Nevertheless, by late afternoon, tents have begun to nestle into the spreading limbs of the great Oak tree in front of City Hall. As far as I could see, those tents were empty, but a few dedicated protesters lingered nearby, answering reporters' questions. One young man sat playing his guitar; another slept.
The lawn was once again fully exposed to sun, and other than a few barely yellow squares where tents had been, none the worse for wear. Indeed, in some areas, the grass looked somewhat lusher than usual. Children were running across the green, arms stretched out like wings, chasing after pigeons that when not leaping startled into the air, happily pecked the grass, enjoying the hayseeds left after the removal of the hay previously laid down to protect the lawn.
All was peaceful, but something was missing. I could feel it.
A screen tent nearby held a single bookshelf stacked with loaves of bread. None of the loves had been sliced. A young woman with vacant eyes twirled about inside, her arms twisting great wide circles, above, below, and behind.
Bees, she said. This tent is filled with bees.
I could see no bees. I must have smiled or even laughed because soon she was outside the tent, her arms windmilling at even greater speed, inches from my face.
Beware, she hissed, beware of bees. They're everywhere. Go away, go away, go away.
Not wanting to be hit by her flailing arms, now twisting closer above, below, behind my face, I hold her quietly I like bees, I'm not afraid of bees, but either she didn't hear me or didn't care what I said. Her arms moved faster and ever closer to my face. When I stepped back, she stepped forward. Suddenly, a young man came and put his arms around her, stopped her circling arms, held her tight, and put his mouth against her ear. She's our friend, he whispered, looking straight at me. She's just taking pictures. She cares about what happens here. There are no bees, no bees, and if there were, they'd be honey bees.
He rocked her back and forth, smoothed her hair, and smiled.
I'm sorry, he said to me. She means no harm. She still hears the explosions, still sees lights flying by, thinks the invisible sparks she sees are bees. She still smells the smoke. He paused. She's lost her balance.
Balance gone . . . and trust. These are things that disappear when the night explodes to violence and the ones who should be helping -- the public servants, the men in blue -- are the ones with the weapons, the ones exploding the peace. Then, there's no where to turn except around and around and around.
Keeping his arms wrapped around his friend, the young man gently turned until they were both facing the tree and away from the great lawn, away from me. I must have said something, but I don't remember what. Whatever it was, it was inadequate. As I left the plaza, I found this sign lying on the pavement.
It, too, had been lost.