In the days that follow, I am caught between the lingering somatic residue of the experience and the particulars of the new image. I call Mom and without preamble ask about my lost siblings. She speaks without hesitation, perhaps relieved to finally speak of them.
Much of nature expresses itself in screaming. These are the things that trees laboriously record in microscopic twitches found in their rings.
The morning of the actual protest, I passed out snacks and water, but spent 90% of my day patrolling the crowd, looking for bad actors. One kid came into the store early to drop off a donation. He wasn’t with anybody. And his entire face was covered. Like, fully wrapped. Protestors were wearing face coverings, but this felt odd to me. We had everyone who donated sign a registry, so we could send thank you notes. But when I asked, “Do you want to sign the registry?” He said, “Nope.” And just walked away. Way away.
I owned an Omni once, a car so unreliable I carried quarts of oil like passengers. Worse, I was afraid to leave it parked outside on a rainy day for fear it wouldn’t start. Which means the morning was clear when I allowed that car to rest beside a field where dozens of dairy cows grazed among a scattering of discarded Omnis, confirming a friend’s late-night, beer-soaked story.
“Oscar can read people’s minds, like Professor X,” he said. “He knows liars.” He wore a big grin, smug and edentulous. We looked at Allison for an explanation. She had that dramatic pissed look only preteens can fabricate, overwrought as they figure out the plasticity of their own faces, and she grabbed a fistful of Garrett’s striped t-shirt, baring her teeth at him.
Public riot provided by the audience. “You call that music? You call that ballet? You call that art? Let’s scream so loud, the dancers can’t hear the music. Let’s throw punches and fall into the orchestra pit.” And they do.
The bartender, roused from your bed, grumbles and pinches your thigh. You hang up. Fuck you, you say to the bartender when he smirks at you and then rolls over and goes back to sleep like it’s nothing, without even checking if it’s cool for him to keep staying over, which it isn’t.
“I’m worried,” she said. Her voice sounded both fearful and angry. I knew she’d come from a small town and the university life in this larger city had been challenging.
“My stories don’t sound like everybody else’s in class.”
“Well, maybe that’s a good thing,” I said.
She smiled, the charming smile she’d had earlier in the semester. “A good thing?”