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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…

fireworks (five minutes later)

We tumble into the apartment, groceries dangling from my arms. E is kicking off her sneakers, the remainder of an ice cream dripping on the floor.

I hear a massive sound, like a giant clapping his hands. E's face jumps. It is still daylight outside.
"Fireworks?" She asks me.
I shrug my shoulders. I put the groceries away.
One more sound. 
I see a flock of black birds thrash through the sky outside the kitchen windows. I go to the balcony in the bedroom. Looking down onto the sidewalk, I see a handful of men with pistols out. There are three men on the ground, face-down. Their hands are behind their backs. 

E tiptoes to me, stopping in the doorway. 
"Is the fireworks over?" She asks.
I wave my hand at her to stop. 
"Go play in the living room, ok?" I ask her.

Five minutes earlier, we were walking right there. She was running ahead of me a little, something we do when we are so close to home, past the last driveway where the cars gun their engines and run red lights. I am suddenly cold. 

Taking a step back, I watch a big black SUV pull up. Two of the men jump in. The three men on the ground all have dark hair, jeans, sneakers. One does not move at all. 

There are no police cars, no walkie talkies, no flashing of badges. People drift past them, not stopping just making their way home like we were. One of the men with a pistol now shoved in the back of his pants is looking up at the apartment building. I duck inside.


E asks me to take a picture of her combing her hair.

I listen for sirens, for an ambulance. Nothing.

I make dinner.

I step out on the balcony as the light is fading. The three men are still on the sidewalk, face down. There is a collection of new men now, some on cel phones, their cars parked half in the busy street, doors hanging open.

If we were just five minutes later, I think to myself.

I go back inside.
E needs to take a bath.

In the morning, there is nothing there. No blood stains, no crime scene tape, no chalk outline. Just some tulips that have been freshly planted on the lawn.




Comments

liv said…
I...I...I don't even know what to say.

I want to scream "Get out of there, all of you !!! Just get out now."

But the truth is, you are in prison, a dangerous prison - with a child. Like you said last week - she is one point ahead and now we see that, together, you are walking 5 minutes in front of the danger. In my gut I believe that you will both always have a safe margin. I have to believe this - as do you.
D-man said…
Hello there!

My name is Malte Zeeck, and I am with InterNations.org. I really enjoyed reading your fantastic blog! I think expats in Russia and around the world could really gain some great insights [and have a few good laughs] on this page. The quality of the blog in general is very convincing, which is why I would love to feature you and your writing on the Recommended Blog on Russia section on InterNations.org
Not only do we feature and link to your blog prominently; we also would like to hear from you directly in our questionnaire! We have also designed a link badge for your blog.
If you are interested, please feel free to contact me via email: maltezeeck@internations.org
Best,
Malte Zeeck
vezuchaya_n said…
that's a russian reality. I feel really bad for this. we normal people who live here are waiting for some miracle to come. because that' all we have. everyone wants putin to leave russia

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