Because You Wore a Rainbow (a draft)

Because you wore a t-shirt with a rainbow on it, and because your earrings 
looked like the ones I wore in college, oblong and shell and dangling 
to your lovely thin shoulders, and a smile that invited me in that first 
time we met, and because you talked to me about writing and how 
you wanted to work on that book but never did get the time and I said 
you should, I’d love to talk about books, of course, I thought 
you were an ally. And of course, when I first saw the froglike creature 

on the desk in the SOC, the tattered, split flag on the bronze statue 
in the conference room, the one with the soldier on a horse,
I said, you know, I think that creature represents something else, 
something racist and cruel, and I do not think it should be there 
with the different people who work there, that maybe it would make 
them uncomfortable, and you know, I think that flag might mean something 
else, too, something about a country divided, about rebellion, and so you put
the statue in a bottom cabinet and said it should never be on display, 
that you had spoken to them about that kind of thing, except later you said 
it was a Navy flag, which somehow was even more disturbing, because later 

I learned there were projects called by another name, a kind of code 
because they did not want anyone to know the contract 
supported a party, because surely then there would be another walkout 
from people who do not believe in hatred, and I kept running into these articles, 
something about mavens who were so brilliant they refused to power 
the machine, refused to sit anymore for hours on end putting little boxes 
around pictures just so a computer could learn to target, refused to add 

to war and politics of money, and probably never drank the red wine 
you poured out every Friday as if it were normal to send your friends
home drunk with their own worries and delusions, knowing one had a baby
and diabetes and you were all they had come to depend on. And so when 
I told you in confidence I wanted to get my trans son a job, that he was brilliant
but he was on the autism spectrum, you scoffed and said, “Everyone 
is on the spectrum,” except I was serious, but it turns out he could not 
sit for hours on end and do any one thing, and for that matter, neither 

could I, and so they let him go, and I remember, as the saying goes, 
the way you made me feel, the day you made fun of me to another 
employee, made me feel stupid, “Who doesn’t know Colin Powell?” 
as if everyone who knows the name should be able to identify by face 
some politician on Twitter when I can hardly distinguish my tormentors 
other than to say, “He had a square beard, and he was big and fat,” or 
“He was shorter than me, he had black hair and a black beard 
like my uncle I was told to give a kiss,” and I didn’t understand him, 
because I blocked all that out like the way I welled up with tears
in the office because you had hurt me and I seriously thought you would be 
on my side, because didn’t you wear a rainbow shirt, didn’t you proudly say 
you were a lefty and a Democrat even though the others weren’t? But maybe 

I was too fat for your liking, too stupid, not social enough, not savvy enough, 
too steadfastly independent and not fast enough with my fingers, 
but I can assure you now that my fingers are just fine even when 
I cannot feel the tips anymore, and when I sit at this keyboard recalling 
your micromanagement, your every random call, your every aggression up 
until the time you said not to bother attending my own going away party 
the rest of the team had arranged, I remember why I left saying good riddance
in my head, and know you do not deserve to be nominated for awards 
or call yourself a leader or talk about anyone who has not been as privileged as you –

or perhaps as hurt as you, because there was that one day you came to work 
with a black eye and swore it wasn’t your husband, that it was an accident 
in a Mexican pool when you were on a resort vacation with your fortunate family
playing volleyball, and of course, I was worried and wanted to defend you 
because no one should come home marked and battered when 
they should have been resting, and now I’m thinking what it was to have worked 
with all those red-faced men, the older ones who thought it was okay to talk about 
their erections, to be the only woman in the room like me that day trying to learn 
about cybersecurity and how you were so nice to them all, the way you schmoozed 

and oozed and put on the charm like some smart suit that I could never fit into, 
but you asked me to anyway, and I have to wonder how many black eyes 
you got before you hit VP, before you decided it was better to hit me than try 
to hit them back, other than to wear a rainbow on Fridays and declare you supported
diversity when  you were really getting more hostile every day, and when I used
that word, you seethed at me, “Look it up,” but I did not understand because 
I was only trying to fix what had become of you and me. I wanted back the woman 

that had hired me, the strong, smart, kind woman, the open woman, the one 
I thought would value me. And no, I never went to HR and only wrote notes 
in the exit interview because I wanted to leave on good terms and I really liked
my coworkers, and besides everyone knows by now that humans are just resources 
and not human at all, and there is probably still an unmarked room full of immigrants
 and young people, mavens putting boxes around images all day for just about 
minimum wage to power the war machine, to power your machine, when all 
they really want is a job, all they really want is to be treated like a person, 
but they will never get that from the likes of you and that still makes me kind of sad. 

Copyright March 3, 2024, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, all rights reserved

Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine was a past-president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Katherine has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Her poetry and prose book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Katherine's children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine then took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 Katherine earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and the regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence in the category of Individual Artist. She won first place in the Virginia Writers Club statewide Golden Nib contest in the poetry category for her poem "Kayak." Katherine was recognized as a PW Perspective 2021 DMV Best Business award winner in the category of author. In April 2023, Katherine’s poem “Now Entering Manassas” was the winner of Manassas, Virginia's adult “time capsule” poetry contest. Katherine read her poem at the 150th anniversary celebration, the translated version by Jorge de Villasante was read in Spanish by Bianca Menendez, her poem was published in Neighbors of Historic Manassas magazine, and it was included in the city’s time capsule. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is published in dozens of journals and anthologies and has authored 12 books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, Get Happy, Dammit, D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith, Thirty Years of Cardinals Calling, Get Happier, Dammit and We All Might Be Witches. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
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