Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Another brick By GAIL WRIGHT

Years ago, before 2016, before it started, people actually did have a choice. Or so they say, the old people who no longer care about speaking out. What’s to fear now? Death will be here soon anyway. That’s their view. My grandma is one of them. She talks about it often, when there’s just the two of us.

That was the first year she could vote, you see. The first year she was old enough. Excited to go and take her place in the line at the polling station, eager to make and to mark her choice. Excited about being able to have an impact on her future. On the future.

But that just happened to be the year that the future got thrown right back into the past. Not just thrown. Hurled at a rate of knots, and laughing as it passed all those landmarks called ‘progress’ on its way. Every person who had ever worked in any small way towards equality, diversity, freedom and opportunity saw their achievements and aspirations annihilated. That was the year The Candidate ran for office.

The Candidate, who, through the power of money and the influence it wields, could say – and do – exactly what he wanted and not be held accountable. The Candidate who stirred something latent and evil and wrong in people like himself, those who had seemingly been waiting for a spokesperson. And because they were stirred, they voted. They voted in their long-dormant droves, and The Candidate became The President.

I’ve seen pictures of what it looked like before The Wall. Not many, as for obvious reasons they don’t come out much, but enough for me to glory in the colour of it all. Real colour. White, yes, but also black and red and yellow and pink and brown – oh so many shades of brown! Faces of all of these colours together in one street scene. Going about their business, working together, walking together, living together, loving together. I’ve looked at them greedily, for as long as I can, until my grandma puts them away again. It’s my safety she worries about, not hers.

Today is my first voting day. Oh we still do it. We still get two names before us on the paper. But that’s just for the sake of appearance. We know to make our mark against the name at the top. We know the consequences if we don’t. Voting isn’t anonymous now, you see. We must all be accountable. And I’m ready to do it. I’m standing in line at the polling station, in my place, knowing my place. I’m ready to make my mark.

Because everything starts with just one person. The Wall did. That insurmountable barrier that runs across our country, dividing humankind like a colour-by-numbers template, casting shadows and making judgement on our souls. And I will not be another brick in it.

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