Of Protesting Significance
“That was a prolific day for me,” she says emotionally. A hand goes to her heart, and she bows her head, humbled. “My first trip into the bowels of Hell,” she laughs. A fly buzzes by her ear, and she waves it away. She looks me in the eye, serious. “You never forget your first protest, your first time as the anti. It’s right up there with my first time doing – well – anything, really. Drugs, men, women, tofurkey, dissent. Finding my voice, hearing anger in it – that kind of thing fuels my every day existence.”
“You’re one of the most passionate, infuriating people I know,” I say, nodding like a Bobblehead.
“Do I get an adrenaline surge every time I protest? Fuck yeah, bitches,” she says with pride.
“And who was on the receiving end of your first public rage?” I ask, squinting into the sun. When I look back, she’s a mass of psychedelic rings of throbbing blue and red light. I blink hard, adjusting my eyes.
“It was a pro-life rally,” she says with emphasis. Stunned silence invades the room as I gather my jaw from the floor below.
“You’re a pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, anti-establishment vegan who has chained herself to a tree,” I nearly shout at her. She nods her head, holding up four fingers. “Four trees? FOUR? Believe me when I say that I am very fucking confused.”
“No one does a protest like the pro-life movement,” she says, “No one. You have to participate to know what I mean. I know you’ve been on the other side, but being filled with righteousness for life – what you think is life at the time, I mean – is a serious fucking rush. I was looking to join something, anything that got me out of the house and into a conflict.” She pauses, remembering.
“But the tactics they used, the horrible things they said to these young girls going into Planned Parenthood – girls who were probably just being responsible and getting pap smears or birth control! – terrified me. I loved the passion, but not the message. I learned a valuable lesson that day.” She picks the grass around her absentmindedly, and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Sounds like an eye-opener,” I say, relieved.
“I remember, with great clarity, where I was during the Oklahoma City bombing, Waco, 9/11, the WTO protest, Mom on her deathbed, and my first protest. It was significant to me.” She begins to hum, and I lay back on the grass, letting the sun wash over me.
“You did what?” I ask, incredulous. My boyfriend nods his head and begins to explain.
“Remember the ad campaign, back in the nineties, when we could vote for a new M&M color? My favorite color was tan, the sax-playing M&M.” I hide my smile behind a cough. His eyes, a slate blue-gray, flash dark when he gets angry. They are very dark at the moment.
“I remember, and liked the tan ones, too,” I say carefully, remembering that I’d voted for blue.
“What they didn’t say,” he continues, “was that the new color – BLUE – would be replacing the old ones – TAN – which was complete and total bullshit.” I can see him getting worked up, and struggle to maintain a straight face. I steel myself for the punchline, which is bound to be good.
“So I bought a giant bag of M&Ms, and then sent all the blue ones back to the company in protest,” he says with finality. My mouth drops open. I can tell he’s pleased. I feel myself smile, then laugh, which turns into an all-out guffaw; I double over from painful hilarity.
“You are amazing. I LOVE IT. You protested the change in M&M colors?! You were compelled to stand up for the sax-playing tan dudes?!” I look at him with pride mixed with a bit of the ridiculous. Here is someone who was peppersprayed in the face during the WTO riots, I think to myself, someone who marched with me for gay rights down Pine Street on a sunny day. Yet this is his protest war story.
He pulls me in for a hug, and I lay my head on his shoulder. I crave M&M’s – tan ones – and resolve to find them on Ebay the very next day.