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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…

the street of flowers

Two weeks ago, I spied those splotches of blood against the white concrete, the roses scattered across the sidewalk. I imagined it was a fist fight or a knifing at most. There are clusters of men here at any given hour, men in cheap leather jackets, chain-smoking and waving roses in the faces of everyone that passes. Rosa, ne nada? They ask, what no roses? This is how Russian grammar works, in the negative form. It is not, "do you want roses?". 

Each day, I make an excuse to pass on this side of the shopping center, to see if the blood and roses are gone. They remain for almost a week, a defiant mess. And then, they are abruptly missing. It is like nothing happened here. 

On the next day a collection of bouquets rest where the sidewalk meets the wall. There are a few candles that have burned down to nubs and gone out. The flowers pile up, yellow ribbons flapping the wind. I wonder who he was, convinced it was a man. Maybe he was one of the many illegal immigrants, and he got into something with the police. There are always men with thick black hair being stopped, hard faces asking for documents, heads being shoved down as they are pressed into the back seats of police cars or even packs of them lead into busses. 

The faces on the sidewalk here are the same, tea sipped from clear plastic cups, the short rows of bright fluorescent lights, the cold rooms stacked with carnations, tulips and those grotesque roses.

The smell of lilies comes up from the men passing, mixing with sweat and smoke. 

Yes. A man died here.



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