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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…

messy clocks (to be seen)


The walk to school in the morning happens in darkness now. E's hands are shoved into her pockets, boots dragging across the dry, cold asphalt. We talk very little, maybe about what I should make for dinner. How many times back and forth across this little park, the fountains turned off now? How many times across this intersection, where the cars run three or four at a time through the red light no matter how many policemen are watching? We have both lost count.

I follow the faces to keep myself sane. There is of course the man who plays accordion in the underpass, but he appears randomly. There are people we pass every day, like a messy clock. The woman with the face like a potato that begs for loose change. She crosses herself every time a person passes, eyes lowered, standing perfectly still. I saw her in the street once, hands waving around, laughing. The exact opposite of the persona she shares in the dim fluorescent light of this wet tunnel.

There is the school nurse, short with red hair going grey who pretends she does not know who I am. There is a school teacher for a different class of fourth graders who does the same. There is a young woman who helps the children get downstairs and put their coats on. We would call her a recess aide back home. Her face is round, legs like a piano but she still wears skirts and boots with spike heels. She also looks down as we pass each other every morning.

A man with long grey hair and sneakers walks quickly. He lights a cigarette without stopping, shoulders flung back, chest pressing into the cold air.

A woman with long dark hair does not walk. She swishes. She wobbles on high heels, some odd smug look painted large on her face. The path littered with dead leaves is her catwalk. Chin poking out, eyes, half-lowered she does look at me sideways as I pass her. Maybe she sees the paper clip I fixed my parka zipper with. Maybe she thinks I should get a shave. Maybe she just likes to be seen.




Comments

liv said…
Just another day in paradise.

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