Family Dinner with Trump Supporters
by Leonela Serrano
I am sitting in a dimly lit Olive Garden. Fifteen of us are seated around a square table, made up of four smaller square tables that the waitress had set up when my uncle made the reservation. My cousin, Niva, who sits at the head of the table with her husband, smiles as she speaks with my uncle Richard about her future career as a policeman. Myself, my brother, and my dad are all seated at the opposite of the table, which is draped in darkness because the light bulb above us is three flickers from dying, and next to us sits my other cousin with her mom and dad. Directly opposite of us are some of the only white people in our family, Niva’s husband’s father and mother. They sit across from us, heads bent towards one another as they speak within their small circle. The rest of us are engaged in screaming across the table to speak with one another in a form of Spanglish made up of Puerto Rican slang words and English. The waitress brings us famously salty breadsticks and salad.
I nibble on a single breadstick and lick my fingers from the grease that comes with each squeeze that I make before I rip a small piece off the larger breadstick. My cousin Emily and I are speaking about the Taylor Swift concerts that we had both seen the summer before, I attended the one in Cleveland and she attended the one in Columbus.
“Mmh. Which night in Columbus did you watch?” I asked.
“She played for two nights?” My aunt interjects the question and Emily and I make identical faces, brown eyebrows drawn up in a “DUH” face.
“Obviously,” Emily states and turns her face back to me. I continue to nibble on my salty breadstick and lick the excess salt from my fingertips.
We order our dinners from the waitress who still hasn’t brought my water out. I decide to walk around the table and give my cousin a hug.
“You’re so pretty and tall,” Niva tells me. It’s the same thing that she tells me every time.
“Do you want to sit between John and me?” She asks. I sigh and tell her no because it would be too obvious of Niva’s unhappiness with her marriage. She’d been with John since she was 16 and formally married to him for seven years. She’s getting tired and wants out of the relationship because John wants to have the stereotypical American housewife that will do as he asks and instead Niva went to Tri-C and became a policewoman.
“No thanks, I’m good,” I reply and take myself out of the situation, awkwardly walking back to my seat. I sit next to my younger brother who is speaking avidly with John’s parents about football, basketball, and baseball; the trifecta of traditional American Boy sports, the same one’s that John played. I, on the other hand, don’t understand a single word about the conversation because I was raised on Spanish telenovelas, soccer matches, and female sports like gymnastics and figure skating. My brother’s an ESPN child.
Dinner comes as the conversation switches from family reuniting to politics, which isn’t a surprise given that my Tío Richard started to conversation. Richard works in the White House for narco-traficking and is an ex-FBI agent. Everyone wants Richard to give them the inside political scoop, which he doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop the slightly drunk Puerto Ricans from trying or, at least, getting his personal views on the election.
The conversation starts at one end of the table but due to how loud we talk, nobody past my dad can hear any word. I know that other tables look at us but it’s close to 10 PM and the only people left in Olive Garden don’t really care. My water finally comes out and I sip on it.
“So, who do you support for the presidency?” John’s dad asks my dad. I continue to talk to my cousin, who is asking me about high school and if it’s “scary”.
“John Kaysich,” My dad replies. My dad is one of the more conservative Hispanics that I know. Every other Hispanic, including my grandmother (who is not a US citizen), has avidly supported Hillary Clinton even before she decided to formally run. Inside my family, it would feel wrong to not support Hillary as my grandmother (my father’s mother) planned on voting for her in the 2008 election before she died. Most of my cousins are voting for her because they trust in Abuela’s instinct.
“Well, we support Trump,” John’s mother says. That catches my attention. I can’t actually believe that she said that for a good minute.
“Really?” My dad asks. I can tell that he’s as surprised as the rest of us, but he’s hiding it inside.
“We do agree with him on stopping Mexican immigration. They really are taking our jobs from us,” John’s dad says and his wife nods in approval. While we aren’t Mexican, you can’t talk bad about one group of Latinos without offending all Latinos because here in America, we’re all one group and that generally is under the title of “Mexican” because that seems to be the only type of Latino that exists for a large percent of the population.
The entire table quiets down a bit and openly stares at John’s parents for a while until the conversation dies down and we all eat our dinner. It’s more than awkward. John’s parents continue to talk about Trump and why they support him but they’ve already been pushed outside the table fold on politics because Trump and Latino/Hispanic doesn’t mix.
“Leo, you know, when it gets warm you should bring your family over to our farm and we can all go fishing out on my lake. We can play some football with Victor and teach him how to fish real good,” John’s dad suggest as we all pay our individual checks.
“That sounds nice,” My dad replies as we take our leave, giving hugs and kisses to all family members except for John’s. We head out into the cold winter air and into the car where my brother and I begin to question our dad.
“Why are they Trump supporters? Do you think John is too?” My brother asks.
“Well, they’re very American and don’t like how the world is changing. They want to be able to live off their farm like they could when John was a kid,” My dad replies.
“Are we going to go over their house to fish?” My brother asks after a while.
“No,” My dad firmly answers.