ve ordered have been stolen so far. But it’s only because I have been on patrol.

And the way things are going, this year could easily get worse. There are still a couple of weeks left; thus far, most of our major appliances still work. Certain members of my family have escaped illness or injury. Some genius celebrities are still alive. The electoral college hasn’t yet sealed our fate. But until you’re officially dead and gone, 2016, I will pour all of that rage and betrayal and hurt and swelling you’ve engendered into the only thing I can do to mark this as a year in which something, anything, was better than the last. I will watch my street, and I will–

Mailman.

MAILMAN.

–jump up and run.

About Heather Aronson

Heather Aronson is a freelance writer and editor. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona way back in the 1980s and has put it to scant use ever since, publishing a few short stories in now-defunct magazines (including American Short Fiction) and storing a handful of novels in now-defunct boxes. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, in a new house with some of her children, her new husband, and a bunch of old stuff that totally doesn’t go together. Especially the cow creamers.

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