I, like so many other Americans, spent the past weeks worrying, crying, and searching for the people around me that I loved so they could be beacons when I felt most battered. I did not seek you out, did not call or text you, did not respond to your victory message because I was hurt, nursing my wounds with those who felt safe to me. You weren’t one of those people. You voted for Trump. You called me names, you questioned my sanity, you sought my surrender—and even now, in what I pray to the god in whom I do not believe is not the twilight of our great nation, I do not give it to you.
I give you, instead, what I should have given you years ago: I give you love, I give you apology. I give it to you and to the millions of people not so different from either of us: to the brothers and sisters who were left behind, and to those like me who could not humble themselves to help.
When you were a boy we all knew you were the spirit, the brains, the oddball insight that couldn’t fit neatly into categories. There was something luminous in you when you saw cartoon strips in your bubble baths, when you invented the flashdark, when you won the 400-yard dash and we swore your feet were flying. Your brain belonged in the clouds, a Dodo bird who’d found flight. You made blanket forts that seemed bigger than the rooms that housed them, took the TV out of our entertainment center, climbed into the hole it left wearing only your Rambo underwear and Dad’s corduroy blazer, and became our evening talk-show host, a little boy who could lift whatever weight the day had heaped on our shoulders with his shouts and eye-rolls and laughter as shrill as it was shocking. You were a force and a joy and a talent.
Do you remember when Mom used to make us go to the Stations of the Cross every week in Lent? It filled me with dread and darkness. The suffering, the isolation of Jesus, the cruelty of it all and the dark, dark colors of the church’s walls on a Friday night. But there you would be, laughing next to me, pretending to sing the refrains in Chinese. Your round cheeks sweet as a choir boy’s, your eyes innocent and big and your brain spinning out to the far reaches of absurdity, oh hopeful absurdity, when I needed it most.
My God, my God, oh why have you forsaken me? the cantor would cry out and every time, every single time, I had to watch your face so that I would not cry.
When I became an adult and left America, I left you behind. You worked in oil jobs, warehouse jobs, mechanic jobs, any old jobs where someone else would give you a salary. I taught English in Japan, learned publishing in Scotland, wrote poems in Spain. You sweated inside the steel barracks of a computer factory on the night shift. I learned languages and struggled with the burden of imperialism. You rotated other people’s tires in the heat of the day. I went far, you stayed home, and whether it was society or your own inhibitions that kept you close I cannot say. The only hint of knowledge I can delineate is this: capitalism didn’t come through for you like it did for me and I did not do enough, I did not do anything. You grew angry, disillusioned, hateful. You, my brother, my blood, I should have helped. I should have reminded you of your singularity and prowess and humor so that you might dig up the desire to fly again. I should have cheered you on from the other side of the world. I should have acknowledged you, sweating there beneath the aching, wincing steel of someone else’s industry.
I let my policies and the pursuits of my own mind outrun what biology first gave me: the love for my own kin. I forgot about you because I wanted to. I am deeply and forever sorry. To you and to my kin by cartography: I did not take you seriously. I did not deign to love you.
My God, my God, oh why have you forsaken me? I heard the cantor calling again and again this week, but now that I am grown I’ve forgotten how to turn to you, I’ve forgotten what you sound like.
So here, in the wake of your long-sought victory, I look to you, my faithful friend, my sturdy treasure, my brother: Sing to me, old Dodo bird. Sing to me and maybe I’ll see the silver underbelly of what I desperately hope is not a national tragedy. Sing to me, give me notes, give me a song for all my brothers, for all my sisters.
I love you, and I won’t forget it again.
Your sister, Sarah
Photograph provided courtesy of author.