By Malkia Charlee NoCry
Awakened by the feel of smooth fleece beneath her is how Elleliza first begins to open her eyes this day. Tomas, the chubby Bombay cat is below her left ankle, his movements more similar to a motorised stuffed toy than that of a living thing. His breaths measured, gurgled and loud, as Camron chain-smoked while Tomas curled beside him, head atop his thigh.
Camran would keep his homemade cigarette in his right hand, absently stroking his head with his left; a sight for rare evenings when he managed to come home to watch re-runs of Come Dine with Me.
The flat-screen television downstairs where Camran sat; the soft used blood orange leather couch molded to his muscled body; shoed-feet raised atop a brown stool within the multipurpose living-room hallmarked in the era of the Millennial’s newly found independence… That scene was always accompanied with air muted silver in colour; Tomas nestled underneath his fingers; and Camran meticulously constructing rollies from red and yellow American Spirit packets and translucent papers. The cat would cough intermittently, sneeze with too much phlegm, yet it was the general consensus of in-laws and neighbours that Tomas’ illness was due to the natural occurrence of fur balls – not Camran’s smoke.
As she gently nestled the cat with her toes painted blue, she thought of the drolleries found on Facebook, in particular a share from Occupy showing a cat clutching the carpet while an owner attempted to drag him by his lead; tag-line: ‘Militant Cat – I Shall Not Be Moved’. A fortuitous smile danced upon her lips, as Elleliza wondered what methods could be employed to tame the indignant house cat.
Energised by the first thoughts that climbed out from the realm of night dreaming, she gently elevates her foot not to overly disturb Tomas’ rest. She slid and half rolled, came upright and moved to the side of the bed, sinking a little from cheap springs. Her eyes squinting at the grey-sun, her gaze turned to the opening made by a picture frame propped to the side of listless red curtains while branches knocked against the pane, troubled by late August winds. Staring at herself being hugged 10 years ago by a Black woman and a Latino man twice her age, Elleliza frowned, deep creases in her dimpled raven-black cheeks. Fully awake now, her mind travelled sadly to thoughts of the completely isolating day to come. Her days, that seem to merge with yesterdays to the present-days in one long silence. Days she thought quainter when she first married to live a more ‘stable’ existence two years ago. These days now seemed like ghost-whispers, a creepy church quiet with false pew peace.
The thought that caused her to frown most this morning was that she had no friends – and it wasn’t something she could blame anyone for. Because sometimes a person needs blame to keep going, but Elleliza was incapable of it; it wasn’t a fair emotion. When she was younger people would blame her mother for her overprotectiveness, which she reluctantly disputed. And as she grew older the few people she socialised with would blame her knowingly overbearing relationships which kept her in the house tending to shrubs, instead of out partying like most young women. Some would say, in front of her or to people who knew her it was because she moved so much as a child; a loner by nurture. When she would speak of her time in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina (from 6-11); New Orleans, Louisiana (before Katrina); Accra, Ghana (from 11-13); Havana, Cuba (for an entire year); Savannah, Georgia (only for one semester); Oakland, California (more or less mostly there) – people would always assume she grew up in a military family, which slightly caused her to cringe. If anyone proffering advice suggested that Elleliza’s moving around could be to blame for her self-imposed isolation, she would immediately combat. Her childhood, she would describe, as the ‘old-fashioned poor missionary’- parents dedicated to something greater than oneself, fuelled by the quest for ultimate morality. And simply put, that is how everyone should live, as she was wiser and more open because of it. Her upbringing was perfect she thought, as it was without flags and blind patriotism devoid from ethics. And there was a true dedication to doing what is right – something she felt the military lacked.
A world where people use their talents where needed, was something Elleliza believed in, and always had. Her father was a Union Organiser and her mother a Human Rights attorney. They never worried about homes or clothes or promotions or taxes; it was people who needed them. And they who needed people. And yes it did take all their physical and emotional time, these various self-dedicated missions, which also had the effect of scattering Elleliza throughout cities, states and countries. But that never weakened her resolve for the necessity of good. She had to constantly rebuild a life, which is true, along with an understanding of herself and ultimately she would have to go elsewhere and learn again. Yet Elleliza was grateful to live a life of passion, a dense existence from such a young age. And perhaps this uniqueness, this density, was what kept Elleliza’s eye so heavy and mistrustful…
Elleliza never believed she would be able to see people in the way her parents saw them.
And now she’s staring down 30 (next month) and realised that aside from Tomas and Camran she had no actual friends. No one from High School to remark on how far they’d come; no one best-friend to surprise her with black and pink balloons (or was that 50?). And if she truly sat and thought about it, she shouldn’t even consider Camran a friend. One year into their commitment ceremony he began to find a place with anything that would lie down and was warm on the inside. Her mother and father were her best friends of course. Yet now Elleliza was an adult; parents leave you when you’re an adult.
‘My beautiful Elleliza, my baby. Getting married – when did this happen! You were just writing with crayons.’
‘I’m not marrying mama, I’m committing.’
‘Good girl.’ A gentle kiss… ‘You look beautiful…’
When Elleliza married Camran, her life broke into a new unit, a new family that now, she had to create. It was always the three of them – Ella, Liam and Elleliza. Without her, they had to make a choice for themselves. And they chose to live the rest of their years in Latin America, fighting for socialism that they knew imminent for the world, but in their lifetimes, more likely would happen in Venezuela. It was important at their age that they would see success in their labours; and it would be selfish for Elleliza to expect these young ground-ups not to fight with comrades they could be triumphant with. Elleliza received letters about Hugo Chavez and general Latin American turmoil, both in electronic boxes and handwritten letters with inked drawings on the outside. She was tagged in every photograph they took of migrant workers, barrios and protests in various social networking sites. Ella would Skype several times a week…headlines, opinions, and asking if Elleliza was eating. Elleliza mostly forgot to eat, unless she was cooking for Camran – but she never told Ella that.
Elleliza cared about everything, didn’t she? She was raised to. She knew the horrors of genocide, migrant work, un-unionized factory work, human rights abuses, civil rights violations and war by the age of 8; around the same time other children were memorising the lyrics of Disney songs. That would make one so alone, wouldn’t it, really? When Elleliza met Camran, he understood the coldness. He saw her tattered jeans and backpack, long dreads and UDHR pamphlet and said ‘why do you care so much?’
‘Why don’t you?’ her gruff reply. ‘Don’t all the hippies say that?’ he rebutted with a grin, a British accent and a golden Constitution in his back pocket, pulling it out for Elleliza to see. ‘My country doesn’t have a constitution’.
‘At least your country has Human Rights’.
‘Every country has some form of lie’.
And Elleliza smiled, trusting something she didn’t know. But happy she didn’t have to answer a question, she didn’t have to prove what she felt. Because she wouldn’t be able to. Not the way Ella or Liam could, which was the only real way to answer any question about politics.
Elleliza had opened a fissure and let in some of the world these last 5 years, which was hard. It’s not a simple thing for women like her to sit at a bar and throw their heads back and laugh. It’s not a simple thing for women like her to obsess over the trivialities of loveless marriages or biological clocks besides to satisfy the enquiries of nosey colleagues and meddlesome in-families. Guilt, hard and heavy like cinder blocks, for everything she knew and everything she was made to see, weighed down on her. Rarely, could Elleliza tell anyone what often arrested her sleep, what truly fatigued her.
72% of people on earth are irredeemably evil.
She had been tinkering with this calculation since she was a pre-adolescent. Elleliza kept boxes of diaries, hundreds of them, when she began to chronicle her life at the age of 5. Most of her entries revolved around her parents. By the age of 13 she had various hit-lists with anyone from Republican nominees to boys who picked on her in class. When she was 21 she chronicled the romantic things… then of course her life to come with Camran. And predominant in her diaries or journals as she called them now, was the calculation of how many people on earth were evil, based on how many humans killed at any given time, how many were made homeless, and how many thought in one way or another that the current state of affairs was as good as it gets. And so, she arrived at the disappointing nihilistic number of 72% of utterly evil or useless human beings on Earth. A Rasta once told her that was the same number listed in Revelations – people the Lord was going to leave back. She never investigated if what he said had any truth, as Bibles were not a part of her moral training.
Elleliza took a deep breath and dressed. Wrinkled jeans and a t-shirt near the hamper. She grabbed a toothbrush from her drawer (she read somewhere bathrooms were unhygienic places to keep them) and entered the toilet. She stared at her face, how it looked now.
In her journals these days, Elleliza forgot calculations and mostly wrote about Wikileaks, The Anonymous Movement, and various other contemporary political hash tags. She also spent a lot of time writing an anthropomorphic Tomas, in stories both true and imagined. Like now, as he stirred to be near her, jumping down from the bed, walking through the open door of the bathroom, lifting his clawed paws to pluck the edges of her jeans, Elleliza knew she would write about this. His jet-black fur glistening in the artificial light from the bathroom with no window, he said to her ‘Elleliza, why must all your mornings be so heavy?’
She walked downstairs, and after giving Tomas ‘the good stuff’ – the fast-seal plastic fresh ‘fish’ cat food, she found her gloves and the gardening shears and went after her tomato bush, like a woman would twice her age. It was Saturday.
Camran would be gone to Manchester with Uni mates – he left late last night. He would be home on Tuesday he assured her… his assurances were ones she stopped relying on. There were interesting things going on at Southbank, but she didn’t want to go alone. So she thought about the American Expat Group she had joined, if perhaps anything of interest was happening, but remembered that all they were talking about was Occupy.
Occupy. It was the most ever-present thing. Forever propagating, making coral reefs, an indelible impression on the fabric that is our human timeline. Her grandchildren will sit around her blanketed knees 40 years from now and ask ‘what was Occupy?’ and she would have to make the choice as to whether to say she was there (like everyone was at Woodstock) or say she wasn’t there, for this or that reason. The true reason; because her forest of tomatoes within her backyard needed her.
But by the time she would be elderly, she probably would be clever enough (or senile enough) to believe she was helping their great-grandparents in Venezuela (by opening emails and signing online petitions).
The phone rang inside. When it continued to ring after 45 seconds, she began to take off her gloves and walk slowly in through the patio door. She picked it up.
‘Is this Miss Ellie-lisa Baker?’
‘Ms Elle-LI-za Rios Izquiereda’
‘Is she in?’
‘This is she’
‘This is she.’
‘You’re speaking with her’
‘I was calling about an enquiry you made through LetsMove for one of our flats in Canary Wharf?’
‘Oh, yeah, my husband and I are thinking of moving.’
As if struck by a thought, the voice let out a bit of air and said ‘Are you from America?’
‘Where, may I ask?’
‘Is that close to Los Angeles?’
‘I don’t know’.
An awkward, indulging British-man chuckle for miserable women that they refer to as cow in their head – which causes the chuckle ‘Oh, understandable. I wouldn’t know exactly how far Birmingham was either’
Releasing the pressure from one foot to another, ‘You said something about Canary Wharf?’
‘Right. To business. You listed here you’re interested in viewing properties on Saturday?’
Elleliza looked at the clock. It was 11:30. ‘I wouldn’t mind.’
‘Will your partner be coming?’
‘You said you wanted 2 bedrooms? Any children?’
‘No, no. It’s for my parents…when they visit from abroad.’
‘Gotcha’ he said, with emphasis. Elleliza re-shifted the weight on her feet… sure that he rarely uses gotcha when speaking to British enquirers.
‘Well, we have a few in your listed price range. One in particular, a brilliant two bedroom flat, gas central heating, entry-phone, American style fridge – which I know you’ll be very excited to see, and-’
‘When?’ She heard a more measured breath on the other end. Elleliza realised she has added an extra dimension of inhospitableness that wasn’t necessary. ‘I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be abrupt – you caught me in the middle of something… What time today…? I would just like to see for myself; you know all the amenities and stuff’. She tried to sound young. People like young.
‘I completely understand. 2:30 – 3:30 I’m free for viewing. My name is David. If you would like a later time with Karen-’
‘Thanks David. Um, maybe 2:45…? Where do I meet you?’
Elleliza was bound for the train, walking three blocks to Greenford Station, a little fresher than earlier. Her hair was sutured with curly weave that blended well with her processed hair visible at the part, and she wore black leggings under a light dress. Her black summer boots had a slight heel, and she wore silver earrings, bracelets and the rings of London around her neck. She clutched her small backpack by the shoulders, a gift from her parents, and had the strange electric sensation she was escaping to somewhere. ‘I’m meeting a man’ she laughed out loud, the absurdity of a letting agent; almost immediately frowning a bit thinking of Camran.
The platform had few people, which was expected for Greenford Station. It was 1 o’clock – TFL has timed her journey to Canary Wharf at 1hr and 45 minutes. 1 o’clock is a barren time for residential neighbourhoods, especially when one is travelling West to East – even at weekends.
A train breezed down with sparks and a high pitched screech, coming to a prompt stop, two sliding doors beckoning to her. Elleliza boarded, and she was in the car alone. She took a seat at the end against the glass, enjoying the public solitude – and began to hum loudly, eyes closed. As station changed to station, doors opening and closing with no other passengers to board, Elleliza started to sing a bit badly, scatting with no resemblance to actual instruments, the music in her head blasting while she absently fingered an imaginary piano. While she played in her jazz band she thought of the days in Africa, her playing her keyboard as kids beat makeshift drums and string instruments, imitating Brandy, Mariah Carey and En Vogue.
She remembered being 11 and thinking she never wanted to leave Africa. She remembered thinking she always had to leave everywhere.
Abruptly her sixth sense distinguished a presence that alerted her, causing her to blink quickly to acknowledge a man with dark hair, dark eyes and light skin. This young man had a military style duffle in the seat next to his, wore a short sleeved black shirt that seemed to blend well with the curly dark hair on his arms and neck, the hair like a map leading to big white teeth framed in olive toned lips and more hair. And he wasn’t just there – he was smiling at her.
Elleliza straightened and smiled back. Then she tried to pretend she was checking her bearings and almost immediately began to feign a sudden inextricable fatigue. She thought best to seem crazy, someone on their way to St Bernard’s – that way she could avoid conventional embarrassment.
‘I like Killer Joe as well’ he said in a Mediterranean accent at her re-closing her eyes and shutting her mouth.
She replied to his voice without changing her position ‘Yeah. Benny Golson, my father’s favourite’
‘Are you American?’
Elleliza shifted uneasily, gently opening her eyes, and turning away from the glass toward him.
The Mediterranean accent continued, ‘My mother, she’s Sicilian but American, from New York, her father, was just American – that’s why I’m named Zachariah’
‘Oh’ Elleliza said blankly with an indulging smile that one could construe as encouraging.
‘Are you from America?’ He asked again with more force.
‘I’ve never been to California’
‘It’s a nice place’ she said, silently qualifying, for some people. As flooding faster than the words were memories of the months her mother worked on housing rights violations. She thought about how her father along with others researched claims of missing and violently abused homeless people, a paper… some statistics that he futilely hoped would lead to some investigation. She remembers how involved her mother became. So involved, that the family housed a woman and her 4 children who had been in hotels, on the street, in cars. And when this woman still was left with no options for suitable housing (a college educated woman) she conceded to the projects, only to have her 8 year old son raped by an administrator in the office.
‘A lot of police brutality, in California, I know’ Zachariah added his own qualifier.
Elleliza eyes went sideways as she saw photos that her father forwarded from a funeral of a murdered teenager by police from 62nd Avenue in Oakland, where her mother was from. ‘Yes’ Elleliza said, her gaze shifting to Zachariah’s duffle. ‘Backpacking?’
‘Sort of. I’m going to the St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s on this line, yes? No transfers?’
‘It’ll let you off right there. Can’t miss it, there’s signs.’
Elleliza smiled, then leaned again to close her eyes.
‘What’s your name?’ The Mediterranean asked.
‘Elle-li-za… Is that Biblical?’
‘Okay.’ Zachariah made a motion that he would stop bothering her, by leaning against his glass on his right side. Elleliza leans against her left side, a bit unsettled, but she closes her eyes again.
After some time of the train bumping across the track, maybe two or three minutes, she opened her eyes back up. Zachariah had probably forgotten her by now. More people had boarded, as they were now entering Central London, an area always alive. But Elleliza couldn’t rest at that moment. She leaned forward over the noise of the old train, a bit yelling toward Zachariah, whose eyes were open and alert, thinking.
‘I was adopted. My mother, Ella, was unable to have children. She’s Black, my mother, like me. My father is Puerto-Rican and his mother was British. This is funny, because my husband is British. My Dad, his name is Liam, he wanted a girl – and so they come up with Elle and my maternal grandmother’s name was Elizabeth. The merger is Elleliza’.
‘Does it mean anything?’ Zachariah asked.
‘My mother tells me it would mean that, um, She is God’s Gift’.
The Mediterranean smiled a sort of smirk, a sort of thanks, like he knew something smile. A Tomas smile when he had somehow cornered a bullfinch next to her pottery in the backyard. But he remained in silence as the train swelled and released through London. When St Paul’s came, the train was thick with people, a bit awkward to walk, but before Zachariah exited the doors he quickly handed her a flyer: Occupy St Paul’s – One Year On in high gloss splayed across the front. She replied by nodding her head, which could be defined more as ‘Thank you’ than just a simple acknowledgement.
When Elleliza arrived to the letting agency she was 15 minutes early. She asked for David, and then sat. They offered her water but she declined. David was a short chubby, red-faced, Brylcreemed sleazy looking guy who Elleliza didn’t expect to see. But as he came closer, the foreign environment began to meld with more familiar territory. Oh a realtor, she thought. He enthusiastically took her hand.
‘Sorry we had you down as Baker’
‘No that was me. It’s my husband’s name; sometimes it’s easier to use it’
‘How do you like London?’
‘I love it actually. Everyone is so friendly’.
David showed her 3 flats, all equally pretentious and overpriced. The least pretentious one, (and the last she could stand to view) she informed David she would consider, after his too long spiel about the Olympics and how East London was ‘being transformed’. His eagerness became tiring, so Elleliza was forced to use her, ‘I must consult my husband first, before I make any final decisions’. Daring not offend Mr Camran Baker’s territory, David’s company Audi dropped Elleliza off at the DLR. The realtor disappointed and slightly depressed as she could tell he’d expected immediate commission.
When Elleliza finally arrived home at 6:30pm after having a sandwich and Pinot in Canary Wharf, Camran was rolling a cigarette on the couch.
‘You’re here?’ were her first words to him as he smiled at her.
‘Yeah, the tournament was cancelled’ he grins.
‘They cancelled a poker tournament?’
‘So hard to believe?’
Elleliza walked toward him, bending down in order to kiss him. He grabs her cheek for a more passionate French kiss. She looks at him. He was pale, Irish pale and very toned. She liked men darker, what an English colleague once called ‘half-casts’, but his bright green eyes remained his best feature. His willingness to take care of her, be boring, and not care about much was his second best throughout their relationship. His light brown hair was receding and she worried that he would look like a skin-head soon. Elleliza kissed him knowing that she had kicked him out this weekend – probably demanding he choose. And of course he sided with Elleliza, the woman who never asked him to.
‘Aren’t you happy we get to spend the Bank Holiday together?’ He said, looking up at her.
‘I’m going to Occupy this Bank Holiday’ she moved his feet and sat on his stool.
‘Not what I…”
‘The protest’ she gets up abruptly, walking toward the kitchen.
‘No, Elle, come on. I mean I know you care a lot about stuff, but they’re not actually doing anything but being annoying’
‘I think that’s the point.’
‘They stormed RBS and spray painted the walls’
‘That building was empty, Jesus Christ Cam, you sound like a 70 year old Lord’
He took a long puff. Smoke filled the living room. ‘Fair enough. I don’t know enough about what they do, do I? We’ll take a look’
‘I’m not taking a banker to Occupy. No I’m going alone, and then I’m going to blog about it. That gonzo journalism type thing you like.’
A slight irritation in Camran’s voice ‘I didn’t major in ‘banking’ Elle – a degree in Economics is not banking. This is just what I could get. I’m a Marxist too; you know that, I just want a career, a life.’ A picture of her and Camran at Karl Marx’ grave was affixed with a RBS sticker on their refrigerator. Elleliza takes out vegetables and sits them on the counter.
‘A life, aye? This is a life – living? Working for bloodsuckers? Well, I don’t think this ‘life’ fits in with that set. I’ll go alone; you’ll probably be uncomfortable anyway.’
Camran rises, smoke still exiting nostrils, clinging to his lips. He walks slowly to the kitchen, leather loafers still on his feet. Elleliza’s chopping vegetables and popping cans.
‘Burritos again?’ He asks leaning against the door.
‘It’s quick’ Another can of refried beans is popped.
He takes another drag of his rollie ‘You seem upset with me’ he begins. Another drag. ‘What is this new thing about Occupy? A blog? I didn’t know you particularly cared about either. I thought you cared about being proactive. When we met, you were becoming a nurse. You were studying. What is this, blogging? This is the new thing Elle? Because now, I don’t know what you’re doing’
‘I don’t know either.’ She chops harder, looks at him. ‘I do know I don’t want to talk about what I’m not doing, just because I said I was going somewhere alone.’
One hand up, ‘Fair enough. I was going to be gone this whole weekend.’
‘Oh, you noticed.’ She stops chopping. She doesn’t look up. The muteness echoed.
‘I thought coming home would make you happy’ He said it again, that word, happy.
Elleliza exhaled – a trigger. She stared down at the diced vegetables, almost liquefied on the wooden cutting block. She spoke low, slowly, a bit southern from her time in North Carolina. ‘Like a dog waiting by the door for her master to return? No. Just occupying the same air… That doesn’t just make me happy. Sometimes it feels like, your just being annoying’ she continued chopping. He turned away.
‘I’m going upstairs to read’
‘You’re not going to eat?’ Elleliza faces his back.
‘Put mine in the fridge, I’ll get it later’.
On Monday, Elleliza was wearing clean pressed jeans and a clean shirt. She assumed that 9am would be the typical time for speakers, as all rallies had speakers that began early, so she awoke at 6:30. The train moved quickly, and she arrived at the front steps of the Church by 8:15. There were tents everywhere, some designer and some just military. She could tell there were people who had probably come the night before and some just arriving. Placards lined it all, with everything from a Free Gaza to Boycott Starbucks. A year earlier was when Occupy first graced these steps and were semi-violently evicted a few months later.
We will not move until the banking system is held accountable for rendering millions homeless worldwide – millions of people literally living in tents. While the rich get richer, we get dumber. Elleliza looked at this movement, which was held in the isolation of BBC reports at a tactile level. A solidarity movement which began in New York; cities across the globe pitched tents and took a stand against fiscal corruption, and it was such a unique simultaneity – technological revolution, fuelled by social networks and 3 minute news reports broadcast straight to mobile phones. Some words were spelled differently, but everyone was thinking the same way.
She thought it seemed less urgent than the missions of Ella and Liam when she first heard of it. She thought the Arab Spring held more importance – a proper revolution. But then again, Elleliza wasn’t in a tent. And the lack of combat became an excuse; she realised, to stay dormant.
She walked around slowly, looking at the stories told through handwritten signs on everything from cardboard to printing press gloss posters. She took out her camera and began taking photographs. Then she became paranoid that since no one knew her some would think she was an undercover police officer – Liam had pointed that out to her once at a rally in Atlanta over political prisoners – there were more undercover police than actual protestors. She fumbled to put her camera back in its case and heard an accented voice yell ‘Elleliza’ in the truncated way the Romance languages tended to interpret her name. She looked toward the sound and saw Zachariah motioning toward her.
‘Have you ever been to this before? Last year or somewhere else?’
His friend eyed her suspiciously, but polite, and Elleliza felt a bit loss. ‘No. Not ever. Not even back home’.
‘You know what all this is for?’ the friend asked, an eyebrow rose.
‘Yes, of course’.
Zachariah smiled, and grabbed a clipboard from his associate ‘Well, what we do, is we represent…’ And Zachariah showed her maps, graphs, pamphlets and membership cards that she could mail in. He talked about inflation, investment in Israel and celebrity endorsements. They made small talk in between and laughed about Pink Slime and other corporate chaos. And then a speaker came to a microphone on the steps. And another. And another. And they talked about suffering. In front of the marbled steps of the Church one person after another talked about how many people had been killed in Gaza, and what one could do to stop Israel from profiting. Or how many were made homeless and which Tory was pushing to double it. They talked about all the people who had Keynesian arithmetic that validated this was as good as it would ever get, and why we were here to tell them they’re wrong. And this wasn’t new to Elleliza. She had been to many rallies. She had seen the people working, and she realized now, alone, with no one else to interpret this for her, that it wasn’t the end. Not the end of growing that 28%, or the futility of fighting the 72% – because she was there wasn’t she, and she had never been there before.
And some people stopped, listened, took socialist papers and there was some interest in their eyes, or so Elleliza thought she saw.
And this lasted until 10 missed calls from Camran and darkness took over London. And then, the police politely asked they leave – as they reminded them, they had no right to be there. They had no permission, paperwork, permits.
But some of the activists didn’t recognize this paperwork as a necessary passport to be heard.
So politeness becomes hostility. ‘I have to go Zachariah’ Elleliza said, knowing her parents would want her to go, as she had no affiliation, and no people she could trust. You have to know the people you’re with Elleliza, it’s not a matter of thinking everyone is not who they say; but thinking there’s repercussions from police for being who you say.
‘Go, thank you for coming’ Zachariah tried to gather things up quickly, hurrying away from escalating tension. ‘It looks like I’m on my way too’ he laughed. ‘I have to finish with these guys – I hope to see you again’.
Elleliza caught the last Tube and was apprehensive. Nothing felt right. Above the fireplace, while hearing the angry whine of Tomas, the ‘where have you been’, she found a note from Camran:
Elle – At mums, she had a dinner. I was calling because everyone will be there. We would have ourselves. C xxx
She slept. By morning Camran was still gone, but it was a work day, so he probably dressed and left from his parent’s spare room. She reached for his void in the bed nonetheless. She rose, with no soft furry; worried she had slept rough and kicked the cat, she got straight up, no musing or brooding thoughts. Both men were gone. Her routine followed, still without Tomas, except as she walked downstairs in quest for news not gardens, he sat on the couch, in Camran’s spot, rolled in deep breathing. He had missed him, like she does, most nights. She turned on the television, looking for the listings. When she found BBC it was rerunning lead stories.
‘An Occupy protester at St Paul’s is in serious condition after a riot police officer tried to subdue a group of protestors who became hostile at orders to move from the front of St Paul’s cathedral – a similar sight to one year prior. Zachariah Marsiliani…’
Elleliza walks toward the screen. There was no photo.
Damn Brits, they never show pictures. CCTV video played, and a man with his hand up, dark hair and beard is hit on the top of his head by a baton swinging backwards, in an effort to hit someone pushing the officer while screaming. That’s Zachariah’s friend – why is he yelling…what’s wrong with him. Oh my God, Zachariah… ‘The IPCC is investigating, but it looks as though it’s an unfortunate accident’ a plastered haired news anchor looked solemn.
Elleliza looked for the phone, trying to dial numbers then redialing, until she finally heard ringing. She couldn’t speak.
‘Elle, Elle, baby why are you crying?’
‘How can you trust people Liam, how can you… they hurt them daddy’
‘Is that Elleliza?’ A faint sound in the periphery.
‘Yeah, yeah…’ Liam said to them both.
‘Hurt who?’ She heard Ella’s come in stronger, deeper.
‘Why do you, how can you keep doing this?’ Elleliza voice became clearer, to match her mother’s timbre.
‘Is someone in jail?’ Liam spoke in a sleepy tone. It was 4am in Caracas.
‘In hospital – in the hospital’ Elleliza hears a shuffle of the phones.
‘Were you close?’ Ella’s voice strikes the tympanic membrane.
‘Mom I can’t do this. Every time someone cares about something, it’s like they’re worst than criminals. It’s like they’re weaker more vulnerable. Anyone else, nothing, safe. But someone who’s really trying… Its so…’
‘Painful Elleliza. It’s painful. But that’s why you keep bearing witness. Because it won’t change, unless you move. You move and you push and you keep pushing. The world isn’t as evil as you calculated… That’s why they’re there Elleliza. That’s why they stay occupied around people who care. And we’re the most vulnerable Elle. But that’s better than being them, isn’t it?’
Elleliza knows now it’s what you have to offer that people really need. Doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t have to be anything special. So she packs only what will get her through a week. Doesn’t need the rest of it. And she folds a crumpled flyer saying ‘Occupy St Paul’s – One Year On’ into her journal, which rests atop university transcripts, a UDHR pamphlet, Camran’s constitution and some photographs.
She’s 30 now, with a duffle and without a marriage certificate. She won’t need any of it where she’s going, where ever that is. But at least it’ll be alive, active, giving whatever she has inside of her –