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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Savior Complex

Four years ago, when I worried that Romney would defeat Obama, I didn’t volunteer to work at the phone banks or to canvas neighborhoods, because after all, I was living in Washington State and it was sure to go blue. This year I’m not worried; it’s more like a deep-seated terror at the idea that our democracy might be destroyed by an egomaniac who appeals to people’s fear, ignorance, and the most sinister parts of their psyches. I have to work through near-paralysis every time I fully consider the very real possibility that our nation’s darkest hour may soon be upon us. And I’m living in Iowa now, so I can’t get away with saying that there’s nothing I can do. I have to at least try to make a difference, even if I neglect other areas of my life in the process.

“Is this right?” Monty sat in our bed and he pointed to his tablet, our family Google calendar displayed on its screen. “You’re volunteering three evenings next week?”

“Yeah. I want to do as much as I can before you’re back in D.C. Monday is obviously out, with the debate and all, so that leaves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.” I was putting away laundry, folding pants and hanging up my work blouses, talking loud so he could hear me, my head buried in my closet. “That’s not a problem, is it?”

“Umm…” He cleared his throat and I stepped out for a moment, glancing at the muted TV. Commercials were running but Lawrence O’Donnell would be back on soon. “Lucy, are you still mad at me?”

Mad? No. I mean, yes, he'd shut me out for a week while he was out of town for work, but as soon as he'd gotten home he told me that he'd gotten his AIDS-ridden ex-girlfriend a job and they'd be working together now. I guess Monty and both have a bit of a savior complex. 

I let my eyes stray from the television screen and settle on my husband, his dark hair flecked with gray, stubble covering his cheeks and chin, wide eyes blinking with confusion. “No,” I said. “I’m not mad. Volunteering for Hillary has nothing to do with you; you know how committed I am to getting her elected.”

“You’re panicking,” Monty stated this without judgment; it was merely an observation.

It’s hard not to panic. I find myself obsessing over how both the media and the public can just assume that any allegation against Clinton is true until proven otherwise, while any allegation against Trump is simply ignored, because he always manages to slide through the mud without having any of it stick to him.

“Of course I am. With the debate on Monday, the stakes have never been higher. How must it feel to be her, to know that she MUST deliver, that millions of us are relying on her to take down Trump?” I reached for more laundry, folding and putting things away like it was second nature. “But then I think about all the stuff I tell my students, about responsible citizens in a democracy, and I know I have to get out there and practice what I preach.”

“Yeah, okay…” He looked off toward our bathroom like there was something to see. Dismay was etched into his profile.

I sighed, picked up my laundry basket, and moved over toward the dresser so I could put away my underwear. “What’s the big deal?” I spoke with my back toward him. “You’re gone all the time. I can’t spend a few nights volunteering? I’ll be back by 9:00.”

“It’s not a big deal, Luce. I guess I just thought that you’d say something to me before planning to be out on my birthday.”

I dropped the last of my laundry into my top dresser drawer and shut it, feeling my heart thud in the process. “Oh,” I said simply, and then I turned around. “I can’t believe I forgot. Wednesday is the 28th. I’m sorry, Monty.”

He shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get someone to watch the kids and go out on Saturday night. We can celebrate then.”

“Yeah, sure.” I moved toward the bed and sat down next to him. “Of course, but Abby and Noah will want to make you a cake, watch you blow out the candles and open presents.”

He nodded. “What about what you want?”

“It’s your birthday,” I replied. “What do you want?”

“I want alone time with you.”

We’d had a rough week, the relationship equivalent to getting pneumonia and calling the other side deplorable. I let my finger trace the line of his jaw, starting at his ear and ending at his chin. “I want that too.”

He gave me a tentative smile. “So you can cancel for Wednesday? Our democracy won’t be destroyed if you skip a night?”

I scooted in close, letting my head nuzzle the space his chin and shoulder. “Hopefully not.”

He stroked my hair. “Maybe you should go. If Hillary loses and the Donald gains the nuclear access codes and brings about the apocalypse, I don’t want me and my birthday to be blamed.”

I closed my eyes and imagined election night - Rachel Maddow, visibly shaken, stating that Trump had won Iowa by just a few dozen votes and that put him over the top. I shrugged off the thought and opened my eyes again. Lawrence O’Donnell was back on. “Don’t be silly,” I said, reaching for the remote. “I’ll blame CNN and all the voters in Ohio and Florida long before I blame you.” I sat up and kissed his cheek. “I love you. I’m not missing your birthday.”

Then we turned the volume back on, cuddled and watched Lawrence O’Donnell, and even though the news wasn’t great, I felt less panicked than I had all day.

If anyone deserves to have a savior complex right now, it's probably Hillary. But I bet that even she would agree: sometimes you have to save your own little corner of the world before you can worry about the rest of it.

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