Well, this one is based on a song some of you might know
Where do we draw the Line?
Mark was sitting at his laptop again, checking his emails. Since his country had closed its borders to all travels two months ago, this was the only way he could talk to his girlfriend. She was living in a different country, about one thousand miles away. They had both known that this kind of a long-distance relationship could be hard, but neither of them had expected this development. Luckily, he had seen her in person three months ago, not long before the borders had been closed. He had been to her country, because by that time she had been pregnant with his child for about six months, so they had agreed that the travel would be too stressful for her. Yesterday, he had only heard from her brother, telling him that she could not talk to him via messengers because she was currently in hospital. However, he had promised to keep Mark informed via email how his girlfriend was doing. Today, there were two emails; the newer one with the subject ‘Check this one first!’ and some images attached. When he opened the images, his heart skipped a beat.
Obviously, they had been taken in a hospital. They showed Mark’s girlfriend looking at the camera with that smile he loved so much. In her arms, she held a small child which was wrapped in a towel and which he assumed to be hers. No, ours, he corrected himself. Checking the second email, he found this to be true. There was a bit more information about the little girl and a line reassuring him that both the girl and the mother were fine. He went back to looking at the images of his girls, memorizing every detail, like the little hand that was sticking out of the towel in one of the images. He was fascinated by its perfection like every time he saw a little child’s hands: The tiny fingers with their tiny joints were always a wonder for him. To know that this was his child just made that feeling stronger.
The happiness this had instilled in him made him want to share it, so he got up to visit his best friend Eric. Just before he reached the door, however, he remembered the dusk-to-dawn curfew that had been put into effect this week. Nobody was allowed outside their houses from 6 pm to 6 am anymore. He wondered what the government would think of next, power-hungry as it was. Pushing this thought aside because it was likely to spoil his happiness, he called Eric instead to tell him about the emails. Eric was happy for him, although he seemed somewhat busy. When Mark asked him about this, he simply said he would tell him in person the next day.
What Eric told him the next day was more than just a bit alarming, yet it seemed like the right thing to do. He had talked about the recent laws passed out by the government and asked how much longer the people were going to take that. Mark’s answer that he himself did not feel like putting up with it any more at all led Eric to tell him that there was going to be quite a sight all over the country in a few days and that he should get himself a torch.
Three days later, Mark watched from his window as hundreds of people marched through the streets long after nightfall, everyone carrying a lit torch, making the whole city join that dance of flames and shadows. Asking himself if this really was the right thing to do and wondering if the police would be sent against them was what had kept him from joining the demonstration. Then he remembered how the recent developments had influenced the things he wished, so he grabbed his coat and the torch he had bought two days ago and went outside.
Watching the sunset the next evening, standing in the place in the suburbs where the demonstration had been stopped, he asked himself what they had achieved. The police had been sent against them and had been waiting here, intending to stop the demonstrators. They did stop, but it had taken some bruises and medium injuries on both sides. And nobody had gone home before all the torches had burnt down.
Now, however he was standing in this place alone, wishing for a cool breeze to blow away his worries or at least the smell of failure, but there was none. He wished for somebody to tell him that it had not been for nothing, but nobody was there. He felt incredibly alone and further from what he had wished for than ever before.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps. He expected them to belong to a policeman coming to tell him to get home before the curfew. The voice he heard the next moment was much more familiar, though, and it said something very different from what he had expected.
“Yo. That was quite a night, don’t you think?” Surprised, he turned around to look at Eric who stepped up next to him, a pleased smile upon his face.
Mark’s answer was not as pleased as Eric’s smile, though. “Yes, you could say so. But I doubt that we achieved anything. They won’t cancel the curfew just because of this. And they’re even less likely to open the borders again.”
Now it was Eric’s turn to be surprised, “What? Do you want to tell me you haven’t heard the news today?” Then he went back to grinning and handed Mark a card while he continued talking. “This little piece of cardboard says they did.”
After reading the words ‘Boarding pass’, his own name and flight information for a flight to his girlfriend on the same day on the card, Mark had troubles making out Eric’s next words. “This hasn’t been the only protest of this kind last night. There were protests everywhere, the biggest ones in the capital. The even called in the army there. Bad luck for them, the troops turned on them instead. I think we’ll have new elections pretty soon.”
Although his legs were feeling weak, Mark had a few different questions. “Did you pay for this? I’ll have to make that up to you. But I have barely enough time to pack clothes for the trip. And how do I get to the airport?”
Eric’s grin grew wider as he answered them one by one. “Yup, was me who paid it. Don’t worry about owing me anything, though. All I’m asking in return is that you find your peace… and maybe that you find enough time to go for a few drinks with me each time we meet again. Concerning your last two questions, I’d appreciate it if you could stay upright until Pete arrives with his van. You can break down after sitting down in it. He went to your house to pack your stuff while I bought the ticket and should be here any minute.”
Sitting in the plane a few hours later, Mark was happy. He did not know what exactly tomorrow would bring, but he knew that he was going where he was meant to be. He also knew that as long as he had friends like Eric and Peter, he would not have to worry about much. This must be what being free feels like.