Sarah Pankratz tried her best not to cry.
“How are you doing?” she asked Graydon, her boyfriend.
The two high school seniors sat side by side on her living room couch watching the 2016 election results.
“I’m good,” he said. “Are you alright?”
Earlier that night, she might have said yes. The two of them had been playing a game of Yahtzee with Sarah’s parents. The news was on in the background, but everyone pretended not to care. The prospect of Trump’s election had been a safe distance away from Sarah’s reality.
But since then, the Indiana gubernatorial election hadn’t swung Democratic as Sarah had hoped. And Sarah had watched as the United States map turned red state by state.
Sarah was not alright. Before she could find the words to tell Graydon so, she started sobbing.
Graydon tried to comfort her, but Sarah felt like he didn’t understand how; the election results were in his favor.
Once Sarah had calmed down a bit, Graydon said it was getting late and that he should go home. They hugged goodbye, but Sarah could sense that something was left hanging in the air.
Sarah and Graydon met in fourth grade. They were never really close until they went on a few dates at the beginning of the summer of 2016. That July, they made their relationship official.
She knew going into the relationship that Graydon leaned toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, like most of the people in their hometown of Columbus, Ind. But she figured that if they stayed away from the subject, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
And at first, it wasn’t.
But as the election neared, Sarah started to sense some tension.
In the days following the election, she began to seriously consider that their differences could be a problem. At first, they didn’t know how to talk about the results or what their future might look like. They tried to apply the concept of separation of church and state to their relationship and politics, making a temporary agreement not to talk about it.
But for Sarah, it was hard not to talk about such a major national event with someone who was so important to her. She wanted to break the silence.
“Hey, I’ve been thinking about our political issues a lot lately,” Sarah said to Graydon. “How are you feeling about it?”
Graydon would answer with indifference. Sarah would say that she cared a lot.
Though her family has never been very political and strays away from labels, Sarah believes her liberal social views were established when she was 10 years old when her brother came out. And LGBT rights were one of the issues Sarah and Graydon disagreed about the most.
They started to have political conversations almost every week. For the most part, it remained civil, with the exception of a few emotionally charged comments from Sarah when she got upset. They always ended on good terms, but every conversation was a reminder that neither of them were going to change their views anytime soon.
Their break up in December was mutual. They were well aware that their political differences were a bit too great to overcome.
It’s been almost a year since they broke up, and Sarah still considers Graydon a good friend. She texts him to ask about his life at Purdue. She hopes to get lunch with him when they’re both back home for break.
Since coming to Miami, Sarah has joined the College Democrats. She has found a circle of friends who share her liberal views. She has a better idea of the person she sees herself having a future with.
But election night was when she realized that there was no future with Graydon.