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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 disappearance of imaginary messages

On most days the sidewalks are a lumpy sheet of ice. I have gotten good at tiptoeing across them, sliding, skidding but not falling. E grips my hand as tight as she can and we make our way. I stopped realizing this high wire act has been going on for eight years now. They say you do two years in prison, the day you go in and the day you come out. I think I know something about what that means now.

There was a time when I spent every day forcing my will, imagining an invisible page turning, a phone call, a message and us on a plane the next day. Each day I whittled away at this fantasy, refining it, crafting the language of the message, each time more terse, more empty, more blunt. I know it was spring when I felt this way, maybe three years ago. I was counting the days until our release, based on absolutely nothing but desire.

I wondered if we should empty the fridge, because we would be gone soon. Did E really need new school clothing if we were leaving? Did we need a five pound bag of rice, or a small package? Surely the news would arrive any minute at this point. The words repeated in my head, rolling around like those circus motorcycle acts in their steel cages. 





At one point, I could hardly walk alone in the street without wanting to cry out.

Something snapped.
I smelled ozone and burning diesel the entire night.
The imaginary message disappeared the next day.

Within a week the ideas evaporated completely. There was no defeat, no surrender, no admission. They was simply a light that turned off. The wires were ripped from the wall, the breakers demolished and the door hammered shut. If that room was going to be opened again, it would need to be though the window, climbing in from the balcony.





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