I left the Y, where I have been going for three days now, learning to lift weights again. I left early because the personal trainer, whom I like very much, had promised me a list of exercises that would guide me around the large gym floor. Then she didn’t send it (or, she said she did and I didn’t get it). So there I was in the gym wandering around trying to remember what she said to do next. Was it this machine? Or that machine? They all look alike but are significantly different. Anyway, I left early, about 3 pm. I was on the subway when I checked out my phone for messages during the two hours I had been in the gym. There was a message from Charlie Welch or ACT-MA, who said that was going to be a rally today at 4:00 pm. I had an hour. By that time, I had maybe half an hour to get home, get whatever I needed for the rally, and get back into town. I couldn’t do that (I usually give myself an hour and a half to get into town or to get home.)
Anyway, I ran into the house, stripped off my gym stuff and tried to think clearly about what I needed in town at a rally. I found my rainbow flag, which I bought two years ago and then never used at Pride because I had seizures both holidays after I bought it and so didn’t go to Pride. I asked Courtney if he had a safety pin. The flag is too large to use without a pole and the police say that nobody can go to one of these rallies carrying anything that might be a weapon, i.e., a pole. He didn’t have a safety pin. (I was going to wear the flag like Batman’s cape.) Then I remembered a very large, very gaudy pin I bought for Courtney when we were in Provincetown in July and which he hated. I wasn’t very fond of it myself, but it was big and it was a pin, and I thought it might be right for the flag. So I got flag, pin, phone, ipad, leather shoes, and went into town. It had been raining off and on all morning. I was wearing the flag and a leather, broadbrimmed river-boat gambler kind of hat to keep the rain off my head. A car coming toward me with four women slowed, the woman in shotgun frantically rolled down her window and stuck her head out and said, “Love your look!” That set me up.
Then a guy saw me, grinned, and stuck up his thumb. When the bus finally came, and I got on, I walked down the center aisle, and I realized that people were looking at me and were liking what they saw. Walking down across the Common, I came on a group of teenagers—late teens early twenties. There was one young man who looked at me, then stuck out his thumb, then called to me, grinning, “I respect your flag.” His group all grinned and nodded.
But it turned out the rally wasn’t at four. Courtney called, and we met at Parish Cafe and had early supper. I left at 5 to go back to the State House to see if the rally had ever happened or was about to happen. In the meantime, I found that the web was now saying that the rally was supposed to happen at 6 or maybe 5. Depending on which website you believed.
I crossed the Public Garden, then the Common, and walked up Beacon Street toward the State House. I asked a woman to take my picture (now on Facebook). There were only about 50 or 75 people there, all lined up along Beacon Street across the street from the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, holding up signs and chanting for the passing cars. A comedown from the 40,000 who had been there for the counter-protest to the Free Speech (and Nazi) rally a month ago.
But people noticed my rainbow flag. A woman, resting in a chair, her husband beside her playing a bongo drum to give shape to the chants of the ralliers, introduced herself and complimented the flag. They seemed to understand the point. It is the same point that National Gay Liberation Front made after Stonewall: all oppressed minorities can gain their freedom only from learning to work together. It was a belief widely broadcast in the sixties by a book, The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon. It is because of this book that so many young black leaders of the civil rights movement went to Cuba. So, I thought the rainbow flag belonged at the middle of a rally for immigrants. A reporter there was asking people why they were there, and he seemed to avoid talking to me. It may have been my leather hat or the rainbow flag. He may not have understood. I didn’t help matters, when I inserted myself in the conversation and said, “I would add that we, all of us, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dreamers, who have made our country so much better than it would have been without them.” But more to the point was a conversation I had when leaving the rally. Forty or fifty yards down the hill from the State House, I became aware of a young woman walking beside me, down the long ceremonial promenade toward the edge of the Common at the Park Street station. She was lovely, and she wanted to talk. She asked me how my day had been. I said that it had been wonderful. I sketched in the issue of the confusion about the rally and whether it was going to happen or not and yet I was glad that I had hung around. I asked her what she had done today. She said she had not gone to the rally because today was the first day of her college classes. Her first day of entering college. (So, that meant she was 17 or so years old.) We talked about that a little. She said she liked my flag. She also said she really liked Courtney’s pin that held it all together. (Because of her I will always wear that pin with my flag.) Then she asked me how long I had planned to come to the rally. And how long I stayed at the rally. She wanted to know what I had done at the rally. I told her I shouted a lot. I repeated some of the chants, and she smiled. And then she said, “I want you to know how brave I think you are.” Apparently she thought it was dangerous for me to be there at the rally wrapped up in my flag. And then she said, “How brave you must be to take time out of your day and to come here and spend an hour and a half to help people.” I said, “Oh, but this is for me too, because we are all immigrants here and we are what has made America what it is.” I thought she was a Dreamer, but I didn’t want to pry. She went on to talk about my helping people who were not like me. I said if she said anything else I was going to cry. As we parted, she said she hoped I would have a wonderful remainder of my day. She wanted to know what I was going to do, and I told her I was going home where my husband waited for me. She told me, very seriously, “I hope things go well for you.” And then I wished her well in college and that all her days would be good for her. I told her I loved her. We parted, and at Tremont she went to the left, and I went straight into Winter Street and never saw her again. I came home, where, since I got here, I’ve been writing this to you.