May means different things to different people. In May, memorial day happens to honor people who have served this country through military service. May is a great time for weddings. May is when the flowers start blooming and the bees start pollinating. But May 1st is a different kind of day. May Day in America has a history surrounding worker’s rights. This month’s creative nonfiction post is an ode to May Day.
The FM radio broke about a year ago. I don’t know why. My car’s a 2001 Kia Spectra and it’s 2015. That’s probably why.
KNX1070, a Southern Californian news radio program that ran on AM, was playing as I drove home. I had work until 5 p.m. I tell myself that work was the reason I didn’t go. I don’t tell myself even if I went, my busted hip and knee would have kept me from marching.
“Let’s go to your eye in the sky and get the latest on Traffic in L.A.” the male radio host said, over pronouncing every word through what sounded like a tight, forced smile.
“Well, there are a lot of freeway closures in L.A. today due to the march,” came the reply from the CBS News Helicopter.
“Thank you Denise. Are there a lot of people marching in L.A. today for the fight-for-fifteen movement?” The inflection of his voice was supposed to make him sound interested, but the over enthusiasm in his voice just made every question and statement that fell from his lips feel false.
“Oh gosh,” she started, “like 200 people are so. You can’t miss the flag they have. It’s a big flag. They’re leading the march with it.”
I texted my friend at the march asking how many people were there.
“About 1,000, maybe more” he replied.
I knew the news lied, but this was an astounding difference. I went online when I got home and looked at pictures on Twitter. I saw thousands of people gathered in peaceful protest.
It wasn’t just a Fight for Fifteen dollars an hour. It was a fight against the unfair immigration laws in this country. It was a fight against the LAPD for spying on the members of its city and for the continual violence and harassment against its citizens. It was a fight for freedom from marginalized people across L.A. that needed a venue to voice their grievances with the city they lived in.
It was May 1st, 2015. It was May Day.
Thousands peacefully marched in protest. Some carried cameras to capture pictures not just of the protest, but at the obscene amount of police along the route, waiting for people to step out of line. The masses moved together and chanted for justice. While the causes were many, the cry was the same – “On May day, No Justice Delayed.”
– Amanda Riggle
“What are you looking at?”
“The green world,” he said.
I looked up at the painting on the wall. A sparse line of trees was on fire, lit up from behind by an orange so bright it glowed like the sun. Underneath the trees was brown earth. Half the canvas was dirt. And all of it covered in a pale green, sickly fog. “The green world,” I repeated.
“That looks like smoke and radiation.” He pointed at the trees in their haze. “And we’re in the forest and it’s coming towards us.”
We were at a tiny Mexican joint at the edge of downtown, sandwiched between two separate auto repair shops. A woman walked up to our table carrying a whiteboard the size of a large painting. Her glasses were the same shade of brown as her skin. She set the whiteboard against the table across from us, so we could read from it, and pointed to a list of specials.
“I’ll leave this here for you,” she said. “Let me know when you’re ready.” He thanked her, and I watched as she sat on a stool in the kitchen and began rolling silverware. I looked back up at the painting.
“Where are the other trees?” I asked.
“What?” He was on his phone again, thumbing through pictures of dishes, colorful and plated, cooked by the chefs he followed. He studied each with intensity. I reached for the phone, pulling it from his grip and setting it on the table beside me.
“It’s a forest,” I said. “But these are the only trees.”
“The others are gone already,” he said. At the bottom of the canvas, the artist had brushed a lighter shade of brown, forming small spirals, across the dirt. I wondered if these were the missing trees and how many people’s eyes skipped right over them.
“So we’re just waiting—waiting to die.”
“Yeah.” He smirked.
“I didn’t paint it.” His smirk turned into a smile. He went for his phone again. I stared at the painting until the brown on the canvas started to match the brown on the walls of the restaurant. Until it became almost comical, up there next to a plastic cactus and an advertisement for cheap, Mexican beer.
“Maybe we’ll be saved at the last minute,” I offered.
“No. We won’t.”
“Maybe it’s just the sun rising.” He was still looking down at the phone. I was standing in the forest, right at the edge, and could see the blaze coming. I counted tree rings, burying each year.
“No. It’s not.”
– Melanie Figueroa
Do you have any stories from the May 1st protests around the U.S.? Or maybe just a story about an interesting day you had in May? Share them in the comments below!