Monday, October 12, 2009

Hidden Motives

She held her picket sign high into the afternoon breeze. It was as though the wind itself was against them. As though the force of nature had conspired with all those greedy corporations and corrupt white-haired politicians to keep the truth of their message hidden. What had those scheming men who knew no justice done to the wind? How had it, too, been manipulated? She held it up, battling visible forces and those that moved in more subtle ways.
She had made the sign herself. She had gone to the store and bought markers and white cardboard and a thin piece of wood from the hardware store. She rummaged though the drawers in the garage and found some thin nails and hit the little metal spikes into the white board. This was the first time she had made a weather-resistant sign. Others she had made with tape had fallen apart after a few hours and she didn’t want to make the same mistake again, she had been doing it for many years. And so, feeling proud of the effort she had invested in making her sign, she held it a little higher, just a little prouder than the rest of the people that crowded around her with their own signs.
She was on a large grass covered mound, one thousand feet from the governor’s office, the place where bad decision were made. The building where men in suits cut funding for free lunch programs and health care for the poor. This is the place they came to work, dressed like other citizens, with shoes and ties and combed hair. Yet here, they did things that knew no sympathy. Here, they gained power by villainizing single mothers. They rose while the rest of them drowned…and they still looked like other men. So she was here, among thousands of other like-minded individuals, demanding that the shenanigans end.
There had been speakers on the stage for an hour and a half. They were critics of the system, victims, professors…they all used the bullhorn and the crowd clapped enthusiastically throughout their speeches. She watched as a young woman with long brown dreadlocks approached the impromptu stage. She climbed the stairs, walked to the microphone and began to speak, only there was no sound. A couple of people on stage dashed to the speakers and wires and began to fiddle with the cords.
She lowered her sign for a moment and turned around. Smiling, she surveyed the crowd.
“So beautiful,” she thought. “So full of youth and vigor and anger.”
She remembered her first protest, it was at least twenty years ago, she had come with a boyfriend who had been a college student, a few years older than her. She hadn’t been too interested in going to a march through downtown Washington, she would have rather stayed in his dorm room and watched a movie and cuddled and maybe even make-out till her lips hurt and he would be hard and she would have to push him away with an embarrassed smile. But that day he had made it clear what he wanted to do, he was going. She could come or not, either way, he knew where he would be on Saturday. And of course she did go.
She went and was invigorated by the crowd. She saw her boyfriend as never before, chanting in unison with the crowd. Waving his arms in the air. She was swept away by the energy and she chanted too, sending her voice into the crisp morning air. More than anything, she remembered the way he smiled at her as they turned the corner of Lincoln and Harvard. The sun was sending rays of light down through the clouds and he smiled at her while his voice raised in angry unison with thousands of others. He smiled with all the energy he had and she felt him move inside like a beam of light.
In that moment, she felt loved. By him, by the crowd. They made love later that night for the first time, the only time they would ever do so.
More than the culmination of his sticky desire, he filled her that night with the seed of action. Politics would become her obsession. She went to rallies on poverty and forums on social justice. She had done tree-sits and humanitarian missions to Gaza. She had done it all, there were so many problems to solve, so much to do. She only wished she had more hands, more bodies, more time.
She remembered him again, that boyfriend with a scraggly goatee and hazel eyes. He had made her laugh. He had kissed her just right. She had had so many lovers since then, even a husband now, but she remembered her moment of political awakening. In his arms, with his loving eyes on hers. And her voice rose again, in angry unison with thousands of others.

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