A woman, no younger than a mother, no older than a ghost, approached the police line. Her country was one of the many that was swarmed with protests, with picket lines, with police; that was shaking with its people's outrage and their sorrow; that was crumbling at the foundations that was built less for democracy and more for hunting grounds. Her country, a place she would always call home, had flashed as headlines in local and international news reports, just as the others had: Ferguson and Orlando, Bangkok and Taipei, Aleppo and Baghdad, Tehran and Kabul and Lahore and Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro and Cairo—the list could, and did, go on for miles.
Yet, here, in front of a police line that was, indeed, a mile long, she did not quake in fear nor did she spew hate. She did nothing but stand, her hands folded and her back straight, and watched the mayhem that surrounded her. These were men who were just doing their job - though, as her daughter had argued so long ago, many a horrible thing had happened by men who were just doing their job. Her fellow protesters, what they were against this time the woman could not tell, either yelled their chants twenty feet back or braved a prison sentence by rushing the policemen. She did neither.
Among the fires and the screams and the sirens, the woman was a quiet point in the midst of chaos. Neither the calm before the hurricane nor the rest after a tsunami; she was just quiet. Slowly, she began to walk, a strong gait to her short stride, and she gently pulled a small figurine from a frayed pocket. Her shawl, the only thing that kept her warm during the chill of the night, dipped past her shoulders, but she did not fix the fabrics’ tilted edges.
While the blockade of human bodies stayed firm, there was a tremor in a link of the chain. It was minute, barely worth a glance, but it only grew once the woman got close enough to touch the policeman. Her breath was a puff of smoke that veiled her face, but the man would recognize the tilt of those warm brown eyes, the twist of her cupid's bow mouth, her heavy-set brow, her thick braided hair, anywhere. He would, even if he were to become blind, recognize that face because it was so much like his own.
However, he did not meet the woman eye to eye, did not incline his head toward her, did not acknowledge her the way she did him. He did nothing as she came closer and softly gripped his bicep, the movement filled with sun-withered steel and old-aged wisdom—and it was as if she knew this was a bad idea, that her actions would lead to more violence. But violence was created in the name of inaction as well and she was aware that this, these few seconds spared in the middle of a desperate haze, would be the last moment before her love vanished like the young girls this protest was for. The policeman did nothing even as his comrades shifted uneasily, even as she grew closer, close enough to touch. She reached for his breast pocket and slowly unbuttoned it before slipping the worn figurine in: a hand-carved wooden soldier painted in broad strokes of red and white. With a mournful smile, the woman patted the pocket before buttoning it close.
With her newly freed hand she gripped the man's other bicep and, in the corner of her eye, caught the flash of a camera going off. She did not care that this image - her, aged with lines and a broken smile, gripping one of the men that stood between her and the ideal she stood for - would circulate across the world for months to come. She was far too concerned with eyes too much like her own, with a jaw too much like her husband’s, with her words that were lost in the air between the two. She simply didn’t care much about anything outside of those deep brown eyes.
And while, yes, the story would be relayed weeks after the picture’s release, they will never catch the words she spoke. There were no words in the English language that could express the sorrow in which she had said them and that was the most telling thing of all.
"Please, my youngest son, please. Come home."
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