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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…

approaching the unknown


The map shows a long slooping arc of train tracks that lead west, above the city. I sit with Eve, our bags nested against our legs as we leave the airport. There are no announcements, so I check the names we slide past against the directions. I think it will take us 30 minutes to get to Corinth based on all of this.

People climb on, groups of young girls in tiny outfits with pink lipgloss and rolling eyes. An old man and a child, women who might be on their way home from the office. The stations grow closer together, and now the car is full. Eve looks at everything, leaning over to me from time to time.
“I have no idea what anyone is saying.” She tells me. “But some of the Greek letters, I can read them.”
A woman climbs into the train, her skin the color of warm rust. A baby rests its head against her shoulder, crying. A man is with them, and a young boy. Their clothing hangs off of them, barely more than shorts and flip flops.

The sun is starting to go down, and we are whipping past clumps of olive trees. There is dust in the air, and the sky glows a pale pink as we make our way. The car begins to empty. I have some idea that we are just a few stops away now. The directions show Corinth at the edge of the map, with an arrow into nothing beyond it.

A woman in a uniform is making her way through the seats, punching a hole in each ticket. I am convinced we are the next stop so we yank our bags to the doors, ready to jump out if we are at the right place. All at once the man and that woman with the baby are shouting. Words are splashing around the car. Two tough guys in sunglasses jump from their seats, fingers jabbing in the air. The man is standing with his feet apart, as if a wave might be about to crash over him. Eve looks at me. I shrug my shoulders.
“I don’t think they have tickets.” I tell her. “Maybe they are refugees.”
The man’s voice climbs, a long painful string of words coming from him. The men interrupt him, and the man is waving his hand at the tiny woman in the uniform. Now another woman joins in, calm, convinced. There is no way of knowing anything that is being said. Somehow it feels like both sides are completely in the right. The man’s wife curls herself around the baby and makes her way to the doorway, the young boy follows his face a defeated mess. I move our bags as the train slows down. My head yanks out, looking to see if this is our stop. I have no idea. The tough guys are pushing the man towards us, and I put Eve in the corner behind me. It feels like we are about to move past those defiant fingers in the air to knives and fists. I feel like a fool for taking the train not a taxi.

The man steps off as the doors open. He spits at the people inside. Their hands are high in the air, as if this happens every day. I see it is not Corinth. We were standing in the doorway for no reason. Our stop is actually twenty minutes from here.




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