And now for something a little different. In honor of the upcoming election, here’s a little something to remind you of your obligation to vote.
I’ve repeated it at least hundred times in the mirror preparing. I’ve stood on these very steps everyday at precisely five o’clock for the last week letting the atmosphere of the evening flow into me so that on the day, this day, I’d know I was ready.
The sun drops just below the Wingham building and I stand in its reflected light. Pushing one leg in front of the other is an act of pure willpower. My knees threaten to buckle at any moment. Finally I reach the podium and cling to it, steadying myself. In my childhood, speeches like this were unnecessary, back thenAmericawas a different place. WE were a different people. I adjust the microphone and the throng seems to lean in expectantly. I wonder how many of them even know why they are here, and how many will remember what I have to say. An unexpected wind blows, tossing my comb-over to a fro. I reach to try and tame it, but quickly realize I’m losing whatever attention my place behind the ancient pedestal had garnered me. The audience is beginning to wander; those still looking my direction are smirking and holding back laughs. Anger hits me and all at once I remember why I wanted this forum. Why I went through all the red tape to get a permit to speak aloud in public, why I signed their damn wavier. I lean forward. My voice is alien, strong, yet it breaks as the first tears sting my eyes.
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!”
Silence greets my words like a passing ex-lover.
“My Daddy taught me that. I was born from men and women who loved the lives they had so much that they gave them up so that I could have the CHANCE to do even better. Until today, I’ve done nothing to make them proud. I’ve done nothing to earn their sacrifice. Maybe we’ve lost the chance to do better, to be better. That’s not for me to decide. My chances are used up. This is my last… My last statement.”
The tears no longer sting, but my voice is cracking with every word. I breathe deep, calming myself, but knowing it could be my last.
“It is not the place of government to dictate what you can and cannot do.”
I look up at the windows of the Wingham building as I say this. I imagine I see them up there. One of them has his well cared for fingers, ending in well-cared for nails, held up to cover his pursed lips. The mental image brings a rare smile to my lips.
“They’re not here so that they can come into our homes and they tell us how to raise our children. They’re weren’t put in power to tell us how to think, what to say and even when and where we can speak. So I say rise up and end this oppression and live the life your ancestors died for. Rise u…..”
Of the hundred or so that have gathered to hear, more than a few have a glazed over expression as if my speech has shorted out their ability to rationalize words. Then, the first falls in a lifeless heap. A couple of people nearby move away, one woman screams, but then she too crumbles. The crowd starts to move, one man near the back breaks away, running. He’s halfway across the street when he falls. He bounces once and slides, his arms failing to break the fall.
“No. Stop!” I scream into the microphone.
I watch in horror as it doesn’t stop. Row by row my audience caves in on itself falling both toward me and away, like a silent wave of reminders that this is the consequence of rebellion. The closest row is in a frozen panic as they too can hear the sound of flesh on flesh and flesh on concrete. The wave of humanity crashes down. I stand clinging to the podium, waiting for the wave to swallow me, ready only for my own switch to be pulled, wanting only for it all to end. A window in the Wingham building screeches open.
I hear laughter.
I wait a long time.
I wait still.