Like Graffiti On The Walls Of The Heartland

Gloria’s hands shake as she tries for the third time to get the damn eyeliner on. It just looks like shit, though, like everything else they’ve done. It’s all gone to shit. She closes her eyes and rubs at them with her palms, but all it does is combine with her messy hair to make her look like she hasn’t slept.

Well, she hasn’t, so no problem there.

She desperately wants to go out and do something, anything. If she can just figure out what the right thing is, they can still fix this. They can still save the world, or whatever stupid idea it was that sounded so perfect at the time. She doesn’t even remember what made it sound like such a good idea. It felt right. It all made sense.

Now she just wants a cigarette to take the edge off and an adrenaline rush to give it back. Her paranoia used to be enough to give her the rush, but they’ve been hiding for two days now and the butterflies in her stomach have laid heavy, sick eggs. Arrest warrant or not, if she doesn’t go out soon she’s going to start screaming.

She paces, then flops down on the floor and starts paging through the conspiracy books, the anarchy zines, the underground newspapers, but nothing’s getting though her brain tonight. There’s clippings from the papers, too, just to add to the noise. All the letters are running together and she’s tired of them.

Just a quick ride, she tells herself, and she’ll wear her helmet so nobody will recognize her. She leaves the building and pulls her bike out from behind the dumpster, starting it up and speeding into the heart of the city.

She’s trying to keep her eyes on the road, but it’s hard – the whole place feels so different from the one they left. Of course, they one they left was on fire, but that was different. It feels different from the place they started the damn riot. That was the goal, to get things moving, to shake them up.

The city feels shaken, and much as she hates to admit it, Gloria feels a little shaken too.

There’s only a little foot traffic, and everyone who’s out is hurrying. Nobody’s looking up. Their eyes are on the ground, and on the police presence she’s only started to notice. Damn, she better slow down. The last thing she needs is to get pulled over.

She does one lap, then a second, and then she realizes it. This is her fault. She left. She’d seen the news – people were arrested, some just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. People were hurt. People had died believing in her words. Some of the people who’d believed in her were still in jail, and they would probably be there for a while.

And here she is, riding around with her face covered. What is she doing? There’s got to be more to it than this. No, getting arrested won’t do anyone any good, but that’s not the only solution. They don’t need to see her captured. They just need to know she’s still out here, fighting the good fight.

Hiding from the good fight, her self-doubt whispers, but she guns her bike and lets the adrenaline shut the voice up.

It’s only a few minutes before she spots the perfect location. The building is empty this late, and the street is quiet. It’s a respectable business district, there aren’t going to be many disreputable people hanging out here after dark. The police are, for the most part, elsewhere. She’s going to be careful anyway, of course. No point in taking chances.

She parks her bike in a narrow alley. There’s barely room to turn around here, and there’s a chance she’ll get pinned in, but she figures it’s worth the risk. After ten minutes pass without a patrol car, she pulls a few half-empty cans of spray paint out of her bike’s storage and leaves the relative safety of the alley.

Her hands aren’t shaking anymore. This is art, and this is the message, and this is the most hopeful thing she knows. She paints as high as she can reach, and she just keeps going along the brickwork canvas laid out so thoughtfully for her.

There’s motion in the corner of her vision and she turns. It’s a car about two blocks up. Could be anything, but probably not anything.

Gloria waits long enough to sign her name, bright white letters against the dark red, and then she dashes back toward the alley just as the siren starts. She shoves the paint cans back into the empty space below the seat, almost forgetting how to make them all fit. The siren cuts through her thoughts, and the self-doubt is back, telling her what a bad revolutionary she is, panicking at everything. Running away again.

But she’s not going to let herself get arrested for tagging, of all things. She takes off, gunning it as fast as she dares. Dying a martyr is maybe less embarrassing than being arrested with a spray can like a thirteen year old, but it’s still not real high on her to-do list.

Through the park, through the suburbs, looping back around – she loses the cops eventually, thank god, and slows down to a reasonable speed. Just another respectable motorist.

He’s waiting when she gets back, all wide eyes and nervous energy and his dark hair frizzing like he’s taking an electrical shock. She could play his muscles like violin strings, if she wants, but not right now. Right now she just wants to tell him about it, about what they’re doing to the city and how are they going to fix it? She has ideas but she needs to talk them out.

He puts his fingers over her lips. She starts to pull away but he’s right – she’s desperately tired and so is he. Sleep first, save the world later.

As long as she’s not helpless, there’s still time.

Written for FairestCat, inspired by Green Day’s ‘Gloria’ for Yuletide 2009.