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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 playground

E comes home from school on Friday, and her normal smile of relief is not there. She is usually out of her school clothes in minutes, curled on the couch asking me what we are having for lunch. Today, she stands in the dark corridor, her shoulders hanging low. Her mouth opens, closes, nothing coming out. I ask her what happened.
"A boy, a boy from our school." She begins. "He died."
"How?" I ask. 
"There was a man in the playground, he gave him some gum and it had poison on it." She explains.
Her mouth twists around. 
"You knew him?" I ask. "What grade was he in?"
She nods once. 
"Seventh." She says at one point.
E leans against me for a bit. I rest a hand on the small of her back. 

Later, we will talk, as I make sure she knows not to take anything from anyone but of course she knows that but I say it anyway. There are calls to find out more about what happened, what there is to know. It turns out that none of this is on the news, that there is no police investigation, no hovering presence of guards on the school playground although there are hordes of them in the metro. The mothers are all sharing information, talking in private secure chats. But there is no official statement. 

The boy died and nothing changes. 

Nothing will happen except for stern words from parents to their children. There is talk that there is a gang behind these acts, that they have been doing this all over the city. But there is nothing in the news about it. Well, the news stopped being the news a few years ago. 

E is processing things. There are no tears, no nightmares. I wonder if living here has insulated her, or worn her down until she simply accepts whatever random act she is presented with as inevitable. 









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