Poor Calvin…he had a lot of problems. Every day was a challenge. Just getting out of bed and getting dressed was something that caused him a lot of discomfort. At forty-three, that was not normal. It was most likely psychological, at least that what the doctors kept telling him. He had seen several and they couldn’t find anything wrong.
He worked at a job that was dull and repetitive. His mind wandered a lot at work, sitting behind his desk and processing insurance claims. Sometimes, however, he would come across an unusual situation that required his full attention; otherwise, things were routine and he quickly lost interest.
His colleagues were pleasant but they had their own lives and interests after working hours. They were married for the most part and talked a lot about their children and family issues, but that bored him because he had nothing to say. He had been married long ago, but that hadn’t worked out. Just the same he often wondered about what might have happened if he had tried to stay with his former wife. Fortunately they didn’t have any children so splitting up was not difficult.
His sister, Candace, had kept up with his ex, Millicent, over the years. The two of them had formed a strong alliance. Candace blamed him for the divorce and took the side of his ex. He knew Millicent had remarried, had a family, and had “gotten on with her life.” They lived out of state and Calvin never had any contact with them. He was not involved with anyone although from time to time he would go out with an attractive woman but it never came to anything serious or permanent.
He wasn’t the type of person someone could easily relate to. He didn’t seem to have a future that was predictable. In the eyes of many, he wasn’t “marketable.” One of his old flames had even told him that at first he seemed totally in charge and confident on the outside, but when she got to know him, he was all “squishy” on the inside. She had poked at his stomach and laughed. It had taken Calvin a long time to get over that insult. She had gone on to marry three times over a ten-year period. He pitied her ex-husbands.
For a single man, holidays were the worse. There was nothing more depressing than to be alone on New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving. His parents were old and lived far away in a Tampa, Florida, suburb. These days he rarely got down to see them and that made him feel guilty. He kept up with them by telephone or an occasional e-mail. They were old-fashioned and preferred communicating by mail. His sister lived in another state and invited him to visit only at Christmas. His presence was too disturbing. He talked about his problems and little else. His niece and nephew were well into their teens and they didn’t want to be around someone like their uncle. He wasn’t cool and they couldn’t wait to leave the house after the noon-day meal was over. His sister and her husband, Josh, tried to make conversation and take an interest in what Calvin did, but in the long run it was hard to say anything meaningful. At least he got to see his parents on those occasions because they were always invited for the Christmas holidays.
Calvin only stayed a few days at the most when he visited. It was a painful situation for both of them. Calvin was very focused on his own concerns and didn’t take much interest in their lives or activities. His mother kept asking him if he had met a “nice” woman that he could marry. She worried about his future and told her daughter, Candace, that Millicent was a “wonderful girl” and she never understood why she and Calvin divorced.
In truth, Calvin was more interested in political and religious matters, but these were issues that no one liked to discuss because they were contentious and led to bad feelings or arguments. Over the years he had adopted a very conservative posture that wasn’t popular with most of the people he worked with. He had to be careful not to offend anyone, especially his boss. There were also some minorities in the office. He had to watch what he said to them. If they registered a complaint against him, his job would be in jeopardy.
There were several black women who sort of looked down on him. They talked a “jive” lingo among themselves and shifted to standard English when Calvin was around. They had strange, plaited hairdos and very long fingernails that, Calvin learned, were stylish. He couldn’t spell or pronounce their first names. He felt turned off at times, but he knew there was nothing he could do. At his age, it would be hard to find something else in his field. He was walking on eggshells and any slip of the tongue could be dangerous.
There were also some Hispanics where he worked but they were easier to deal with. He had a hard time as well pronouncing their names but they weren’t offended. They were well-dressed for the most part. Among themselves they spoke Spanish or a Spanish dialect that he couldn’t understand. Eventually, he caught a few words, but he still felt alienated in their presence.
The white employees he knew were polite but had their own cliques; they never invited Calvin to go to lunch with them. He seemed weird and they didn’t want to deal with his eccentricities. Overall, Calvin was very much alone at work and elsewhere. He was what you would call a “loner.” In reality he wanted to be a part of the group yet he couldn’t say what he felt or meant with them. They could be loud and a little boisterous and that was not something he felt comfortable with.
Calvin found some solace on the Internet. There he could communicate with other people who shared his point of view. He sometimes wondered if someone would “out” him and tell his boss or fellow employees what he had said during his evening sessions on the conservative sites. He had heard about intelligence agencies that were tracking what people were saying on the Web. He became paranoid the more he learned.
He found himself getting interested in a special site “Right of Right” where people could meet and discuss their feelings and political opinions without being judged or ostracized. He had a pseudonym and never gave out any personal information; he felt relatively safe. He actually “befriended” three or four of his correspondents who sometimes talked about non- political matters.
There was a woman who had posted an enticing picture of herself (he didn’t know if it were recent or even false) that drew his attention. Calvin had posted a picture of himself that was taken at least eight years ago and made him seem younger and more virile than he truly was. Most of the people on these sites tried to hide their true identities in various ways. “Tracy” as she called herself was compatible with Calvin on many issues. They didn’t like current trends concerning immigration and black privileges. Calvin presumed she was white and well-educated. She wrote very well and had convincing arguments. Now and then she would talk about her private life, but Calvin was a little suspicious. Maybe she was someone totally different. He knew there were people who pretended to be sympathetic with his ideas, but were really law enforcement agents who were trying to elicit anti-government or seditious comments that could be used against him. He had to be careful, very careful. You could be “cancelled” by the overseers at the social networks, especially on Facebook or Google.
No matter, chatting on the Internet with like-minded discontents was something that Calvin felt he had to do. It had become addictive. His deep-rooted beliefs were reinforced. He didn’t seem so strange or anti-social any more. In fact, he knew that there were a lot of people out there who felt the same. Collectively, they were an alternative society. They had once been in the majority and now there were being marginalized and even rejected or persecuted for their ideas. Radical conservatives gave vent to a lot of frustration and repressed anger in their comments.
At work, Calvin would occasionally click into the conservative Internet site on his cell phone and chat with other participants. He had to be vigilant because his colleagues and boss were observing his every move. It could be very bad for him if they found out about his political affiliations. Nonetheless, for the first time in a long while he felt he was part of a greater whole. He belonged to a cause that was worthwhile. He had become a soldier in the struggle for white equality. His dreams were being fulfilled or at least given some credence.
He kept things at a distance on line until Tracy began to discuss the possibility of actually getting together–face to face–to pursue their relationship. Calvin was very reluctant, however. Suppose she was a “plant” or some deranged person who could prove an embarrassment or a danger to his security, both personally and professionally? He really wasn’t looking for an intimate hook-up; this wasn’t after all a “dating” site but a discussion group for white advocates who were trying to preserve their culture and heritage.
He put her off with various excuses, but she was insistent. She claimed she didn’t live very far away and they could arrange a meeting without much trouble or expense. Calvin felt that he was being entangled in a web of conspiracy and secrecy that might not end well.
For a while, he stopped communicating on the site. Just the same, the possibility of actually seeing his correspondent, having lunch or even becoming involved with her intrigued him more or more. Questions flowed through his mind: does she really look like her photograph? Will I like the way she talks and what does she really think about issues that really matter to me?
He decided he would not commit at this time, but let her know that a future get together was a possibility. Maybe he was too demanding, too picky. He didn’t want to repeat the mistakes he had made during his failed marriage. He couldn’t take being hurt like that again.
The next day he sent her a message without committing to a future meeting but hinting at something later on. Her reply was direct and somewhat intimidating. She accused him of being coy, playing with her feelings, and unwilling to pursue a mature path toward friendship, both intellectual and otherwise. She even implied that maybe they shouldn’t keep on writing to one another.
Calvin realized that he had to do something right away or look for another person to befriend on line. For several days, he didn’t answer, struggling with his real intentions. After all, in a relatively large city, there must be other avenues for meeting women who have conservative views. He was not a church-going individual, but it might be worth a go. Other than that, there were possibilities of “speed dating” where you could spend a limited amount of time with a series of women during one evening before you made a choice. That was something he could try although it didn’t sound too promising.
Before doing anything else, he needed to list his expectations for a future partner. First and foremost would be her willingness to embrace the cause for white racial advocacy. Most women these days would stop dead in their tracks if he said anything like that. Just mentioning white parity or advocacy would put you in a “cancelled” or racist category that was anti-American, maybe even “insurrectionist.” For most people, this would be toxic and would destroy their careers. Nonetheless, it was paramount to him. Without that assurance, he wouldn’t attempt to start a serious commitment. If he tried hard enough, he knew he could find someone compatible who would share his views.
With all these restrictive conditions, Calvin had considerably narrowed down the pool of potential companions. Maybe, just maybe he should be more flexible. In fact, he ought to take into consideration a candidate’s overall qualities: her personality, education, health, appearance, social graces, and other features. These mattered just as much as one’s political orientation in a long-term relationship.
Calvin had a cousin, Aubry, he was pretty close to. Aubry was married and had dated a lot of women before he tied the knot. He could give him a call and ask his advice about the on-line dating thing. Calvin felt that Aubry would keep all this very private and not make fun of him with other members of the family or his friends.
It would be good to have a second opinion. After thinking this over for a long while, Calvin finally picked up the phone and gave Aubry a call. He was surprised to hear from Calvin because Calvin rarely called except to ask for favors or give him some bad news.
When he learned about Calvin’s dilemma, he laughed. He was not very helpful after all. He said to keep on trying to find someone on line. He even encouraged Calvin to give Tracy a chance. Afterwards, Calvin realized that he couldn’t depend on other people to solve his problems. He became more depressed and hesitant. Nevertheless, it was getting to the point where he had to make a decision. There weren’t many women his age who weren’t divorced or set in their ways. Opinionated “old maids:” he didn’t want to go on like this and wind up alone.
The next time he got in touch with Tracy on line, he was more open about a meeting. He suggested they have lunch at a popular restaurant in town. In that way, if things didn’t go well, they could just say good bye and that would be that. No harm, no foul. To his surprise, she was very receptive to the proposal. Calvin asked if they could get together next Saturday at Chico’s, a downtown restaurant popular with the upscale crowd. She willingly accepted and they discussed the details of their first rendez-vous.
Calvin spent the next week corresponding with Tracy and feeling at the same time a little nervous and apprehensive about the whole thing. She was more positive than he was; she was convinced that they would get along just fine. Calvin pressed her for more information about her private life and past acquaintances, but she seemed a little evasive at first. She was involved in academics, maybe as a professor or administrator—she wasn’t specific. She had been married, something she reluctantly admitted to. She didn’t indicate if she had any children, just that she wasn’t involved with anyone at the moment.
Calvin began to take stock of himself: he wasn’t unattractive but he was certainly no charmer or handsome by common standards. The only thing about him that women found reassuring was his manner of handling himself with some degree of composure. He was very gentlemanly and they liked that dimension of his character. He was also tall, around 6’2”; he knew women liked men who were taller than they were.
However, he found himself to be rather plain-looking and that bothered him. Tracy would immediately discover that his picture was more youthful that his current appearance; if so, what else was he hiding? He would have to be careful not to reveal too much about himself during this first meeting. He was certain she would also be cautious and hesitant to say a lot about who she was and would probably talk about other matters.
Saturday came with surprising quickness. Calvin dressed with care. He didn’t want to be too formal but neither did he want to appear too “casual chic.” He wasn’t that type of person. He settled on blue jeans, an expensive shirt, and his best sweater. It was a little chilly in early March.
He agreed that he would be sitting at the bar if he arrived first. If she got there early, she would be waiting in a small alcove near the entrance.
Calvin had made a reservation but there were a lot of people waiting in line outside the restaurant. Luckily he had arrived a little early and had his car valet-parked. A quick glance reassured him that Tracy wasn’t standing in line.
He went in and saw that all the tables were taken. Tracy wasn’t waiting in the alcove. The noise of so many people talking was almost deafening. He found a place at the bar as planned. Calvin ordered a Sprite; the bartender gave him a funny look but he didn’t want to greet Tracy with alcohol on his breath.
After about fifteen minutes, Calvin started to get worried. Their table could be held for only a few more minutes.
Just when he thought she might not show up, he felt a tap on his shoulder and someone asked, “Calvin?” He turned and saw a rather tall woman with gray-blond hair. She was, he guessed, in her mid-to-late forties. “Tracy?” he answered and she nodded. With a smile, she apologized for being late. She had been caught in a traffic jam just outside the city. He commiserated and they followed the receptionist to their table. Calvin was very impressed with her blue eyes and somewhat sophisticated way of speaking. They agreed to split the bill although Calvin had offered to pay.
During the meal they made small talk at first. It was obvious that they were both ill at ease; however, after cocktails, they loosened up and began to ask more personal questions.
Calvin was pleased to find out that she was politically conservative but didn’t belong to a particular party or movement. She claimed to be an “independent”; she didn’t like the moderate positions of the Republicans nor their inability to take a unified stand against issues that challenged their core beliefs. She was definitely not a Democrat although she hinted that her family was far more liberal than she was.
Calvin, in turn, let her know that he was also conservative and didn’t have a party affiliation. He probed a little concerning her attitude toward cancel culture and “systemic white racism” that had become a litmus test for liberal extremism. Tracy only indicated that these concepts were too radical in her opinion and that she had serious reservations about their validity. They discussed the situation at the southern border with Mexico and the unvetted influx of migrants from more than 160 countries around the world. Calvin was happy to note that his assessment was well received by Tracy, although she didn’t offer her own evaluation. Maybe this topic was too controversial for a public restaurant.
As the meal progressed, Tracy seemed to open up after a second glass of wine. She spoke with conviction and waved her hands a lot. Calvin was impressed by her intensity and rhetorical skills. She was very persuasive. Calvin learned that she had been a professor of political science at a small university in the northern part of the state. However, because of her political orientation, she had been denied tenure. She was now working part-time with a far Right organization, Freedom for the Right–or FFR as she called it–and teaching on a part-time basis. She taught courses on global imperialism: from Egypt to modern-day Russia. She gave him a political brochure even though he hadn’t asked for one. Its doctrine was similar to many Alt Right radical associations that he knew about. He was relieved it didn’t mention being a revolutionary movement or have provocative illustrations. There were pictures and bios of prominent dignitaries who supported their cause.
As they talked, Calvin was concerned that she would probably not be impressed by his background. He had been a good student in college; he had majored in finance and mathematics and hadn’t taken an interest in politics until much later. He had received a Business Administration degree from the state university. After graduation, he had worked for a small bank. He enjoyed dealing with customers but his salary was very modest and his ex-wife had wanted to start a family. At the time, it seemed they couldn’t afford a child and he put her off. As a compromise, he found a new job with his current firm, a major insurance company. However, it was a middle-echelon position and he didn’t see any possibility of moving higher in the ranks. His unhappiness began to affect his relationship at home. One thing led to another and after four years of on-and-off animosity and bickering, they decided to break up. In fact, she had already met someone else and she explained that she wanted a new life. She felt cloistered and restrained with him. In a moment of anger, she called him a “loser” and someone with no ambition. Calvin was shocked by her accusations but realized in truth that she was right. They were no longer a loving couple; they had become antagonistic roommates. The divorce was amicable but still traumatic for Calvin. He felt betrayed and very much alone.
Calvin decided he would let Tracy know about all this at a later time. He began to wonder how they would spend the afternoon. She seemed to like him, but she hardly knew anything other than what he had said so far. Frankly, he had held back telling her anything highly personal, just his political ideas and the fact he had been married.
She had been more forthcoming about her personal life. He discovered she had been married for a number of years before her divorce and had two children who were in high school and college. She had become more and more outspoken about conservative politics and this was unsettling for her former husband. He was a university administrator and he was embarrassed by her openness. They began to argue about her behavior; she refused to back down, considering what he proposed—silence and acquiescence–to be hypocrisy. He replied that she was jeopardizing his status at the university and potentially putting his job at risk. When she learned he had been involved with a colleague for two years (right under her nose!), she asked for a divorce. He agreed, almost with relief. She was very bitter about the way the “power structure” (her words) had treated her. It was then that she began to make contact with people who were opposed to the current woke philosophy. She had become an activist in the “movement” and was seeking someone who would share her passion for a conservative way of life.
Calvin listened with interest. Life with Tracy would be an ongoing display of political commitment; maybe he would even have to march in protest demonstrations. He wondered if he could take the risk of putting his own job in jeopardy.
Still, the element of social danger she represented was appealing to someone as withdrawn as he was. His life would be much more active in many areas, possibly richer. He also noted that she was older than her picture but very attractive. She had an athletic build with long legs and a lithe figure. He wondered how she reacted to him physically. At least he didn’t have a paunch and he still had a pretty good body. He made it a point to exercise as often as he could.
After lunch, Tracy suggested that they go somewhere, possibly to a bar to continue their conversation. Once again, Calvin hesitated, sensing she was looking for some sort of commitment on his part. The only bar he knew was not exactly the place you would go to discuss political matters. It wasn’t far away and it would have to do for the time being.
He told Tracy about the bar and its limitations. She agreed to go with him although she probably preferred something a little more upscale. It turned out to be noisy and there was country and western music playing in the background. Calvin was very uncomfortable at first. Many people were talking loudly and drinking large pitchers of beer.
To Calvin’s surprise, she ordered a bottle of Heineken’s. “The best beer you can buy,” she said almost jauntily. Calvin followed with a Budweiser Lite just to get in the spirit of the moment. He began to feel that they were more compatible than he had first thought.
After a while, he started to talk about his private life and she listened attentively. He admitted that he had a routine job and was not as well educated as she. Tracy interrupted and said that she was looking for other qualities in a man. She wanted someone with a solid political commitment to making America a better place to live. Calvin recognized right away the Trump reference and assumed she had been one of his followers.
In a few minutes, she reached out and touched his hand for emphasis when she was speaking. It sent an electric shock up his arm; he sensed that she was now more receptive to an intimate relationship than just an intellectual partnership. Calvin had an almost irrepressible urge to move closer and put his arm around her shoulders. He caught himself: it was a little too soon for that. What if she tensed up and withdrew? Everything would be ruined. The next time, he patted her hand in a friendly manner. She smiled and put her hand over his.
Calvin asked about her children and she talked at length about the trouble they had experienced with the divorce. She was given legal custody because of her husband’s deception. She even showed him pictures of them. They were nice-looking and well-dressed in their late teens. Calvin admitted he didn’t have children; at least he didn’t see any pity in Tracy’s eyes. She seemed to accept the situation without judgment. That was reassuring; many women would assume that he didn’t like children and in the past that had been a sore point in moving forward.
After a while, Calvin noticed that they had stopped talking about political matters. Tracy was looking at him in a provocative way that made him a little nervous. He felt that she was an unusual woman, very compatible with his views. In spite of everything, he wasn’t quite ready to commit himself to what she was expecting. However, if he didn’t respond to her advances, she would surely write him off.
His apartment was out of the question; the maid hadn’t come for a week and it was a mess, with clothing and food containers lying about. She would be turned off if she saw that disorder. A hotel was the only viable alternative in his mind. It was expensive but acceptable for this sort of short-term liaison.
Just as he leaned across to suggest they go somewhere else, he heard his name being called out. Startled, he looked up and saw one of his officemates coming in with two men he didn’t recognize. He waved and tried to continue his conversation with Tracy, but his colleague came to the table and introduced himself. Should he let Tracy introduce herself (possibly an assumed name) or should he go with the name she had given him? She quickly intervened: “Hello. I’m Tracy. How are you?” She filled in the awkward gap with a verve that came from dealing with strangers on a regular basis. Xavier, his colleague, was half-Mexican, half-American and without being invited, he sat down at the table to chat. Calvin didn’t know what do to discourage him. He knew Tracy would not be comfortable talking to one of his business colleagues. In fact, she gave him a cool stare and said very little. She had picked up on his Latin features and was not interested in continuing their socializing. After a short while, Tracy indicated that she had another appointment in town and started to excuse herself. Calvin was caught in a difficult situation; he didn’t want to be rude to Xavier (after all, he had to work with him every day) but, by the same token, he couldn’t let Tracy leave by herself and get a taxi back to the restaurant. That would be the end of their courtship, so to speak.
Calvin got up suddenly and took Tracy’s arm. He was in charge for the moment. He began to guide her toward the door. Xavier caught his eye and winked. He would have to do a lot of explaining at the office. Tracy moved a little closer to him as they stepped out in the street.
She was a very experienced woman in these matters he could tell. He wondered how many lovers she had slept with since her divorce. Calvin sensed that she was expecting him to be an ardent male who would know how to satisfy her. He began to feel intimidated by her attitude; nonetheless, he didn’t have much of a choice. He decided to use his car to go to the hotel in the downtown area; he would bring her back later.
At the reception desk, he felt like an underage teenager trying to buy whiskey. It dawned on him, however, that no one cared what their marital status was. He had never done this before and wasn’t sure how to handle himself. Tracy stood by and seemed very much at ease. Since they didn’t have any luggage, he had to pay for the room in advance. He took the key and they headed toward the elevators. Before they got off at their floor, he encircled her in his arms and kissed her. She responded with warmth and massaged his back. In the room, she began to undress him slowly as they embraced. He noted that she was wearing silk panties and a very stylish bra. He was overwhelmed by a sense of arousal as he caressed her body. They coupled with an almost wild passion and vigor. Once it was over, she was silent for a while, as though she was thinking of how to approach him…as a friend or as a lover she could pursue with open determination. He couldn’t find the right thing to say so they both remained silent, almost in an uncomfortable manner. He would like to see her again, but she would have to be the judge of that.
The sun was still up when they returned to her car, a white Honda Civic that she had parked on the street. They hadn’t said a lot since the hotel; she leaned across and kissed him and said she had enjoyed herself. He indicated that he was really glad he had met her and they seemed to have a lot in common. He would call her so they could make plans for another meeting. She smiled and got out of the car, waving good bye. Calvin drove off knowing that this had been a real turning point in his life and he looked forward to talking to her again, possibly tonight. All he knew was that he no longer felt alone and he was looking forward to being with her in the days to come. Good things could occasionally happen in life.
We hope you have enjoyed the first episode of “Culture Clash” by Jonathan Sawyer. Stay tuned for future chapters from this serialized novella about love, despair, and aspirations among the ruins of Late Stage Democracy dystopia.