Richard Pierce

Poetry, Politics

Day 255


an illusion

we are free
to think
to speak
to do

to go where we want
to travel without hindrance
to use words in any
combination to make
our meanings

to speak truth to power
to protest against oppression
to want peace not war
to tread our own paths
to diverge from the norm

to do
to speak
to think
we are free

an illusion



What surprises Aggie, although it shouldn’t, she thinks, is that this city, this capital, is mainly new buildings, that the old – but never the ancient, because the white invaders raised all the ancient beliefs and structures to the ground when they stole the land – is rare and visible only in snatches, only in small islands, and even the apparent age of some buildings might be fake, fake to create some sort of sense of history where no real history exists. She moves one giant stride after the other, on Pennsylvania Avenue now, moving diagonally south east, as if she were in a giant game of Snakes & Ladders, sliding down the back of a snake, until she comes to the distorted crossroads with Northwest 17th Street where Pennsylvania Avenue is blocked by barriers and a couple of police cars, a small park of trees to the right surrounding a rectangular government building that’s barely a hundred years old, behind which she assumes the White House is hidden. She turns left, the barricades ahead of her, ignored by her, wanders down the west side of the street, until she sees the sign for the doughnut shop. Perhaps it’s open so late because the business of government doesn’t stop. The building she’s in is made of modern institutional red brick, an unhealthy unwelcoming facade that reeks of interminable meetings, of day-time tiredness and night-time despair, of never-ending cycles and circles and discussions that lead to nothing and adjourn in the middle of the night only to start again an hour later to no effect. It’s a monument to indoor living, to a disconnection with nature, a disconnection from the original history of the land and the spirits which protected it.

Aggie elbows the door open. The place is deserted, and the woman behind the counter looks half asleep.

‘Hi,’ the woman says, leaning against the wall behind the counter, not moving, arms crossed. Her badge calls her Rochelle.

‘Hi, Rochelle,’ Aggie says, puts on her most winning smile. ‘Cold out there. What do you recommend for me?’

‘Looks like you could do with an espresso and a Rocky Road,’ Rochelle says. ‘And like you could do with some sleep.’

‘I wish I could sleep,’ Aggie says. ‘I really do. But, without sleep, I’ll take the espresso and the Rocky Road.’

Rochelle uncrosses her arms, moves across to the coffee machine, starts its noises. ‘Comin’ right up. You eatin’ in?’

‘Yes, please.’

‘You English?’

‘Kinda.’ Aggie finds herself slipping and sliding into the vernacular.

‘You guys are funny when you start speakin’ our way.’

‘I don’t think we can help it.’

‘It’s kinda cute.’

Aggie smiles. A kindred spirit. But faithlessness isn’t on her agenda, no matter the curves and the intimation of solid muscle and flesh under Rochelle’s uniform. ‘Not too cute, I hope. And not too foolish either.’

‘It ain’t foolish, Ma’am,’ Rochelle says. ‘Cute ain’t ever foolish.’

‘You’re very kind.’

Rochelle smiles. She’s awake now. ‘Here you go. That’s two dollars and fifty eight cents, please.’

Aggie pulls a roll of notes out of her pocket. ‘They all look the same to me,’ she says. ‘Have this one.’ She hands Rochelle a five dollar note. ‘No change needed.’

‘Oh, thanks so much.’

‘Thanks for being so kind,’ Aggie says, takes the coffee and the doughnut, sits down at one of the deserted tables, half out of sight of the counter. She scans the place – no real view into it from the street, huge red brick columns so numerous they obscure everything. And down a narrow corridor to her left, the toilets. She takes a sip of the hot coffee which is surprisingly good. Time to take her time. Richelle’s gone back to leaning against the counter half asleep. Aggie can hear her regular breathing. She’ll think Aggie just went out again without disturbing her. Aggie takes a deep breath and bites into the doughnut.

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