Friday night I watched Poldark with Monty’s cousin, Robin, thinking that if nothing else, the eye candy of the moors in Cornwall and Aidan Turner’s abs would be a pleasant diversion. But early in the episode I knew that my plan was foiled, when Poldark’s cousin, Verity, asked Demelza (Poldark’s wife) if she was jealous of the attention Poldark was paying to his ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth.
Demelza said no, that marriage is like church, and if you don’t have faith, what’s the point?
I pressed pause. “Wow,” I said. “I wish I could be that philosophical and trusting.”
Robin arched her back and adjusted the pillow she’d place behind her, while rubbing her protruding, pregnant belly. “Aren’t you though? Monty told you that he wasn’t having an affair, you believed him, and you didn’t raise a stink when he left for D.C. on a moment’s notice.”
“Well, he was so calm after I quit my job without talking to him first, what else could I do?”
Absently, I ran my fingers through my hair and they caught on the curls. What I didn’t say was that I was almost glad to see him go, almost glad to have some space to figure things out.
“Let’s keep watching.” I pointed the remote toward the TV and pressed play.
Would Poldark be forced into debtor’s prison on the day after Christmas? Would he ever notice poor, suffering Demelza again? Robin settled in, clearly enthralled with the story, but I barely paid attention. My mind still swam in my own personal drama, and I replayed much of what had happened in the last few days.
After I’d spoken my mind about the ugliness of the Trump campaign to all my students, Dean Hughes said I could only keep my job if I apologized to the class, and especially to Brian, the student who told me I was a pathetic liar that deserved to be “gotten” by the riots that would surely happen if the “rigged system” elected Clinton.
“I won’t apologize,” I said to Dean Hughes. “I have too many students who don’t yet realize that they have a voice, who face the very real possibility of violence or discrimination under a Trump administration. I won’t lie to them and pretend to be sorry for something that I’m actually proud to have said.”
Dean Hughes pinched his nose and momentarily squeezed his eyes shut. “Lucy, can’t you just do what I ask? Because the only other option is for me to ask for your resignation.”
“No worries,” I said with false bravado. “You don’t have to ask. I’ll give you my resignation before I leave today.”
I exited his office with a sinking heart and went to pack up my own office, fighting tears all the while. I would miss this job.
Of course, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. Maybe I was crazy to throw away my career over a few lousy ideals. I worried about setting an example for my students, but why kind of example would my quitting set? Maybe I could figure out a way to word my apology so I basically said sorry, not sorry – and wouldn’t that be better than leaving?
I just didn’t know.
What I wanted was to run home and bury my face into Monty’s shoulder, to make him sit and listen while I voiced all my anxiety and posed all my questions. And after all that, I’d ask him what he thought: had I done the right thing? Besides being my husband he was also my best friend. Nobody’s opinion was more valuable to me than his.
But once I walked through our front door and found him in his home office, hanging up the phone and rubbing his eyes in the same way that Dean Hughes had, I knew I wasn’t going to get what I wanted. The vertical crease between Monty's eyebrows, the clench of his jaw, and the slight flush to his cheeks told me that bad news was coming.
He attempted a smile when he saw me, but didn’t quite manage it. “You’re home early,” he said. “How did it go with Dean Hughes?”
My throat constricted as I swallowed. “He said I had to apologize if I wanted to keep my job, so I quit.”
Monty stared at me like he was trying to focus and find the correct image of the woman he’d married. “You quit? Just like that?”
His head dropped so that he was now staring at his desk instead of at me. “Okay.”
I waited for probably thirty seconds. “That’s all you’re going to say? ‘Okay?’ That’s it?” I kept my voice soft, trying to contain the panic that had been clawing its way out since I had handed in my resignation.
He looked back up at me. “I’m sure you did what you felt you had to do.”
“My salary wasn’t that great,” I replied, “and maybe I can find something better.” This was beside the point right now, but I felt obligated to say it.
“Sure.” He inhaled sharply. “Look, I have to go to D.C. tonight. Sorry, to spring this on you, but there’s no other way.”
“Evelyn is in the hospital. She called, panicked, because she has a project due and she’s worried they’ll fire her. I said I’d fly out and take care of things.”
“Why’s she in the hospital? I thought she was doing well.”
Monty started shuffling some papers on his desk like he was just looking for something to do. “She was, but she hasn’t been feeling too great lately. The doctors think it might be liver disease.”
Evelyn, Monty’s ex and co-worker, suffers from AIDS. I supposed that puts her at a higher risk for liver disease. It also puts me at a higher risk for having a husband who will run off without warning to help his ex-girlfriend.
I’d already given up on something important that day. I couldn’t risk any more loss, so I simply said, “Tell her I hope she feels better.”
And that was it.
Now I focused back on the TV, on the episode of Poldark, which had reached its final moments. (Spoiler alert) Poldark HAD finally realized he was neglecting Demelza, and right before the credits rolled, he promised her his love as they came together in a passionate embrace.
I turned the TV off. Robin pivoted towards me while wiping away tears. “Dammit,” she said, “everything makes me emotional lately. I cry every time I pass the greeting card section in the grocery store.”
“It was a good episode,” I replied. “If I wasn’t cold and dead inside, I’d be crying too.”
“You’re not cold and dead inside, Lucy. You just need a kick in the pants.”
I looked at her. She was serious. “Huh?”
“You give up too easy. You didn’t fight for your job and now you’re not fighting for Monty.”
I reeled back, shocked by Robin’s bluntness. “I shouldn’t have to fight for what's already mine.”
Robin rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah? What if that was Hillary’s attitude? Then where we would be?”
“I don’t understand...”
Robin swiftly tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and leaned toward me with intensity. “You’re the one who’s all into politics. But don’t people say that she felt entitled to the presidency? That she felt entitled eight years ago, and during the primaries against Bernie, and especially now, running against an idiot like Donald Trump? What if she’d used that entitlement as excuse to just give up?”
“What if she had? She’s fought for so long and she still might lose.”
“Yeah, she might. But there’s also a good chance that she’ll win. Isn’t that worth the fight?”
I tugged at a loose thread of the blanket I’d draped over my lap. “What are you suggesting that I do?”
“Have some faith in yourself and in your marriage. And fight for what belongs to you.”
Okay, so Robin was right about one thing. Turns out I wasn’t cold and dead inside after all. Tears flowed from my eyes. “What if I don’t know how to fight?”
“Well,” Robin said, “I think I can help.”
Then we talked for hours without coming to any definitive conclusions.
Yet this morning, while the kids were at swimming class, I stood in line at the grocery store and saw the Globe headlines- Doomsday if Hillary Wins the White House! World War 3! Donald Trump is the only one who can save us!
Do people believe this stuff? I suppose they must; just like I feel the apocalypse will be looming if Trump wins, other are convinced that a Hillary win will signal the end of days. But I’m not ready to sacrifice all that’s important, and even if I don’t understand faith, I must learn how to fight.
I took out my phone and took a picture of the Globe cover. It would serve as a reminder for everything that’s at stake.
Then I texted Robin...
Can I still take you up on your offer?