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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

позже (later)

This morning on the metro, a girl followed me into the train car and sat opposite me. She buried her head in her hands, her hat pulled down over her eyes, her white cane splayed across her knees. The other passengers stared at her, and each other. I wondered if she cried because she was living a blind life, or if something had happened. Maybe her mother had just died, I thought. She grew quiet and I saw her eyes rolling back in her round face.

Her clothes were clean. She had not fallen or hurt herself.

The only kind thing I could have possibly said to her was “za dacha” which means good luck, so I stayed quiet.

Instead, I imagined the air between us had turned to water. Beautiful water that allowed every kind thought I had to translate to her. Water that erased the tears on her cheeks.

The last stop came, Alexandrovsky Sad. I allowed her to get up first, knocking her cane around and trying to find the right door to exit.

I spoke to her quietly “Na Prava.” (the right) and she clicked against the platform trying to judge the size of the gap between the train. I reached out and held her hand against mine, holding lightly. I helped her off and then to the left. I asked her what line she needed to change to, and she said number two. Forgetting the small bit I knew about the Moscow metro I brought her forward, down the platform.

“Kak linea?” (what line)” I asked her again, and she said “Biblioteka Iminei Lenina.” (Lenin’s library).

Laughing out loud, I startled her. I was going to the same.

We reached the stairs and she held me, not using the cane. I understood she had not been blind for very long.

“What stop on the line?” I asked her.

“Kropotkinskaya.” She replied, biting her lower lip.

I was going to the same, on my way to work. The train was just leaving as we arrived at the red platform. People were watching us – her teared-up expression, clinging to me the foreigner speaking a broken crazy Russian.

Her name was Olga. I told her that the Moscow metro was a messy headache for me (bardok kashma) and she smiled a little.

The next train came and I told her Kropotkinskaya was just one stop away. She stood and held the rail for a moment, then found a seat as passengers jumped out of her way to give her one. An old woman pressed the center of Olga’s back and she sat down.

We reached the next station, and I leaned over, making sure she understood we were there.

“Pa poja.” (later) She said, assured.

I jumped out as the doors were closing, wondering why she did not get off with me. Then, I thought it might be nice to know you are on the right train and just ride it for a while.

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