Ten Minutes of Pride

Creative Nonfiction by Alina Zollfrank

Saturday, 11:03 am: We could frame this moment. It’s the best humanity has to offer. A loud procession, planned and jumbled, approaches from downtown. On the sidelines, acquaintances hug and hand each other multicolored flags and homemade buttons. Strangers nod amiably, raise optimistic thumbs, smile gently with their eyes. A little girl on the corner grins, more gaps than teeth beneath ribbon-wrapped braids. She raises a plush neon-green unicorn and bobs it up and down. Bursting with anticipation, she teeters on tiptoes.

11:04 am: We float as one mass. A riot of sidewalk color.  Small faces, aglow with glitter, push off curbs on their scooters and sail into the road, waiting for the big kids, the beautiful kids, those who are taking the stage today by taking the streets, taking the town, this early-summer morning.

11:05 am: A corgi tumbles through wet grass and sends his owner tripping over the cracked leather leash. A sea of cell phones captures a snapshot of our collective exhale. Exhilarated happiness on this grand-finale block, adopted by local businesses, preschools and parent-teacher organizations.

11:09 am: The band rounds the corner and “Dancing Queen” echoes beneath the oaks. Exuberant notes jiggle the lush canopy. Neighbors stick their heads out of old wooden homes. People beam, tap their feet, rap their knuckles on plastic hats and tambourines. They twirl flags. Raise banners. A palette of smiles. Grandmas link arms, oompa-oompa waltz in shuffle circles and we clap to egg them on.

11:10 am: The drum major’s streamer-bedecked baton blinks through the crowds as excitement builds. They’re coming, they’re coming. Then, out of nowhere, a shining truck materializes on our cordoned-off street.

Black. Meticulous. Plain. No decorations except a large adhesive American flag in the rear window. A nondescript box of metal and power and tinted windows, and it’s moving against the tide. Heading, we all realize with a collective inhale that we hold—and hold and hold—toward our children. Our rainbow-waving, lei-necklace-wearing, Abba-playing children. The truck’s straight course: the jolly marching band at the front of the parade.

11:10 am and 10 seconds: Glow-orange vests tentatively step into the road, signal with terse gestures: Out of the way! Smiles freeze. Parents grasp littles on wheels and yank them out of the road, to presumed sidewalk safety.

11:10 am and 15 seconds: One child—droopy daisy wreath tucked amidst a flood of dark curls—misses a step and skins his knee on concrete. His chin wobbles. He gets picked up by a fast-breathing parent and whisked away from the front lines.

11:10 am and 18 seconds: People inch back from the edge and begin to hug buildings. Music fades out like in a movie, and we all hear—or at least imagine we hear—a grave what if reverberating between the drum beats. We move like disoriented insects and start punching numbers into phones. A worry filter blurs our merry snapshot.

11:10 am and 40 seconds: The band enters our block and is bridging the distance—drum sticks visibly swooshing into the air, banners flapping above innocently gleaming faces. Across, a white-haired couple reluctantly lowers their We see you and we love you! sign and begins to look around for an escape route. The photo fades from metallic technicolor—everything the paint box had to offer—to subdued sepia. The band keeps on coming. The truck keeps rolling. We can’t see the driver. We don’t want to see the driver.

Silence, then –

11:11 am: Rat—tat-tat-a-tat on the snare drum, and a boisterous version of “Born This Way” booms through the cozy neighborhood. A few minutes ago, this street was all cotton candy and lollipops. Now it’s worry on wheels. So much worry that some lower their cell phone cameras and miss it when –

11:11 am and 8 seconds: A community icon jumps into the road with great ta-da! He’s 60 or 70 or 80 or eternal, no one really knows. He’s a homemade patchwork overall of colored, textured swatches. He’s sunshine in motion. He’s a whirlwind that stomps, pirouettes, shouts, Dance people, just dance! and conjures up a grand ruckus between the truck and the oncoming musical marchers. His arms are wings, purple sequined sleeves, and they invite, seduce.

What time is it? Mattie, one-man show, a blur of color and optimism, claps his hands and enchants the audience to join and clap in sync with him. So we do. We reluctantly make some noise and are hypnotized when, expertly employing his Love is love flag as a baton, he traffic-cop beckons and directs the truck to turn down a tiny alley, out of the way of our children—OUR CHILDREN—who are out in public for who they are today. Trombones and trumpets bellow, percussion roars, and here they come—here they come!—to paint the sky blue and the street rainbow and then sweep us all into one velvet jewelry box.

11:12 am: The truck vanishes. Quietly. Our exhales become audible, louder than the music. Our grown-up heartbeats start back up. We stomp, let music flood over, let joy rejoin us, hope we’ll forget. We’re not sure if we’re cheering for Mattie or the band or the marchers or the audience or for relief made of disbelief. Our kids, they will never, ever know that for about a minute, a community stood in premonition, in horror, and thought what if, and that a small, humongous man with twinkling eyes made magic and guided a misdirected soul down a dusty alley, out of the marchers’ peaceful way. Out of our children’s way.

11:13 am: The band passes us and busts out the last triumphant notes. A bright green unicorn is traded for a bedazzled streamer. Little girl and big kid grin into cameras. The corgi has wrapped his leash around a stop sign pole. Gray beards clap each other on the back. Sunhats holler I’m over here, over here. Mattie follows the band, weaves figures of eight into the pavement with his sensible shoes, waves his gleaming baton. A package of glee and peace, of lived experience.

It’s our turn. We start moving as one slow stream, ready to meet our kids, to gather, to laugh. It’s the best humanity has to offer. 

The day is not over. Take a picture.

Alina Zollfrank

Alina Zollfrank from (former) East Germany loathes wildfire smoke and writes in the Pacific Northwest to escape her whirring mind. Her essays and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Last Leaves, Thimble, The Braided Way, Wordgathering, Feral, Two Thirds North, Red Ogre Review, Nude Bruce Review, October Hill MagazinePsaltery & Lyre, Pulse, Halfway Down the Stairs, and Invisible City. She welcomes connections with other writers at https://zollizen.medium.com.