(ed. Originally published November 10, 2013 – here!)
We found each other with a conspiratorial wink – our alliance affirmed. We spilled our secrets deep into morning, sparking at the resin in a stranger’s bowl. Under a sprawling canopy, amidst the snoring corpses of this futile left, we whispered the names of our ancient heroes – Malatesta. Berkman. Goldman. De Cleyre. Parsons. We shared a cigarette you had expertly rolled. Everyone around us was asleep. Or dead. We found each other as neighbors, unzipping our tents together each morning. Inured to the sartorial zombies shuffling past us to their offices, we’d lament that first hateful light of the day. “Fuck work,” you’d grumble. Then go, anyway. Returning drunk from other worlds, jobs, meetings – we’d reconcile at camp – outside our homes, cursing the bongos together. Or loving them. Screaming maniacally into the night, either way. We found each other in line at the toilet. Unprepared for a wait, we both went barefoot and overexposed. We arrived as strangers, but became comrades huddling together against an Autumn chill. “This bathroom is occupied,” came the reply to our final, plaintive knock. That joke was old before the first person ever said it aloud. We found each other in a large circle. There were forty of us there; our arms interlocked, our hands clasped tightly in front of us as if in desperate prayer. You wondered aloud how the hell we had gotten there. “Who gets arrested on purpose?” Not us. We muttered our quiet regrets through vinegar-soaked bandanas, our woe lost to the whirling helicopters overhead. We’d seen them try take the park – to try to hold that little space – but they were too few. We joined them first just to stare down that phalanx of cops – because where the pigs don’t want us is where we want to be. Just like that, we were trapped. An aging hippie kept reciting overwrought poetry, so we belted out the chorus of ‘Solidarity Forever’ together to drown him out. The chorus was the only part all of us knew. The battle between our repetition and his recitation proved a bigger struggle than the one he put up when the pigs finally pried him away. He hardly resisted. We were almost glad to see him go. We were the last subdued. We found each other tangled together in a puppy pile. The pigs were twisting your foot. I screamed every time they did. It felt like my own foot was being twisted. I think that’s what solidarity means. We found each other at a secret meeting for some secret action. Everyone there was so solemn and serious. The organizer welcomed us as “the best and brightest.” Then spoke of armbands. Security. A new camp, free of the freeloaders. Their discussion turned to the tickets they’d distribute to prove people had worked – tickets they’d need in order to get fed. They plotted their occupation like incidental fascists. Then you raised your finger. When it was your turn to speak, you denounced them all – excoriating everyone in a righteous rage. We found each other on the ListServ. You had written a rambling manifesto about the CIA, the FBI or some other, alphabet soup agency you were certain they both worked for. You wanted to meet me, but you needed to find a safe place first. When we finally got a chance to meet, you wrote everything out to me on a notepad, despite us being alone inside of your van. “Certain this car is bugged” was the first phrase you wrote. You wrote so hard, you nearly tore the paper with the pen. I half expected you to eat that first page after you had finished scrawling on it with that trembling hand. You didn’t. You wrote more paranoia, but some of it made perfect sense. The last note itself read: “they’re too pretty and too smart to be hanging out with the two of us and not be getting paid.” I’d eventually learn you’d normally have been right. We found each other that day it rained, trapped under a tarp together for hours, listening in on a conversation – like two NSA spies – as a libertarian and Sovereign began falling slowly in love. We found each other in a bedroom, in a crowded meeting you doubtless don’t remember. You and a partner were languishing beneath the sheets in an oversized bed that dominated that space like unchecked, white privilege. For the first hour, I didn’t even know you were there. Your name had, as yet, only been whispered to me with a reverence oft-reserved for the dead. When you emerged groggily from beneath the covers to finally speak, I felt – for the first time – a totalizing sadness at the impermanence of life. When I looked in your eyes, I saw painkiller prescriptions. But the joy you all share reminds me I’ve often been wrong. I hope I’m wrong. We found each other after meetings, through meandering conversations that always seemed to end too soon, no matter how late it was. We found each other trapped between a chainlink fence and a skirmish line, tear gas already hanging heavy in the air. You had been busily clipping away at it with snips before I arrived to try to tear it down. Our numbers grew fast when the acrid smoke thickened. Then, like a failing dam, the fence finally burst and we poured over it in a torrent toward freedom. We were unstoppable – and in that moment – another world was possible. We found each other handcuffed to a pipe together in a police garage. Left alone – the two of us – strangers far behind enemy lines. We felt forgotten. Our conversation itself was an intricate dance, each of us hesitant to talk, neither of us knowing if the other was a cop. You’d ask me something and I’d only respond tersely. I’d ask you something and you’d barely nod. Wary of any topic that might possibly implicate us – the spell was only broken when we gushed about our cats. We found each other at Social Services. We were both applying to get food stamps for our first time. Each beset by our shame, we sat next to each other as they “taught” us how to write a resume. We hung our heads, too embarrassed to talk too much – speaking, at last, only when they asked us our names. It was hard for me to ever forget your subtle, Caribbean accent – harder still to forget your distinctive, whitening dreads. The day you first spoke before the assembly, you told everyone about those forty, proud years you’d worked as an electrician – and then bravely confessed the shame of that one day we’d only recently shared. I was so happy to see you there, with the rest of us, I quietly cried. It wasn’t until then that I knew I was finally in the right place. We found each other after the raid, huddled together in an abandoned intersection beneath blinking red traffic lights. The entire city was ours. Many among us knew each other by name, some of us – only as faces that we recognized and could trust. I’d never been so happy to see you – there with all of us. All around, a thousand strangers were shouting out their ill-conceived plans. “Let’s go back to the camp,” one voice roared. “Let’s take the freeway,” another. Hurriedly, we exchanged whatever intel each of us had. All rumors. Speculation. You got a call from someone who said they were kettled near the concert hall. “We have to get to them – to combine these marches.” I nodded eagerly. “We’ll draw the pigs away from the camp,” another comrade agreed. A hundred fingers twinkled; the quickest consensus I’d ever yet seen. I was sure this group could do it. I still thought we could do anything then. We found each other on a rooftop, chain-smoking cigarettes. She was yours and hers and his and his and I think his, too. I could never be sure. But what does it mean to be “someone’s,” anyway? She was letting me sleep on her floor instead of being out in the cold. Whenever you came by, we’d sneak off to that resplendent rooftop – where the entire city itself flickered like fluttering little fireflies beneath us. What should’ve been a brief, smokers’ excursion often became a reticence to return. You would wax philosophical. Sometimes, I’d have to pretend to understand even half of what you had said. You were kind to never let on if you knew. We found each other long after the fire had already died. Back then, you hadn’t even been anywhere at all near its warmth. Somehow, we tell each other – we’re sure we’re related. Somehow, despite this, we’re sure we can fuck. There’s a lot going on now, maybe too much – in fact. To be honest, I’m unsure if I’ll come out intact. But I hope if I do – if that fire ever returns – you’ll be there beside me to watch as it burns. We found each other too soon – it turns out. In those heady days, after the raid, we had a lot of big ideas. Rolling actions would culminate in a General Strike. If we ever doubted it, we never said so. Everything had changed and we were determined to never go back. But time makes liars out of all of us, it seems. Slowly, our conversations lost their luster. After MayDay, the ordinary – always insistent – reasserted itself at last. All of our plans became less exciting. What was once talk of Chiapas, or training a militia, staying off the grid, eviscerating liberals, an upcoming action, doing shit – became complaints about work, mere survival, navigating friendships, and fights with your wife. We went through a lot of shit together, but you’re gonna have to go through this next shit alone. I love you, but her poison kills all that it touches. We found each other sitting in the last car. You were the driver. I was on “comms.” It wasn’t long before we had an escort – more pigs than I’d seen since the raid. I relayed this into the walkie-talkie. “Just so you know, uh… we have lots of pigs following.” A black militant chided me, “no shit,” crackling her response. Despite an inauspicious start, it felt like our plan was working. When the caravan stopped at 41st & Central, we were probably a half-mile back – so many cars ahead of us in the procession. By then we both had to pee so bad, we’d stopped talking – having to focus all our effort on not pissing ourselves in your car. We scrambled on solo missions to find a bathroom. When we returned, I confessed something I hadn’t yet told you. I’d actually met you long before all of this. In a club. Where you danced. When I told you, in my sheepish way, you laughed. You thought I was silly for not having told you long, long before. There’s a million stories like that between us now. I hope there are at least a million more. We found each other when you handed me a paper. You were always on the periphery, handing them out. I’m pretty sure I’m going to leave this city. I can’t figure out why you haven’t. If I don’t, if I stay here, I know I’d be lucky to end up like you. The truth is I’ve never had all that much luck. We found each other on the Playa. You took me aside and whispered, “you’re security culture is bad.” I laughed. I looked at the endless desert full of all of the fucked up dreamers tripping out on privilege and I was sure you were joking. You weren’t. We found each other after a heated argument. You said tersely, “I’ll be at the General Assembly.” I said, “I always am.” I lurked around the fringe that night, chain smoking cigarettes – staring hard into every unfamiliar face. Your emails always said, “sent from the heart of the revolution,” but we’d never met. Toward the end of it, a harmless-enough looking guy in glasses and a grin ambled up to me. Without a word, you gave me a hug. We found each other every night at camp. I’d steal you a tomato & mozzarella sandwich from work, because you don’t eat meat. We saw some shit together. It all seemed so fucking significant, didn’t it? I didn’t know anyone when it started. I don’t think you did, either. I always thought you were shy and aloof like me, but every time you had to step up, you did. Like there was nothing to it. Then, Covergirl. But you handled even that with a radical aplomb. If there’s one thing I miss about the camp, it’s you. We found each other splayed out on couches, our supine bodies intertwined, huddled behind velvet drapes deep within that cavernous, Queer bar – the one place where we all felt almost at ease. Buying each other round after round of watered-down shots, we raised our fists to every one of our comrades’ spirited toasts, sang our hearts out to all our rebel songs, and plotted the fucking revolution – the way it should be and hopefully will be again.