Archive > Vol. X no. Z
The police were talking to an old man with pale bloodshot eyes and chalk-white eyelashes who wore a tattered gabardine — a bottle peeked out a splayed pocket — and Converse Hi-Tops with no socks. I lingered. But I sensed no argument. A cop’s paternal arm with a brocaded cuff rested on that thin shoulder, but the vagrant didn’t flinch or tremble, just beamed. I walked on. All that morning the crowd kept assembling. Children poured in from the suburbs, Scarsdale and Valhalla. Students strode in uniform from the church schools of Harlem. Time was elastic; the march would begin at noon, but where was the beginning in that multitude? Noon could be one o’clock in the garment district, eleven in the theater district. As we began to move — to move! — the chants started to bind us. Though they have no purchase, how stubborn those absolutes — Justice! I saw my lover marching with another man and felt nothing but love. I glimpsed a woman with the face of my mother in her last days, hoisting herself on a buckling cane, making herself small so others could pass, just a profile, a silhouette, but adamant. She had a handlettered sign: CONSEQUENCES. The crowd thickened around me; dancers, mimes, ecstatics, people dressed as the various animals who are slaughtered, a lab technician in his white coat with a homemade sign, BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU SHIT. Toward dusk, somewhere near the tower, our own size halted us. You could not see the end. Perhaps we were infinite like an idea forming in the mind. High windows in the financial skyscrapers flew open, confetti rained down, and the chant was furious, self-knowing, wild with grief and delight. What could we not demand? Almost by chance the old man with the pale reddish eyes of a rabbit appeared — how his nose was twitching! Standing right by me in his wine-stained London Fog, he reached into his pocket and the bottle came out, not to sip; it soared in a lazy arc and smashed against the barricade in a halo of sparks. Immediately the horses lunged, huge eyes rolling back, wet nostrils pulsing. Even in their fury they were careful not to trample us, but they scattered us like nine-pins and the night sticks rained down — a head split open, you could see the color of blood, you took my place, you pushed back, the odds against you a million to nothing, but when were they less? You stand your ground, rubber bullets are real, the Just still rule the future.