A tattered flag sits high on a shelf in the back of my closet, disheveled in a lethargic attempt to organize my keepsakes. Each of the fifty stars are turning to an off-white color as it has shuffled from one apartment to the next. The red is now a faded pink from the time spent hanging by push pins above the frame of a dirty university window. My dad gave me that flag years ago, which he used to fly on a metal post out front of his Texas ranch house. It sits hidden away as I no longer feel the connection to its frayed edges and the meaning it once held.
Once an epitome for diligence, pride, and passion has transformed into a shameful piece of weathered cotton. Cotton, a cloud of impressionable fabric, was once filled with salty sweat from malnourished black families now absorbs the sweat of low paid immigrants imbedded with hope for this new life. Granted, it might be a better life away from war, but still, a life led by a reality tv star and a house full of ignorant red ties.
I cried that November night as the road ahead presented a narrow path home. Holding his comforting hand, I led us back to the apartment in a haze of emotions. We watched as the votes rolled in, and we settled into a room full of deep sighs. As if she were staring with us, the miniature Hillary bobblehead sat motionless on top a counter faced towards the flat screen. When they announced the results, we gathered our things quietly and said our goodbyes. The next day, under a steaming mist from under the showerhead, I let the tears mix into the soap suds. A hopelessness washed over me and I feared the news and social media. Facebook became a dark place to avoid and a place where hate seemed to collect. In the middle of drying off, I decided to deactivate my profile. This came with the unfortunate consequence of losing touch with many of my friends and family. However, I found myself feeling even more disconnected every time I stumbled into that abyss. My "news" feed included pictures of Hillary behind black bars and pink puckering lips. With a family of Trump supporters, I became estranged. There always seemed to be a false sense of comfort that burrowed into their arms. I often found myself averting eye contact or staring a little too long as I scrambled amongst my thoughts for a response. Gatherings have become sparse and talks bleed with disapproval.
“They say California is tryin’ be its own damn state! To hell with em! You better get outta there fast, or you’re gonna need a passport soon just to fly back home,” my father grunted at the end of his rant as he held his beer close to his blue jeans.
His face became red in the wave of approving nods as the room became silent. My aunt and grandmother looked forward as his words rang true to them. Suddenly, my cushion seemed to sink further in as the eyes fell back on me.
I thought back to the signs at the airport alerting California residents of a change in the next year. TSA announcement read, “Real ID or Passport needed by 2020 for all California residents traveling out of state.” It can’t be too difficult to renew my passport.