NOTE: The gesture referred to is that gesture suggesting sympathy or complicity, waving the hand back and forth between speaker and listener (in this case the audience): you-me-you-me-you, we understand each other, we are the same.
SHAWN, white, mid 30s, well dressed. Speaks to audience.
You know I used to be a feminist? Or well an ally, I didn’t like that word, the eff word, for myself, I felt that men couldn’t truly be, blah blah, I know. And an activist generally. Anti-poverty, anti-racism, HUGE ally generally. Signed petitions, sent emails, went to – ha! – town hall things. God, demos. Remember?
I mean I know I can tell YOU this because you-
I mean it was so long ago. Seems so long. And I mean I thought I was happy. Like I always felt like I was fighting something, and that’s really heartening, and it can feel like happiness, you can call it that, you can cry out “happiness!” in the dark, and the fight doesn’t mind, lets it slide, doesn’t break its rhythm. Happy to play along, whatever you call it.
There was this girl I really loved. And she loved what a fighter I-, how principled-, that was what, she EXPLICITLY told me, was what she loved about me, and we were gonna get married, and I just would get so MAD at her because she was doing it wrong, and I refused to let her take my name, and I refused to be part of a ceremony where her father gave her away, I mean the man was dying, it would have been a gesture you know, but I…
Or, would have given her away I guess. None of it ever materialized it all stayed talk, loud angry talk on the back of city buses, why does everything have to be so POLITICAL with you
-because everything is political already, I don’t want to pretend
-well try and pretend, I want to get married and be happy and have life make sense for a few hours so we have to pretend…
And on and on and on, and she called it off, and I moved here and I met Aimee and that whole crowd and she wanted nothing from me which was a relief, and I tried so hard to give her that and I became an ally and I demonstrated and signed and emailed and attended and witnessed and vigiled and fought and fought and called it happiness in the dark.
They write about her, about all of them like we were dangerous and violent and, oooh, like HIGH all the time and just RAPING or SPITTING or BREAKING…it was all pretty boring mostly. It was a lot of talk it was a lot of obligation it was a lot of supporting and tolerating and all of us just sort of raising the same 200 dollars from each other over and over again to give to each other, and I started to wonder if I was…doing anything, you know? The emails would go around and the petitions would go around and I’d pass them on and I’d thank people with appropriate solemnity, but I stopped actually signing them, and I didn’t write my representatives anymore and I just kind of checked out, and said it was depression, and Aimee was very…I mean you remember depression, right? What a CURE ALL that was? And I still kind of believed it all but come on, was the whole thing gonna fall apart without me?
I mean I don’t have any illusions that it was just me, that my one not-vote messed up the whole abortion thing, but apparently just believeing something won’t keep it in the air. Go figure.
And then there was some immigration stuff struck down, and some welfare stuff and then some rape stuff, and it was one-right-after-the-other, quick enough that it was a bit scary, so the reaction was a bit frantic, and the police and then the government reaction was…
Well, you all know what happened. You were there, most of you.
It doesn’t look like you expect it to. Everything being different. I mean, it looks exactly like you expect it to, so you figure it isn’t. The polite young men in uniform firmly insisting you step into the van? Right out of the movies. Come on. The buses bringing people to convention halls and theatres? And you don’t react like you thought you would, at least I didn’t. I mean you let it happen in a fog because it can’t be…what it looks like it is.
They weren’t very interested in me. They were pretty confident I was just…lost, a follower. Harmless. That I’d find another… And I mean…
I really miss them, sure. They were my friends.
Aimee’s face the last time I saw her. I mean it was easier to just wonder who that poor girl was you know. Really…studiously not recognize.
But what I realized I missed more was what I was missing with them. And maybe now, since there was no fight, maybe some things could just go unquestioned. And I really was not proud of this feeling I had watching people compelled into vans on the street for that few years that was happening. Occasionally running, but not as often as I thought would happen. That feeling like something being cleared away, that feeling of being able to get back to…I mean I’m not accusing anyone of making me unhappy, but we were all, I think I can share this with you because-
But that was a long time ago, like I said. Seems like a long time. And I struggled for a while, we all did, but I can’t deny that things are better. For me. For most of us. Things make more sense. Not everything has to be…a fight. Because you can really get lost in a fight. You get in close enough to something and you lose perspective, you start striking out, blind. You struggle and strike and push at what’s around you. You fight, and call out happiness in the dark and it doesn’t mind.
You can call anything anything in the dark, and it will not notice. It will not mind.