The Protester

This is a draft of something I’m working on. Read if you like. I’ll be taking it down for maintenance soon. Any feedback would be much appreciated! Thank you!!

Mariah locked her apartment door, making sure to check it before heading down the stairs. It was a compulsion ingrained in her since childhood. She’d had recurring nightmares that she’d locked the door but it wasn’t really locked and masked men would come in and do terrible things. She’d always woken up before they did whatever it was they’d planned to do but it left her with a lifelong fear.

Nowadays, living with her elderly parents and autistic 7 year old son, her fear had intensified. She told herself they’d be fine. There was a chance she’d be arrested but she’d done her homework. She knew her rights, this would be a peaceful protest, on public property. She’d even gained the support from other moms, rich white moms. They’d promised to be there. She belonged to a Facebook group for parents of children with developmental disabilities. They were all in agreement that the recent decision to cut funding for special education in the 28th district had to be rectified.

When she got to the lobby she was happy to see her comrades. Isla, a mom with an autistic son and Shay, a mom with a schizophrenic daughter, who had also suffered brain damage from a fall out a third story window. She’d jumped.

Their kids were all in the same program at the local public school. The one that had lost funding and would be gone at the end of the school year. There were others in the neighborhood but couldn’t get anyone to watch their kids. That’s okay. She’d enlisted Someone to Facebook live the whole thing.

“Hi ladies! Ready?” Isla and Shay held their signs up. “Ready!” They answered. “Paperwork?” She unzipped the top of her coat and reached for the lanyard around her neck. She’d fastened a sandwich ziplock bag to the end of it with her state ID and an index card with her emergency contact info written on it. The ladies did the same.

“Remember, stay cool, no matter what. Let me see the back of those signs!” She had written out the law allowing for peaceful protest on the back. They had done the same. On the front, each woman had a blown up picture of their child with the message – Don’t leave my child behind Overturn prop. 83 District 28.

“Where’s that little punk?” Shay looked around for their 23 year old documentarian, Tara. “Yo! This is live!” Tara jumped out from behind a column in the lobby. Tara was an aspiring filmmaker with a younger brother who had Down’s syndrome. She had no training but had managed to build a following on her you tube channel. Her posts were mostly movie Television and video game reviews but she was working on a documentary about her family. Her parents were immigrants from China. They’d moved here when her mother was pregnant with her brother. Tara was five.

“You got me on the wrong side!” Isla immediately turned away.

“She’s messin with you. Right?” Mariah eyed Tara hoping she was right.

Tara laughed. “It’s not live.”

“Alright ladies! Time to check in!” Mariah took her phone out and posted to their Facebook page. Isla, Shea and Tara did the same.

They waited a moment for the other moms to reply. There was a moment of doubt. Mariah had organized a zoom meeting the night before with all seven of them. All but one attended. She’d never met the white moms in person but they promised they were committed to this.

Three Facebook notifications came in simultaneously. There they were. Melissa from the west village, Beth from Soho, and Lisa from the upper west side.

Mariah could see by the look on her comrades faces that they’d doubted their commitment too. After all, their districts still had funding but moms had a tendency to stick together. Mariah was banking on that.

She was also banking on the empathy of their Congress woman who had opposed the cuts, but didn’t do anything to fight the decision once it was made. Surely she was planning on doing so but just in case she wasn’t, they’d be there to remind her of her promise to “give a voice to the voiceless.”

Tara had some inside information from a friend who worked for a delivery service. He’d delivered to her building and seen her coming and going on multiple occasions.

“Alright ladies! Let’s do this!” Mariah led the charge out into the frigid January air.

5th Avenue

Mariah looked up at the front of the luxury high rise, guarding its massive front lawn, Central Park. She hadn’t spent much time in this neighborhood. There was an unwritten rule that if you didn’t have money, you were trespassing and if caught standing still for too long you could be forcibly tossed out. Her fear got the best of her and she led the ladies to the corner, as if they were crossing the street or waiting for a bus. Luckily the building was on the corner of 72nd street. She’d wait for the other moms there. She enlisted Tara to wait by the front.

She saw a woman bundled up in Arctic gear walking toward them with a sign. As she got closer, she recognized Melissa. Melissa held up her sign and waved as she approached. Her sign was different. She’d photographed her bespectacled 11 year old daughter holding her own sign with their agreed upon slogan. A sign within a sign. Melissa was an artist.

“Oh that’s beautiful!” Isla admired the creativity.

“Thank you! She really wanted to come. I told her this was a way for her to be here.” Melissa had that hard goodbye look all the ladies recognized.

Shay took Melissa’s hand and squeezed it. “Mine was angry. He said if I don’t come back he’s never taking a bath.”

Mariah felt a secret pride. Lawrence, her boy, was excited for this. He didn’t know exactly why, he was probably just mirroring her father who at dinner that evening said he was proud to have a hero for a daughter.

Lawrence was really into comic books. He probably just saw her as Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. He’d even wrapped his blanket around her shoulders as a cape. She’d take it either way.

Their phones pinged.

Tara alerting them to come to the front of the building.

“Remember, we’re not gonna block the entrance. Let’s go!” Mariah lead the way to Tara and Beth.

“Lisa’s a block away.” Beth held her phone up. She and Lisa were old friends, thankfully from law school. Neither of them were practicing anymore but their knowledge was invaluable.

Tara pointed to a top floor window. “That’s her.” The light was on.

“Great. Do your thing, go live whenever you want.” Mariah trusted her. She’d seen some of the documentary.

Tara aimed her phone at an approaching cab. Mariah turned to look.

The cab pulled up and Lisa got out. Mariah didn’t see a sign. The taxi driver popped the trunk and got out.

Wow, Mariah thought. That’s some privilege! Using the trunk and waiting for the driver to get whatever’s inside.

Lisa was richer than she’d thought. The driver pulled out what looked like a walker. Lisa, helped an older woman out of the cab. The driver, opened up the walker and handed it to Lisa. The older woman thanked the driver and tinkered with it. Lisa went to the trunk and pulled out her sign then slipped some money to the driver.

“That’s class…” Shay whispered to Mariah.

The older woman lifted her walker onto the curb. All the ladies rushed to help her except Lisa.

“It’s okay! It’s a seat.” The woman got up to the sidewalk and introduced herself. “Rabbi Menkin. Sarah.”

Lisa waved the cab on and joined the ladies. She held her hand out to Mariah. “Mariah? Lovely to meet you.”

Mariah tried to place her accent. Lisa didn’t miss a beat. “I know that look! I’m Irish.”

Mariah was mortified that her online impression of Lisa was so far off. Even more-so when she caught herself wondering if Irish was a good thing?

“Don’t worry! I’m legal! Did your little ones give you the hell mine gave me when you left?”

Lisa immediately put everyone at ease. The ladies laughed and shook hands with her and Rabbi Menkin.

Beth whispered to Mariah. “It’s always good to have a member of the clergy just in case.”

Mariah felt a wave of fear wash over her. Just in case. This was real now. Surely the tenants in this building would see her brown skin, assume she’s homeless or a criminal and call the police who would come and shoot her in the back. She wanted to run. What was I thinking!? There’s probably a special police force for this building alone. Suddenly she felt watched. Under surveillance.

“Hey, you okay girl?” Shay put a hand on her arm. This was something she did when her daughter was lost in her fantasy world.

Oh my God! Mariah sank even deeper into her state of terror. This is worse for her! Mariah believed the police judged how much force to use and how dangerous a person was based on how dark they were. Shay was darker than she was. Pull yourself together!!

“Yeah, you?”

“I’m good. Let’s do this!”

They held their signs up to the light.

Published by Cindy

For money, I’m what you call a banquet captain. That means I’m in charge of timing and staff at special events, weddings, benefits, movie premiere parties...ect. I’m also a filmmaker and freelance writer. I’m owned by two cats, Samantha and Harrison Chase who reluctantly allow me to travel, something I’m made to do.

4 thoughts on “The Protester

    1. Thank you. I worry about how people, mostly white people, of which I am half, will take this. I mean, The thought of white privilege as a mitigating factor. It definitely is. If seven people get together in a group to protest and they are all black or brown, they are an “angry mob”. If seven people get together and they are equal parts “white” and “black” it’s a protest.

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