The Manifest

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Chapter 1

     The masses started to gather around the scene close to an hour or two before the designated time. They came warmly dressed because the weatherman was calling for rain and came in droves with candles, eager to light up for their cause. The folk attending were of all ages, wearing their beliefs on their sleeves like a badge, unwilling to hide a thing. Each person felt secure to do so because they felt comfort with the company of others who were there for the same reason. The vigil was an exercise of their freedoms, some that many take for granted. Their right to cry, scream and voice their dissent was one each person was there to exercise in force and for the cameras. When this many people showed up, the press wasn't too far behind. Yet they kept their distance and never got in anyone's faces, a rare moment with the guys behind the camera were, to a minimum, slightly respectful.

     At first this was something Jessica did out of respect and duty for the ones she loved and lost. To her, the vigil was something she felt she had to do every time she was called upon, but these days the more of them Jessica attended the more trivial they became. The honor and significance of the event was dwindling with each experience, as many of the vigils were often booked too close together to have their own independence. But there she was anyway, defiant even to her own feelings and ready to light up. It was only one candle but to her it was a significant boycott of the war. Their ongoing petition for their government to end hostilities and follow the advice of Jon: give peace a chance. A short time ago Jessica started to view such events as a child would a household chore. Like doing the dishes, cleaning your room or raking leaves in the backyard, it slowly became more of an unwanted assignment than an event to look forward to. Something you know that had to be done despite the fact that you didn't want to do it.

     There were many times when Jessica didn't want to be there, but she always knew she had to be. She was never really given a choice; fate had made that decision for her a long, long time ago. She had lost so much, and her aunt as well as her therapist thought going to these vigils would help. They assumed being close to others who knew how she felt would be almost like group therapy. She was surrounded by many people who like herself had lost a loved one to the war. Mothers, fathers, wives, sisters and brothers were there, holding their candles and having a moment to grieve and think about what their loved ones died for. Was it really to disarm a militant nation of nasty weapons? Was it for freedom? Or was it for the no-bid billion dollar corporate contracts for fat cat contributors that were carelessly tossed around like peanuts for hungry elephants?

     Regardless for what reasons they clung to, their tears were real. Their pain was real and they used the event as an outlet for those feelings. Jessica didn't have a son - or a husband, for that matter - but she had a family had that been shattered because of the events of the last half-decade. The ongoing war on a concept had broken a lot of families and left a gaping hole in their lives. This was true, for all wars do that and this one against terrorism was no exception. Regardless of politics, everyone seemed to have a beef with the war and how it was being handled. She didn't know when it happened but at some point the vigils had transformed from moments of pain and reflection to a tool of protest.

     Still she attended, even though it felt like no one seemed to care whether or not she was there. This caused her to always question why she was truly there in the first place. Was it to be rebellious to the constant denials of her father or to show respect for the memory of her mother and brother? She didn't know for sure, but it just seemed like the right thing to do despite her own inner struggle. She knew that one day she would have to accept what happened, let it go and move on. Like one of her friends always liked to jokingly tell her: build a bridge and get over it. Good advice when you got down to it, but that didn't change how difficult it was for her to actually apply it. You could still a ton of old farts harping about Pearl Harbor if you looked around, so she had a hard time believing anyone was going to get over anything for quite some time. It was something she herself had a hard time letting go of as well, despite almost five years of talking to trained professionals.

     "Thank you all for coming," stated the organizer as they started to share their thoughts on the war and how they felt about the government for waging it.

     Jessica could see her talking, but never really paid attention to what was being said. If you've been to one vigil you've pretty much been to them all. Jessica lit her candle with everyone else and stood there in silence, looking into the flame as if the answers to all her questions were burning deep inside it. She kept looking down, unable to look all those mothers and wives in the face and share in their grief and sorrow. She had lost someone as well, but compared to them she felt like her loss wasn't as great. She felt like a pot smoker in a room full of crack or cocaine addicts, her issues being immaterial compared to what everyone else was feeling. She had lost so much herself, but could only imagine what it would be like to lose a life mate, her own children... something she herself hoped that she would never have to experience in her lifetime. She wasn't married; she was only a young, inexperienced twenty-three year old woman who hadn't lived long enough to know how these people truly felt. Because of this, she felt out of place; most of the women at the vigil were at least ten to twenty years older.

PJ Lowry

Edited: 07.11.2019

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