Demetri came late from his physics lab
Julia expected to win
and Jolana tucked fear into her back pocket like a knife as she listened from the ledge of the courthouse steps to Sasha who spoke That Way — not like speech, but like art.
Jolana’s fear fell out and hit the pavement when we stepped into traffic.
No, she never thought it. Jolana thought, “We’ve done this before, and this time, we have it right,” so she felt as right as two years ago when the energy in her voice spilled from the frontlines all the way to the sidewalk, wetting the toes of the apathetic and scared. Bystanders slipped into the throng as we marched down Court Street and into Baker Center.
Meanwhile, Our steps on Our streets reverberated heavy in Their spines, tickled Their need to lay hands. To call our bluff. To shut us up.
We filled the fourth floor with cardboard signs and cracked voices demanding justice. Jolana saw her professors sit down, saw people she didn’t know sit at the same time with brand new conviction on the Student Center floor, and she thought, “This is real. People are down for this.” A hush fell over the balcony and into the crowd as one mic rang above all other sounds.
Eyes watched, ears listened, feet stood in peace
—and when Demetri saw Them block the exit doors, he still thought They were peacekeepers.
They said it once, no one thought it. And when They said it again, again, again, again — no one thought it still. Jolana thought, “They’re bluffing because They’ve bluffed before.” She felt it was a game she had already played, forgetting the rules are “always rigged against her,” but she felt, she doesn’t know, she guesses she kind of felt, she doesn’t know
— and she feels really bad about that. She feels she misled the new and the angry, a lot of people. Jolana feels duped.
But she couldn’t feel that then, however, at 7:30 when They began to circle, to flash zip ties and handcuffs in front of her face, moving so slow when They took a girl so fast she didn’t even see. Jolana held her friends planted as They uprooted one by one, and yes, she knew it then. It was real. They weren’t bluffing and neither was she, and it was pretty much done.
Danica watched in fear as They gave white women, who formed a picket fence of bodies around the circle’s core, more chance to leave. White women who stayed were cuffed once inside a different room without an audience. People (of color) in the middle were put in handcuffs right away. Danica was put in handcuffs right away.
As They took her body for the state, Jolana put her black hands up. She looked into each of Their eyes. They said, “It sucks for all of us.” She wishes she said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were put in an uncomfortable position.”
Instead, she said, “Shame!”
Demetri was amazed — the song did not falter. Down to the last four, those left still asked, Which Side Are They On?
Jolana thought, “Fascist scum, They disgust me,” but she remembered, “ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU.” She remembered “law and order.”
Standing on the now dark street, watching through windows, Julia realized there are many more people who think what happened inside was all for naught, or who would not care if those 70 bodies inside or those bodies stuck in airports were wrapped in a flag and burned.
Earlier that day, Jolana made chili. When she was released, she thought, “I just want to drink, I want to smoke, and I want some chili.” She thought about the flavors meddling together back home.
Demetri wished he had not escaped consequence.
Danica found solace in what happened and would not have done anything differently.
Julia filmed as much as possible, but wanted to say something. Something important.
And, on some floor in Baker Center, the Administration watched, listened, but did not speak.