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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

underfoot (rare air)



I took a long walk on our last day in Vada. The baby was sleeping next to N, curled up on top of the sheets as a breeze moved the light around the room. E was passed out on the couch, her cheeks just pink from the sun. Cameras in my bag, I headed for the pine forest that ran along the beach. The smell of sap and smoke and salty air came up to me. People in bathing suits were passed out on blankets, face down in the afternoon as children played quietly. A boy stared at me.

The water was as blue and clear as a postcard. I waded in, my shoes slung around my neck and felt the sand dancing around my toes. It was a moment to drink in, to take all of that rare air and hold it inside for as long as possible. I did not know when I would stand in the ocean again, and it was three years ago the last time I did this.

The vacation had not been an easy one. Viruses, allergies and bad directions had snagged us at every turn. We still sipped cold Vermentino late at night, on a tiny balcony. We still laughed and got sunburned, as the baby painted her face in olive oil somehow getting spaghetti into her mouth. We still got out of Moscow, past its cold wet summer, past the headlines, past the gates, past the traffic.

I headed back into the forest, and then along the main road. Here, an empty amusement park with rides frozen in time, here a sign by the road promising wine and olive oil, fruit and preserves. I take it of course, as cars spit gravel as they pass, as a sky crammed with black birds opens up on my right, as a pair of horses nuzzle a fence on my left. I walk for some time, thinking of them still sleeping in the room, still breathing so lightly as the tiny spots of light dance around them.

And then I understood it was time to head back.




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