Tag Archives: revolution

Wednesday Writing – ‘Reflections’

Photo Credit: Magdalena Roeseler via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Magdalena Roeseler via Compfight cc


It was Friday, and that meant Mama would be working late. When the last bell rang and school let out, I had to be careful to remember to turn left instead of right outside the gate and go to Grandma’s house instead of home. I knew there’d be dinner waiting which always tasted okay even if it smelled funny, and then – if Grandma’s feet weren’t too bad – we’d go for a slow stroll to the corner of the block. She’d buy me a grainy, too-sweet hot chocolate from the stand there, counting out the coins slowly with her nubbled fingers, and she’d hold my hand as we walked home, rubbing her thumb against mine as we went.

But today, the streets were strange. Everything seemed bigger than before. There was smoke on the horizon, black like bad weather coming, and I wondered what was burning. Far away I heard the shrieking of a siren and, without thinking, I crossed myself like Mama used to, before, and then I threw a look around to make sure nobody’d seen me. But there was nobody there to see, and that was lucky. My heart took a while to calm down, though. Stupid, I thought as I hurried on. Mama would whip you, if she knew. I kept forgetting what was allowed, and what wasn’t. It changed all the time.

I saw someone coming towards me while I was still a long way from Grandma’s, and it looked so like her that I squinted, staring. I wanted to run, but I wasn’t sure – this lady was walking fast, in a strange up-and-down way, her head like a bird’s, never still. She had a patterned headscarf on, and large glasses just like Grandma’s, but I’d never seen Grandma move that fast in all my life, and I’d lived for nearly nine years, which was a long time.

‘Jacqueline!’ she called, and then I knew it was her. I ran, but I dropped my smile as I got close, and it smashed on the ground like a slippery plate.

‘Grandma?’ I asked, but she didn’t answer. Her hand shot out and grabbed my arm, and I felt every one of her fingers. They weren’t shaking now, but strong. ‘Ow!’ I said, but she said sssh! and so I stopped.

‘Come on,’ she said. ‘We have to get inside.’

‘What’s happening?’ I asked, but she turned away and hurried on. I felt a bit like our old pet dog on his lead, and I got sad, but then I swallowed it away because that wasn’t allowed. We’d had to give him up, and then we had to forget all about him. Citizens will not claim ownership of that which is not State-sanctioned was the law, and Mama’d had to explain it to me. So, I just tried to keep up.

At the next corner, Grandma muttered something under her breath and dragged me into the shadows of a doorway. I felt her trembling.

‘What’s -‘ I started to say, but her hand, soft and rough all together, slapped down over my mouth.

‘Just keep quiet, treasure,’ she whispered. ‘Come in here, and don’t look.’ She pulled me towards her and I leaned in.

‘You smell funny, Grandma,’ I whispered, pulling away. I turned a bit, trying to see, but she slapped me, hard, and I got too big a fright to even cry.

‘I said don’t look, Jacqueline,’ she muttered, digging her fingers into my shoulder. ‘And stay quiet!’

Ages went by. I listened to Grandma’s stomach gurgling and felt her breaths getting tangled and her fingers, shaking again now, stroking my head, and then I heard her praying, in whispers, using the old words. It made me feel mixed-up to hear them, like how it used to feel to have my birthday on the same day as a test at school, and I looked up at her face. She was crying, big fat tears, and her mouth bit back the words of her prayer as she stared, away from me, down the street. I saw shapes moving in the lenses of her glasses, and they looked like people running, and other people chasing, and sticks falling, falling.

And then the world exploded into screaming. I grabbed Grandma and she grabbed me, and I scrunched my eyes tight up.

‘Remember thou art a reflection of thy Creator,’ Grandma whispered into my ear, her breath hot against my cheek. I felt a warm droplet running down my face, splashing onto my chest, and I wasn’t sure whether it was her tear or mine. ‘His glory is reflected in you as your destiny is reflected in Him.’ I held my breath and let the old words wash over me, thinking of Mama. I wondered where she was, and if she was okay. ‘Remember this as you gaze upon one another; honour this reflection as you would honour the Lord.’ She kissed me, and her breath sounded like it had been bitten in half, and she dug her fingers into my shoulders.

‘Run, Jacqueline,’ she said. Her voice was hoarse. ‘Run now, and don’t look back!’

I did as I was told, telling myself Grandma was right behind me, even though I knew she wasn’t, and I only stopped to cry when I passed the crumpled hot chocolate stand. It lay on its side, still smoking from the fire that had burned it up, and the man who had poured the chocolate every week for all my whole life was flat on the ground, and in his eyes the sky was mirrored, blue and clear and perfect.


Tipping Point

Do you think there’s an actual point at which you just can’t take any more bad news?

Image: scq.ubc.ca

Image: scq.ubc.ca

I’m a bit of a news junkie. I like to know what’s happening in the world. Most mornings, the first thing I do is turn on the radio to get the early news bulletin so that I can get some idea of the shape of the day. Lately, though, all that’s been happening is one horror after another, culminating this week in one of the saddest news stories I’ve ever heard in my country, a story which will stay at the forefront of my mind for a long time to come. I’m just not sure I can take any more news which breaks me open like a sledgehammer to the chest, and I wonder if I should just stop taking it all in, for a while at least.

I know, before anyone suggests it, that I have a cheek to write a blog post like this when none of these dreadful news stories are about me directly and they have no personal impact on my life – and believe me, I’m aware of how lucky I am – but as a human being who is engaged with the world and who has empathy for her fellows, it does affect me. I have wept painful tears this week at the needless loss of life, the horrors perpetrated on children by their parents, the dreadful sorrow of those left behind after an accident, the waste of humanity that occurs whenever power structures begin to rumble into place and governments rise or fall; I’ve wept because it’s always the powerless, the average person, the individual like me, who is crushed beneath the wheels of change or between the teeth of revolution.

It makes me afraid that one day I won’t be the lucky one any more, and that one day it will come for me, too. It makes me afraid to live in a world where these things can happen. It makes me wonder what I can do, if there’s anything at all, to help.

I am a person with a limited set of skills. I can’t change the world through politics or diplomacy, or with money or influence; all I can do is put words together into sentences, and hope they’re good enough to read. But if everyone did what they could – in fact, if everyone was permitted to do whatever they could, however humble – to add their thread to the picture, then I think we’d be in a much better position. However, because there are so many in the world who are not allowed to add their voice to the collective melody, it’s even more important that all of us who can do something actually do it. I am a privileged person – free, healthy, and protected – and I owe it to those who possess none of these gifts to do whatever is in my power to make the world better for those who will come after us.

I may never be a successful writer, but I hope I’m a successful human being. That, after all, is the most important thing any of us can do.

I hope everything in your corner of the world today is good, and peaceful, and happy, and I also hope that tomorrow, I’ll be in a more positive frame of mind.

Image: welcometoourreality.blogspot.com

Image: welcometoourreality.blogspot.com