January 15, 2021. Today is MLK’s birthday. It is a little over a week since white supremacists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the government at the behest of their president. Covid rages on. I am sitting in front of a fire my wife, Kim, built in a log cabin we rented for “the long weekend,” watching soothing videos I took of the family of muskrats swimming in the lake outside our rented door. As a Jew and a lesbian, I’m no favorite of neo-Nazis and would have been among the 6 million deemed not enough. Nonetheless, I am supremely aware of the privilege my whiteness affords. Sometimes, I wear that privilege to watch muskrats.

I visit the muskrats daily. There are 4, sometimes 5 of them. They swim under and between the ice shelves on Whaley Lake. They rest on the ice shelf across from our rented dock. Not knowing of muskrats, we thought at first they might be beavers until we got a good enough look at their tails, which are not flat like beaver tails. One morning, I saw a slinking furry thing that was otterlike but not an otter; it was a mink. Minks, I learn, eat muskrats, biting them on the back of the skull. I worry for my new friends.

The day we drove up to the lake, I had a terrible migraine, and with it came the rising tide of panic. My left eye throbbed. My left hand felt fuzzy, numb, there and not there. Multiple auras made blinding zig zags across my vision. For hours, I couldn’t get warm. In the car, in the dark, winding through the Dutchess County woods, my stomach heaved.

All day long and late into the night, Kim keeps the fire kindled, until the air is dry as sawdust. We don’t mind. It’s a fair enough trade for the glow of the hearth warming the dark cabin, the crackling lullaby, the woodsmoke perfume we’ll bring home with us.

By the time you read this, we will have a new president, despite the best efforts to thwart that. We will have our first woman vice president, our first Black vice president, our first South Asian vice president. The relief, the history-making, they will be palpable, they will be physical. They will manifest in chills and tears and bourbon. But what of the jaws unhinged and ready to bite the back of our skulls?

Today, we celebrate; tomorrow, we get back to work,

Jessica the Westchesbian

Jessica lives with her shiksa wife and geriatric cat in picturesque Tarrytown on the Hudson. Although a proud Westchesbian these days, Jessica grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, back when the opening of the Olive Garden and the 24-hour Walmart were big news. During business hours, Jessica’s a communications professional who translates highly technical concepts into clear, concise, colloquial language that media buyers and sellers can understand. Outside of business hours, she’s a poet, cat mom, wife, avid reader, and lover of questionable crime, sci-fi, and supernatural TV shows (preferably all in one), not necessarily in that order. Her poetry has appeared in Tin HouseThe Paris ReviewLIT, and The Huffington Post, among others.

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