Looking down he saw the waters of the East River appearing still, but rushing toward the Atlantic Ocean, through tiny slits in the wood planks of the Brooklyn Bridge (planks he worried would give way under the extreme weight now upon them). He saw this, and everywhere white.
It was a celebration of liberation, or so he was told, when it was screamed in his face by one marauder, a young man with streaks of paint owning the places where wrinkles would someday lay claim, when this young man would look back on his life and shed tears for all those times he had. This young man would be happy in his old age. Or he would die before he got there. But today he was here, conquering the Brooklyn Bridge. And screaming Liberation! Revolution! into the face of someone who was worried the wood holding together the Brooklyn Bridge would succumb to this revolution.
He looked for peace among the whirling white. He found it in the very young and the very old. Everything between was restless. But there, near the back, a woman who seemed to know the true meaning of all of this, held her umbrella on her shoulder, open. She caught his eye as he gazed at her, trying to understand as she did. He dropped his gaze again at the seemingly static East River.
When he was able to again look up, when he scanned the crowd for peace, a small child, a girl of no more than seven, sat perched on a large beam high above the manic cars zooming toward Manhattan. There is no time for contemplation when you are racing toward Manhattan. They did not notice the girl. But he did, and no sooner than he had, she stood, six-foot stilts wrapped to her legs, and meandered as giants move toward the city, contemplating all the while. Years later he would remember the peace in her face as she sat above those cars gazing upon her destination. But today he was here. And she was traipsing through the mass. And he had lost everyone he knew.
And they began to move. Thousands of them. Moving. Maybe they were following the girl. To the city. To liberation. But they moved. Red flags flying above to mark the way. All, even as they moved as one, would have been lost without the red finding their way.
When they reached the end of the bridge, his feet once again upon solid ground, and the East River raging behind him, there were explosions, as they all took to the streets amid different cars than the ones that had not noticed the girl perched above them. These were racing just the same, but slowed by their unwanted transformation into gawkers, spectators, voyeurs. What was this? And a drum beat loudly. A horn blew. Fire swirled into the close sky. And the cars moved on, the drivers left to forever ponder, as the mass took to the courtyard of a government building.
Revolution! It was here somewhere; he did not know it.
He had found some of those he knew. And they moved together around fountains and dancers and light. The ones he knew were a spectrum from astonished, all slack-jawed and amazed, to eloquent, all confidence and energy. He lay near the former, and they all moved on.
They left the government building. It would whisper to other buildings later how soon after they all left it had felt the greatest loneliness anything had ever known. It would tell of how it thought of what the next days would bring and how none of those days would bring all of this back. Years later, the boy with the streaked face, if he made it to years later, would walk through that courtyard again, and the building and he would remember each other fondly, if unknowingly. The girl would be long gone. She was not meant for this place, and everyone, including the building, knew this. It had tried to bow when she moved past, and could not, and was disappointed. The building had not felt until they came. Now, in their wake, it lay shocked and empty, forever a feeling thing.
They moved underground. Every one of them went underground, disappeared from the streets. The trains came and they roared. They roared on the trains. The sprites among them sprinted when the trains stopped and the doors opened. They were raucous and they were, every one of them, trying to be free. Upon each train sat a winged creature watching over each. They knew they were safe. They wanted to be free.
In later accounts he would hear of a man who could not handle all of them. Who, in is newly surrounded state, wanted his version of freedom, which was not their version, swung his arms and screamed and went away in his mind, unable to grasp anything anymore. He would pray for this man later and hope he found something resembling freedom. He would wish this man would have been near a woman he was with, the one with feathers nested on her head. She had calmed the confusion of many who did not understand, had changed the physical features of their faces. For now, though, he moved with everyone else on trains lifted slightly from the tracks by the angels fluttering above each. They were flying. And he did not know where.
When the angels finally put them down, all of them, except the man who went away, they put them down among lights. More than he had known. They put them among fires blazing across the night sky. They put them among music. And they put them down among contraptions that allowed the people to attempt to be like the angels, things that would bring them into the sky momentarily, place them flying briefly. This was all the people wanted: to fly momentarily. That is all they ever wanted, and that is why they did this. Some even wore wings, so going up, they could chance not coming back down. They always came back down. And when they did, the angels placed them among each other. Each new these lights and these angel-mimicking machines would not be here much longer. Even the building knew this.
But it was all here now, and once they all realized what the angels already knew, that they would always be together, some dove into the water at the edge of this world and swam for another. Others went back to the trains, freshly grounded.
He went to the trains. The girl on the stilts had, it was obvious now, joined the angels and was gone.
***This is an account of Bastille Day, celebrated on 7/14/07 in New York City when thousands of people gathered, dressed in white, and took over the Brooklyn Bridge, the streets of Manhattan, the courtyard of City Hall, the subways, and Coney Island.
When You Get Bored Here, Go Here:
- David Luke Doody
- David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.
- ► 2009 (40)
- ► 2008 (112)
- Lesson Learned?...Probably Not
- Black Snake Moan--A DVD Review
- An Article
- Sound Familiar?
- Positive Hip Hop For Seventeen Years, Y'all
- The Night Angels Took Over The Trains
- Go! Hurry!
- How Did I Get Here?
- The Key To a Good BBQ And Other Things I Learned A...
- Hell's Kitchen
- I'm a hypocrite
- No Direction Home
- The housemates went north
- ▼ July (15)