I laid down on the concrete, handing off a pink flag and shuffling my belongings around so as not to lose them in what could be a scuffle. The warmth of the maneuvering bodies created a blanket that staved off the cold at first. A sea of faces encircled us, chanting, whoo-ing and others bounced around through the scattered bodies on the ground, waving signs.
I asked Steve, "do I need to close my eyes?"
I wasn't quite sure how dead I should appear. Did I need to strike some disfigured pose, as if fallen in battle, mouth agape? Would I let myself be dragged limply off of Market Street? Could my 30 year old body really stand in as the body of a teenager or young adult lost in an absurd war across the globe? What about for an Iraqi child?
This was my first die-in.
Compassionate faces passed over ours, "Are you okay?" people asked, making sure we were hanging in there. "Do you have the National Lawyers Guild number?" "What's your name?" photographers asked. And, "Can you say a few words about why you are here?"
My voice was so shaky, I could barely get my thoughts together. "I would like to be part of a legacy of resistance in this country instead of a part of the legacy of war."
The legacy I referred to being the that of my family.
As the cops got nearer, the crowd thinned. Our protective barrier penetrated by sirens, the stomp of boots and the whip of the wind that is endlessly tearing through the buildings of downtown San Francisco. As if losing consciousness, I watched the familiar faces retreat from my peripheral vision, replaced with more and more gray sky. A yawning bright light that could potentially preclude a quick sequence of life flashbacks if it were a different situation. Or now. I felt the the hypothetical dying experience being confused with my somatic embodiment.
Headlines of street names were flashing on bus foreheads stalled behind the squad cars. A young photographer smiled at me through a forest of uniformed legs. We had now become differently encircled.
My body shook involuntarily on the ground, and steve and I locked arms. I imagined being encircled by friends and comrades and then, after going down, seeing them leave. Feeling your body on the earth, dust blowing around it. Who would come next? Would the save you? leave you? finish you off? What was in their minds, these people dying and fighting for an un-materialized dream of a country?
Five days ago I interviewed my mom asking her what it was like growing up in the south during Civil Rights. "It must have been really intense" I said.
"When was that exactly? Like the mid-sixties?" My mom asked. "I was pretty focused on school and working." I was disappointed when I heard this but then thought, who am I to judge? Nothing has been more consuming than my work for the last 7 years of my life. I'd like to see it to as part of a solution, and have actually really actively tried to do work that invites people in, rather than pisses them off or alienates them. But i realize how much that depends on perspective, maybe more now than ever before.
The tension was building up in the engines of cars and feet resting on brakes and bodies pressing firmly against car seats, arms clenched, jaws clenched. I could feel the inconvenience of americans precious time collecting into a shared conscious of rage towards the interruption.
I just kept telling myself, sometimes you need to GET IN THE WAY.