The drum circle pounded out the rhythm that blasted from my chest as I stared at her through the police line. There, bundled against the autumn chill, scarf, knit cap, pea coat, stood a vision of beauty that this ugly world hadn’t managed to pillage just yet. Her oversized glasses slid down her nose as she held a gloved fist in the air, chanting, yelling, until her face turned red. “The whole world is watching!” Little did she know that I was watching her.
We sat, arms linked, trying to hold a public space, trying to give a permanence to the movement that has grown from a perpetual disgust in where we were and where we were going. But all the hatred, the anger, the looming police officers with plastic zip-ties, ready to cart us off to jail, all of it melted away as I stared, catching her eye once, for one fleeting moment, as she pressed up against the metal barricade on the sidewalk. Through her indignation, her rage at what she yelled was a “police state,” she flashed me a corner of a smile, warming my heart, igniting my blood, not with a passion for a protest, but for her. Her copper red hair was whipped by the wind, and the police spot lights caught it just right, illuminating her halo, saintly in appearance as she demanded justice.
An hour passed and it was my turn to be stood up and arrested. My hands were gently placed behind my back as the police officer told me I was in violation of a city ordinance. His voice was tired, and he walked me slowly, casually, to the awaiting bus.
“Why did you choose to be arrested?” He asked, having given me the option to walk away. Why does a young man do anything? I looked over to the barricades at her once more, her hands pressed together and held against her chest. Her eyes got wide when they met mine, her tears welling up as if she had expected all of us to be let go, to stay and fight against the system that had wronged her. She looked at me like I was her lover leaving for war, as if she knew better than I did that she would never see me again. The officer looked over at her.
“Is that your girlfriend?” he asked, a smile in his voice. We had reached the door of the bus.
“No…” I said, stealing one last look as her first tear fell.
“Too bad.” He said, “She’s gorgeous.”
“You have no idea.”