Riot Alone

It shakes me when I learn that simple words can summon thousands of people all across America out of their homes and out of their closets. One voice announcing one decision possesses them to break things and throw things and form a kind of mindless hive. They swarm and scramble. They riot, because something in the hive mind has been lit on fire.

But for me, it only exists on a screen. It’s like watching ants in an ant farm, or a YouTube video of a hornet’s nest. Newspapers make more money with each headline, with each shot of tear-gassed crowds.

It’s happening all over the country. New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Oakland. But not where I am. Not in Madison.

Madison remains somehow exempt from this voice. This supreme jury doesn’t reach Madison the same way as it reaches New York, or Los Angeles. No fires erupt, nobody swarms from their homes. Not in Madison.

My eyes glued to my computer screen, I watch years of imprisoned anger and rage spew out, preceded by hashtags. One fire starts another, and that one starts another. I watch that fire spread without logic or reason.

In any other city, people look out of their windows and see their angry brothers trying to raise their voices to be heard. The sounds form a broken chorus. But not in Madison.

I open my mouth, but no voice erupts. No sound. No voice. No chorus. So I step outside onto my porch; still, no voice erupts.

I wonder how far I might need to go for my voice to be heard. I step off my front doorstep, into my street, and scream at the top of my lungs. But no one hears, because no one is there.

A car passes by.

The night drips by slowly.

I walk to the bridge, overlooking the lake, and there’s no one there, either. No hearts have been summoned; no mind has been formed by fire. I scream over the bridge, and no one hears me.

So I walk to the highway, where even though it’s late, cars are still whizzing by. Each car carries a person trying to get somewhere else; they pass me by, as fast as they can. All the images and live-streaming videos of people across the country flash in my mind, and I step out onto the freeway.

I wave my hands.

If I were in New York, or Los Angeles, or Oakland, or Seattle, I would do this exact same thing, along with a hundred other people. We would all raise our hands and run and scream and wave and rush out onto the roaring highway.

But it’s just me. There’s no one to join me.

Not in Madison.

And maybe one of those people in the cars driving past me will whip out their phone, and take a video of me, and upload it, and someone in another small town will realize that I’m just like them. And they’re just like me.