Jordan Dotson

The Protester

In spring he felt raindrops pinging his scalp and swore no typhoon could move him. The next week he realized the sun still shone. It was just an A/C he discovered, rusty and dripping and splotching his sign and he swore again three times as loud. Who has money for repairs in this town, he said aloud to the one-eyed flower salesman.

That summer he broke his toe, then kicked the curb with his good foot until he was certain it would never crumble. Fall was a great season. He fell in love that fall, with a strawberry-shaped mole on the chin of a girl who worked in 7/11. She disappeared by winter, of course, when he was arrested twice, but at least they gave back his sign.

It was an early Monday when his father died and he decided to take the week off. The local policemen all shook their heads at the empty space in the sidewalk, but he’d show up again, they knew. And so he did Monday at 6AM, when dawnlight fingered the sootiest seams in the city. Show up, he did. Just the same as always. Just like he'd never left, as summer rained rust water right into his mouth. It was tangy and fresh and a good year to be angry, he decided.

Then came the autumn when they didn’t get the vote, or maybe the second, or third. But one thing for sure, that was the week when he ate half of nothing at all. The students left bowls steam-hissing on the curb, and he just watched and listened. Then passersby kicked them over. When he signed himself out of the hospital, he saw his own face on T-shirts and signs and flung fresh noodles at the crowd. How quickly you forget, he told them.

May came and he checked his watch, wondering how it could be so cold. His breath fell and shattered on the ground and his teeth clattered off-rhythm. Then he caught his reflection in a camera store window and felt so much marvelous pride. Truly, truly, a fantastic beard. That day he chanted twice as long and loud. When the Observatory declared temperatures a record January low, he tucked his beard in the nape of his coat and blamed it on rental prices.

Spring Festival always made him cry. Then, during Spring Festival, he realized he’d forgotten how to cry. It took him till summer to remember.

Flowers were growing in the median when he found himself young again. His arms were strong and his feet nimble, and he yanked the spring blossoms up carefully. He wanted to preserve the roots, to make himself a tongue-red crown. If he couldn't have freedom, he could at least be a king.

He knew it was a Saturday when the schoolboy stole his sign. Eucalyptus husks scuttled past his feet, scritch-scratching on the concrete as he found the playground empty. He slid down the slide three times, but none of them worked. He remember how he loved to sleep in on Saturdays.

At 5:14 one Tuesday morning, he coughed up blood, as was his right. And when I was young I saw him. He sat beneath our window. And he was the story we told whenever we needed to be scared. Because we told stories then. We had to. They were all we had. Stories and dreams and visions.

Jordan Dotson

Jordan Dotson is an MFA candidate at City University of Hong Kong. Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Jordan has lived in China and Hong Kong for ten years and is published far more widely in Chinese than English.