Darall stood alone in the crowd, listening to the political speech. The speech was sprinkled with words that he had heard before but whose meaning he couldn’t quite place his finger on. Words like “ineffable.”
Even though the rally was loud and the cause was important, Darall was still tired from the 34 hours of bus rides from Boise, and was wondering where he could get a bite to eat in downtown Washington. There must be a lot of cafés and restaurants in a big city like this. He made his way to the edge of the throng of protesters and peered down a busy side street. It looked like the kind of street that would have restaurants. It was full of people strolling about, so it would be safe street to walk down.
There were a lot people of color walking around, at least by Boise standards. Back home, Darall was always painfully out of place. His White friends thought of him as Black, and the very few Black people he knew didn’t see him as really Black. But here in DC, there were all shades of people. He started to count the number of people of color he could see 13 on this block, out of about 50 people. Darall was pretty sure he could walk into any store here and not feel like an alien. Back in Boise, there were only a couple of places that knew him so well that he didn’t feel like he was suspect every time he went in. The Shangri-La Tea Room and the Captain Comics shop were safe. Even after living in the same city for 27 years, he would be watched carefully or even followed by store clerks in any of the clothing stores in town. He dreaded ever having to go into a hardware store – it would be like one of those scenes in an old western movie, when a stranger walks into a tavern: The music stops, everybody freezes and stares at the stranger, their twitchy hands nervously hovering over their guns.
Darall entered a burrito place, and sat down for lunch. He hadn’t eaten all day, and had been mostly walking ever since the bus dropped him off at 7:00 am. It’s too bad he couldn’t get any of his friends from work to come to the march in DC. They may have theoretically agreed with the cause, but altering the routines of their lives was out of the question.
Darall watched protesters mill about outside the burrito shop window. He looked to see if any of them were holding signs that he had written, and he chuckled to himself, thinking back to the morning. When he stumbled out of the bus that morning, he followed some people to a church where signs were being made for the march and rally. There was a big pile of poster boards with “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” scrawled on them with black marker. With nothing else to do, and wanting to pitch in, Darall busied himself making more signs like that. He didn’t stick to the script precisely. On one sign, he wrote, “THIS IS WHAT GLUTEN-FREE TASTES LIKE!”
“If you can’t laugh at yourself, I don’t want to be part of your revolution,” Darall thought to himself. He finished his burrito and walked back out into the crowd, listening to people chant in unison, and watching them walk together, sometimes hand in hand. He walked in-between people until he found a bench where he sat alone, next to a family, watching the parade go by.
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