by Zoe Shaw
Jem tied her wiry hair back with the torn elastic that she’d been wearing on her wrist for months. As she pushed a stray ringlet behind her ear, chips of paint fell off her hands and reached for the mug of tea that was dangerously close to her dirty cup of watercolour in colour and consistency. String-tearing guitar strums from her radio tuned out the yells from the street below. She could ignore them. Still, she stood from her wobbly wooden chair to go to the window.
Jem knew the café across the street had some vendetta against the transgender community, but she didn’t see the need to do any more than avoid buying anything there. The rioters on the street in front of her apartment disagreed. A row of police officers blocked off access to the café that might not stand for much longer, judging by the abandoned Molotov cocktails that lay discarded on the curb.
“Bigots!” A woman’s scream drew Jem’s eyes straight to the young blonde with the tattoo sleeves and cut-off shorts. The police officer who pulled her away had his arms wrapped around her bare abdomen, so Jem couldn’t read the words that were painted there in red. She thrashed and kicked, but the officer’s riot gear protected him from harm. Her legs were dripping with Silly String and mud, and Jem felt a pull toward her door in an involuntary yearning to clean the mess off the woman’s legs. There was a fine line between worshiping and despising the woman on the street.
Jem hurried with paint-stained toes to her bedroom to find a pair of matching socks to yank herself into on her way out the door to join the rioter.