Sunday Disturbance at the Palace (Dream Journal 4/95)
Sunday. Students from all over the city gather in the streets and push forward toward the central square. I am among them, but hang back toward the rear not fully committed to the demonstration. But, I am here and will march fulfilling a promise made to my comrade Magda. Late last night when neither of us could sleep, she convinced me to come and march with her.
Off to one side, Father Jerome calls for solidarity and urges us forward. We share food and water as we push forward. A hot July sun blazes down on us, and sweat runs down my neck and collects under my breasts and around my waist. My wet shirt sticks to my back. I pull it loose and flap it, trying to create a breeze.
My breath comes in pants and gurgles in unintelligible gibberish. I panic, not certain why I am here. Tomorrow, I have a philosophy examination which requires thought and study. Instead, I am carried forward, one more student protesting, protesting, protesting. I am unable to breath, and chock on the dust. Why did I promise?
Magda, whose wild black hair is tied back with a small blue bandanna, jumps up on a wall and denounces the government. Behind her, Ramon raises his fist in a powerful salute.
I don't understand her words except, "On to the Winter Palace!" She speaks in a language foreign to me. She waves a red flag and runs to the front of the marchers. We surge forward. Suddenly, I realize that it is glorious. We sing "The Marseillaise" and dream of a new world. A better world because we march. We believe in our power.
Ahead of me, the marchers halt in sudden confusion. Some sit, waiting patiently, while others mill around walking aimlessly back and forth. Some whisper one to another, "They have called up the Guard." I panic and move further to the rear. This is not good. Magda is far ahead now, and I have lost sight of her. I assure myself that she is smart and can take care of herself. I needn't worry.
I wait in the park across from the palace, hoping that we will disperse rather than push on. Disperse and return to our homes. And, our studies. Maybe, I think, I can read while decisions are being made. The books are in my pack with my food and water. I can sit here, with my back to a tree, and read a page or two. I think, yes, thatÍs what I will do. But, I am stopped by an unfamiliar sound.
First, I hear four cracking pops almost like fireworks; then, a loud wail sweeps through the crowd drowning out all other sound. I push forward to the front of the marchers. The Guard has opened fire on the students. Then, as if in slow motion, I see the flag that Magda carried, ripped along one edge, flutter over her body and her skin turns a yellowing ivory under the smirking sun. Next to her, Aaron, Ramon, and Sergei float in blood pools. I slink away, afraid that if I move forward, I, too, will swim with them.
That evening, the headline in the cities' three newspapers reads:
A Wild and Vain Fancy: Guard Restores Peace.