Edit: Final version may be different upon publication
The line is wavering. People are afraid. There’s a voice ahead that calls for everyone to disperse. The heat is unbearable. The pressure moreso. At a moment of confrontation, the tension is immediate and fear takes hold. The strength begins to slip from my fingertips. A sweat trickles down my brow.
My heart is racing. I begin to fear for my safety. My experience disappears, replaced by hesitation and doubt. I question my integrity. Slowly my voice is cracking. I choke. I swallow hard against the lump in my throat. There is a cold that creeps over me, like the pit within my guts.
But I must remain vigilant.
My conviction must be unwavering. I must not surrender in the face of adversity. No, I will endure. By enduring, grow strong. That which bleeds is alive. Breathe. Channel your strength. Remember the impulse from within that guides your actions. Feel that inside, replacing anger with passion, fear with hope.
But I must be determined.
Disperse! Disperse! They charged a kick line at Stonewall, let them make the attempt again. Give me the boot or the cuffs or both. I will earn my links proudly. I have fought and spoke out for my freedoms and my community; for that my honor is assured, can you say the same? Let them ride me into the dirt that I should stand again to confront them!
But I must not be afraid.
I close my eyes. The anxiety is terrible. I can feel the colors tug and pull against my grip. I feel close to letting go. I begin to grit my teeth. I breathe slowly. Center. Focus. No second thoughts. Only actions. The crowd is moving. The asphalt shakes beneath our feet. I stand there in that sea of faces, drowned out by their chants and slogans. They are leaving me behind.
I hear the fear in their voices, see the tiredness in their eyes. It’s raining. It’s snowing. I’m close to home. I’m far from it. The feeling is familiar and yet always new. No more peaceful action. No more contemplations. When push came to shove and shove came to fists, endure and by enduring grow strong! The time has come for confrontation and I am there once more, standing in that mob, facing death and oblivion and persecution.
But I must, no, I AM prepared.
I am not that scared, ignorant newcomer.
I am not the boy that I used to be.
The words hang from my lips. My eyes dart across the sea of faces. They spit and spew and hate. One man is mocking my posture. His words are empty, meaningless. I see them raise a cross like a declaration of war. My heart is racing. Adrenaline fills my veins.
There is no glory in this. You will not be remembered for your actions.
There is no benefit from this action. You will not do this for the sake of wealth and standing.
But you will not fail in your station. You will not doubt or even think of the consequences.
You will only bleed the earth like the others before you and in time learn to love it.
I breathe. I live. I speak the words. See the look of surprise in their eyes now, their confidence disappearing! I shout and scream the words that turns heads and echoes from within:
Hold the line!