Today. August 8th. I clocked out at 12:59pm and ran like the wind to my car, going 80mph on the highway. I couldn’t get to the mayor’s headquarters fast enough.
I got off at the West Broad St exit and made my way down Marconi Blvd, slowing down a bit as I got closer to the office building, looking up at streetlights & traffic corners but saw no cameras. I parked in a spot on the opposite side of the street in front of the building and fed quarters into the meter.
He was on the short walkway on top of the first flight of stairs leading up to the front doors, sitting in a tattered lawn chair with the State of Ohio flag covering the back, the 2pointed ends flapping in the summer breeze. He had several signs in his hands:
1984 : 2014
BIG BROTHER IS HERE
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES?
THE PEOPLE DESERVE THE TRUTH
that were written in a heavy black permanent markered script on cardboard slabs attached to thin tree branches. Underneath the chair was an unidentifiable auburn canister and the black suitcase.
His face lit up when he saw me walking up the stairs. “Aww shit, I didn’t think you would actually show! Good to see ya.”
I didn’t say anything at first. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to see once I got there but there he was, looking like every stereotypical crazy bum you’ve ever seen depicted in the media. “How, uhh… how long have you been out here?” I asked hesitantly.
“About an hour or so. Haven’t been met with much resistance, or any for that matter. People have been walking by, going about their day to day. A few folks stopped to take my picture on their phones but that’s about it. But now that you’re here…” He gently set the signs down on the ground and grabbed the suitcase. “We can get this party started.”
He laid the case on its side and kneeled down in front of it and started to open the latches. I immediately started to sweat. I barely slept a wink the night before, hypothesizing what was inside. Maybe it’s a incriminating papertrail thought buried by the administration and police force? Maybe it’s photos and videos he saved that would flip the city upside down? A bomb was still a likely possibility.
He opened the case and I halfexpected a luminous golden light to shine out. He reached inside and pulled out a megaphone.
A fucking megaphone.
“Of all the things in the world…. Why in the fresh hell did you decided bury THAT?” I asked.
“I knew THEY would try to take everything from me. But I refused to be silenced…” He held the megaphone in his arms as it were a newborn baby. “And people tend to listen to you when you have one of these. Without it, all rebels would just look like raving lunatics.”
“So what now?” I asked.
“Now? The Dawn begins.”
He hopped to his feet and turned to face the street. Cars were driving by. People were walking along, even walking in and out of the office. We were practically invisible. I watched his face as he surveyed our surroundings with the intensity of a redtailed hawk hunting live prey. “The point is to thoroughly terrify these bastards… It’s necessary that they learn to fear every sunrise until the next August 8th…” he muttered under his breath, more to himself than anything else.
He then turned away and picked up the signs, leaned 1 against the chair, and walked the other 3 back to where I was standing at the foot of the steps. “Pick 2”, he instructed. I picked The Truth & Latin Phrase signs and held them in each hand. He held the Big Brother Sign high above his head and clicked on the megaphone.
“CITIZENS OF COLUMBUS,” his gruff voice boomed across the street. “OUR CITY IS GOVERNED UNDER A STRONG ARM OF DECEPTION, FALSE TRUTHS AND FABRICATION! OUR COUNTRY IS NO DIFFERENT! EVERY POLITICAL AND PSEUDOPOWER STRUCTURE YOU HOLD DEAR IS BRINGING YOU CLOSER TO YOUR OWN DEATH!”
Well. He certainly is direct, I remember thinking at the time.
“DO NOT BE LED INTO TEMPTATION BY FALSE PROPHETS WITH VAGUE PROMISES OF PROSPERITY THEY HAVE HAVE NO INTENTIONS OF FULFILLING. REJECT THE MUSHY BABYFOOD OF BULLSHIT SPOON FED TO YOU SINCE BIRTH. REBUKE THE NOTION THAT YOU HAVE NO POWER. WE GREATLY OUTNUMBER THEM.”
People were beginning to take notice. A few passerbys stopped along the sidewalk to watch the spectacle that was beginning to unfold. I glanced back at the office building and saw curtains pulled back and faces peering out windows.
“DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO DRAMATIZE AND PROFIT OFF OF OUR STRUGGLES ANY LONGER. STOP RUNNING INTO WALLS AS YOU BLINDLY RACE THROUGH THE TANGLED LABYRINTH IN SEARCH OF CHEESE THAT ISN’T THERE. STOP BLEACHING THEIR BROWNSTAINED TOILET BOWLS WHILE THEY TIP YOU WITH POCKET CHANGE. WHY WAIT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION TO CHANGE WHAT WE CAN CHANGE RIGHT NOW?”
Cars were slowing down on the street. The crowd was starting to grow larger and chiming in with shouts of encouragement. It was hard to tell whether they actually agreed or were just egging him on. Either way, he clearly had struck a nerve.
“BE THE RENEGADE MODEL FOR OUR INCREASINGLY DISENFRANCHISED CULTURE. BECOME A BEACON OF HOPE FOR THE APATHETIC. BE THE BRIDGE BETWEEN PROTEST AND ACTIVE RESISTANCE. YOUR PATH TO REVOLUTIONARY SELF TRANSFORMATION CAN BEGIN TODAY. ACTION IS MOVEMENT! MOVEMENT IS PROGRESS! ACCELERATE THE PROGRESS! ACT NOW!”
At this point, the crowd had grown from a few bystanders to a fullblown legion. The sidewalk was swarmed with bodies, all clapping & cheering along with each declaration. My eyes were brimmed with tears. A man after my own heart & ideology, he was killing me softly with speech. My uncertainty melted away. I was holding the flimsy signs up like the torches of the Statue of Liberty, pumping them in the air and engaging with the crowd.
He put the megaphone down and beamed out at the crowd he had drawn in. He set the megaphone down on the ground and called me over. “Keep the energy going. It’s only a matter of time before they call the pigs in to crash this party. Time for the grand finale.”
He walked back over to the chair. I raised the signs higher in the air and bellowed out a primal war cry, which the crowd copied, their voices uniting together in a resonating roar. I was living. The revolution I had been wanting to start for so long but had been too afraid to start had arrived and here I was, in the center of the belly of the beast. The roar started to grow even louder and I heard one person, a teenage girl in a Hot Topic Jack Skellington hoodie, in the crowd yell out “Holy Shit!” and point past me.
I turned around and saw a flash of orange. The Ohio flag was on the ground in a blaze of unglory, the familiar red, white & blue starting to char in a bellow of smoke. He poured a little more (of what I presume is gasoline) from the auburn canister onto the flame, making it burst out even more. And then stood up and started to pour it on himself.
I dropped my hands, still holding the signs, and felt them dangle by my sides. The atmosphere sharply shifted from “Fuck Yeah!” to “What The Fuck”. The front doors to the office building burst open and a whole throng of blackoutfitted security guards emerged from the inside. He emptied the rest of the canister over his body and threw himself onto the flame. A mini fireball erupted, blasting a heatwave out across the street.
The crowd dispersed in a clattered confusion of screams of terror. A security guard pushed me down the stairs and told me to “get the hell out of here.” Sirens blared in the distance.
Throughout the ages, antiestablishment protestors and nonconformists have risen in the hopes to introduce a little anarchy & upset the foundation. But things have still remained relatively unchanged. Most acts of liberation are little more than a selfimposed servitude, today being no different. My homeless messiah turned out to be little more than an unbalanced lunatic looking to go out in a literal blaze of glory.
Am I really that easily swayed & naive that I’m willing to listen to anyone? Was I just a chess piece in his twisted game? Did he accomplish what he had set out to do? Even if what all he told me was true, was anything changed? Did he even have a plan at all?
I didn’t have time to think about it. The scene was getting more hectic by the minute and I needed to get out of there.
Besides, the time was about to run out on the parking meter.