“You saying she’s been sitting there for over a week now?” asked Marcia.
“Yeah,” replied Jake. “She just sits and stares at the wall. Occasionally she says something, but it’s usually incoherent. Eats a little. Cries maybe a couple of times an hour. Other than that, she just sits.”
Rouge, his girlfriend, had been sitting on the floor of one of the university’s ten designated Safe-Space Areas ever since election night. The only time she had stood up was to go to the bathroom. But then she would come back to the same place, sink down, and sit cross-legged staring at the poster of Hillary on the wall in front of her. It had the words “Love Trumps Hate” on it, but underneath someone had written “Trump Loves Hate”. Well, they’d intended to, but unfortunately because they’d been crying at the time they wrote it, the writing was shaky and had come out as “Trump Loves Hats”.
Around the room were a number of hashtag banners, all written in Arial Rounded MT Bold, which was the university’s designated non-threatening font, and in turquoise, which had been chosen for the third year running as the colour most likely to soothe the disconcerted. #Notohate. #Yestolove. #Hillarywillalwaysbemyrealpresident.
“Has she had any expert help yet?” asked Marcia.
“Expert help?” replied Jake incredulously. “She is the expert.”
He was right. Rouge Buttercup had been the university’s Safe-Space Therapist for a couple of years, since completing her PhD, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but opinions can really, really destroy my self-esteem.”
“But the problem,” continued Jake, “is that nothing prepared her for this.”
“None of us were prepared for this, Jake,” cut in Marcia.
“That’s why she’s gone to pieces I guess,” answered Jake. “She feels she should be there for all the students that are hurting real bad right now, but she finds she’s hurting even more herself. So she feels helpless. Vulnerable and helpless.”
“Have you tried anything?”
“Sure,” replied Jake pointing at the pile of playdoh, crayons and the game of Hungry Hungry Hippos on the floor in front of her.
“And you removed all the orange from the crayons and playdoh?”
“Sure, we removed the orange.”
In the wake of the Trump victory, removing the colour orange had become standard practice across university campuses, as its presence might remind the suffering student of him.
“But nothing’s worked?”
At this point Jake beckoned for Marcia to come towards him, as if he wanted to keep something from Rouge’s ears.
“The only thing that got a flicker of hope from her,” he said in a whisper, “is when I mentioned the idea of emigrating to Canada.”
“Emigrating to Canada?” replied Marcia rather too loudly.
From the floor there was a wailing and the word “Caaaaannnaaadaaa” stretched out five times longer than is normal.
“Hey, why do you think I whispered it to you?” said a clearly irritated Jake. “She’s fine until you mention that word, and then she just breaks down into hysterics.”
“Why?” asked Marcia. “Why would Can… that word make her cry? Did she have a bad experience in Cana… in that place?”
“It’s not the word or the place,” replied Jake. “It’s just that when I first mentioned the possibility of moving there, she cheered up for a few moments, but when I told her that their immigration computer system had exploded and that they probably wouldn’t be letting us all in, she just flipped. Started swearing and saying why didn’t they just go ahead and build a wall to keep us out.”
“Not Canada then,” whispered Marcia. “Okay, well how about Mexico then?”
“Mexico?” he replied in astonishment. “Are you crazy? Don’t you know that Mexico is full of…”
His voice tailed off and for a moment he looked a little ashamed. But quickly regaining his famous composure, which had helped him get voted in as the university’s Healing Hurt Feelings Champion two years running, he continued:
“She’s always been so strong. She’s been there for the hundreds of victims of hurtful opinions that come for refuge here every month. Now I can’t believe she’s so helpless. And I’m helpless. You are our last hope, unless of course the Electoral College electors do the right thing and write in the real President.”
He was right about Rouge. Whatever the issue was, she was there. If ever someone heard a view that hadn’t been approved by the university’s Free Speech Supervisory Body, she was there for them. The day when one of the students let it slip in a lecture his belief that male and female were not sociological constructs, but biological facts, she was there for the dozens of sufferers. She’d even been there when a group of students had discovered a copy of John’s gospel on a table in the dining area.
She would listen to them, nodding slowly with her head cocked to one side, and with her eyes just oozing sympathy and compassion. And when she’d heard them out, she’d say, “Now honey. Let it all out. Don’t hold back. Come give me a big Huggy-Puggy, and cry it all out on my shoulder.”
Huggy-Puggy was her favourite phrase. She used it a lot. And best of all was when the victim of the hurtful opinions – VOHOs as they sometimes called them – came to receive their Huggy-Puggy. She would take a deep breath, stretch out her arms, encourage them to relax, hug them for as long as it took, sighing softly, almost purring, and just feel their hurt and the hate they had endured. In fact, she sometimes referred to herself as a Hate Conductor. It was if she was able to soak up all the Hate the victims of hurtful opinions had experienced, and could neutralise it through the positive Love vibes everyone said she possessed. So patient. So tolerant. So loving.
And then along came Trump. And her world just ended.
“So what do you think?” said Jake. “Can you do anything for her?”
Marcia looked down at Rouge and nodded.
“Yes, I think I can help,” she replied confidently.
Like Rouge Buttercup, Marcia Trump – the surname was an unfortunate coincidence – was also a Safe-Space Therapist at another college, but the difference between the two was that she had happened to have been visiting Britain at the time of Brexit, and had seen first-hand the trauma of a vote going the wrong way. A lot of students had been very hurt by that, and she’d gained invaluable experience helping them manage their desperation.
So when the Trump win became certain, although she wept uncontrollably that night, she ended up with far fewer scars than most and so was able to throw herself into helping some of the most vulnerable, frightened casualties over the following days. In fact, she coped so well that by the Friday after the election, she’d been promoted to the position of Post-Election Safe-Space Therapist. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she received her new business card on the following Monday that she realised that her new job acronym was PESST. Which she felt was unfortunate, but one of the trials of being in her line of work.
Her university had placed her on standby to help out at other colleges, should an emergency arise, which is how she found herself being called up by Jake to come and help out with Rouge.
“Jake, having looked at Rouge and heard all you’ve said, I have to tell you I think she has got a particularly severe case of MUPPET.”
“MUPPET?” replied Jake. “What’s that?”
“Malign and Unresponsive Prolonged Post-Election Trauma. Its effects are only seen after elections which produce the wrong result. I saw it after Brexit, and I’ve seen the same symptoms in some of our own students.”
Suddenly there was a gurgling noise from the floor.
“Hate,” said Rouge’s voice, shaking like a leaf. “Love Trumps Hate. Trump Loves Hate.”
“Is there anything that can be done?” asked Jake.
“Trump Loves Hate,” continued Rouge from the floor. “Love Loves Love.”
“Yes there is,” replied Marcia, “But I’m afraid it’s not going to be pleasant for any of us.”
Without another word, she reached for a tube that she had brought with her, opened the cap and pulled out a poster. To Jake’s horror, he realised it was a picture of Donald J Trump.
“What are you doing?” he cried as he saw her walking over to the wall in front of Rouge.
“There really is no other way, I’m afraid,” she said firmly.
Suddenly she ripped down the picture of Hillary Clinton, and replaced it with the picture of the President-elect.
Underneath was the hashtag #YesIamyourpresident.
“Hey, you can’t do that,” yelled Jake rushing over to the wall. “What about our Safe-Space? Is nothing sacred? Love Trumps Hate. Love Trumps Hate. Love Trumps Hate,” he said quickly over and over again to reassure himself.
“Look,” said Marcia pointing behind him.
He turned around and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. For the first time in over a week, Rouge was on her feet and looking like she actually had some life in her. In fact, she looked like she wanted to kill someone.
“#Notmypresident,” she screamed, and proceeded for the next couple of minutes to let out a series of uncontrollable exclamations of rage, rising to a frenzy in the second minute. Marcia and Jake joined in as she started crying out “Swine! Swine! Swine!”, which culminated with her picking up the box of Hungry Hungry Hippos, flinging it at the poster, before ripping it off the wall and stamping on it.
At the end of the two minutes, the three of them stood looking at each other in silence. It had felt good to let off steam like that, and Rouge looked something like her old self.
“How did you know?” said Jake turning to Marcia and breaking the silence.
“It’s the only way of dealing with MUPPET victims,” she replied. “The sufferer needs to be confronted by the person that has hurt them, and allowed to vent their frustration upon them. It clears the air and helps the sufferer get all their hurt out in the open. Quick grab your coats.”
“Where are we going?” said Rouge.
“There’s a protest starting at the campus entrance in half an hour. They’re offering $15 an hour. Should be a few other MUPPET sufferers there, so you’ll be in good company.”
And with that the three of them marched out of the Safe-Space Area, and chanting “#Notmypresident. Love Hates Trump”, went to take their stand for the sake of democracy and civilisation as we know it.
(Image: Fibonnaci Blue)