The Performance

She stood in her room, taking pictures. The young girl was planning on making a post to show her support. Black square, poster, poster, and in the last picture, a button: “I voted.” The description read: “What have you done to show your support? #speakup #showsupport.” She smiled when her first like came through. People were going to like her that she showed her allyship. 

Your hand twitches under the weight of your phone as you stare down at the post. You see the sign they worked tirelessly to create… the way it glitters. The way their sentences scream “THIS IS ONLY FOR ATTENTION!” You feel confused why your anger has transported to your fists. But you remember, fighting won’t get you anywhere other than in a cage of judgment. Does she not care? Does she think she does? You see this type of positivism everyday. You need to breathe. You need to find a way to help make a difference. It’s all up to you. Heaviness, it settles on your shoulders. The bus arrives, and you enter. It is crowded, and as you find your space, you shift. You give the bus your weight. You lean against the cold window and feel the vibrations of a bus in motion. Your eyes catch the eyes of an old woman.

The old woman holds onto the bus with one hand, and her purse with the other. Her grip is tight, not with protectiveness, but with the twitch of tiredness, and the surprise shake from sleep that happens when buses make their jolts and shudders. In between the little jolts from sleep the bus offered, though, the sleep would leak from her eyes until, from behind it, a little determination would show, like an ember in the dark, glowing brighter with the air of her remembrance around it. And then the sleep would fill her eyes again, as the train continued its slump and slump from side to side. As the hours had passed, she had thought about the possible complications; of the stations closing early, of the people that might be waiting for her. But she had done this before, she had reminded herself. She had done this before, and she dabs off the bead of sweat that had appeared on her brow underneath her cap. She glances at her purse, once again, but does not check. The bus slows to a stop and the woman gets off, still holding her purse, and enters a line. The minutes pass by, people slowly moving forward in line in wait. The ground is warm and hot, with the last rays of sun and the soles of many rubber shoes still charging it with summer heat that is supposed to be long gone, and her feet seemed to wade through it. After an hour she was finally in the building, and after another half, she was finally able to hand the ID from her purse to the worker. The worker gestures over to the open booth, and the woman selects her options, hands in the ballot, and turns to leave. She allows herself the smallest of smiles, and she leaves, purse firmly in its place under her arm. As she walks out, she sees the line of bobbing heads, waiting as she did, and as she will again. She watches for a moment, letting her hand make its way to the top of her purse, where it continued to rest. Lowering her eyes for a moment, she sees her feet are swollen and her legs are shaking. She walks back to the bus stop, swollen feet on warm concrete, and prepares herself for another long bus ride.

Abstract: “The Performance” is a short piece of fiction written by a group of students for their Creative Writing class. The class this was written for is focused on poetry, creative nonfiction, drama, and fiction. This particular piece is a group attempt at creating a piece of flash fiction exploring performative activism. We decided to create a story based on different flashes of different visuals from different perspectives, which lent itself to the group nature of the project. The process of writing this was a collaborative one, weaving our different ideas into one story and discovering the collage it formed, eventually weaving different voices even within a sentence. We hoped that the final piece would be a group portrait, painted from the different perspectives of the students of varying different backgrounds who wrote this.

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Rory Janney, Tyquan White, Betul Celik, & Alexa Shaulis