- June 29, 2023 12:51
By Beatrice Diane Bartolome
Orange hues illuminate the dark sky—clouds of smoke snuffing out the bright stars tonight. As I stand a couple of feet away from its source, the familiar but pungent smell of burning paper hit my senses. I watch with clenched fists and gritted teeth as they throw book after book into the burning pile. Stories—pieces of people destroyed in the name of propaganda. They gut buildings of books that told a history they try so hard to rewrite.
The fumes were making it hard to breathe, but I couldn’t move, as though heavy chains were weighing me down. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this unholy cleansing. My heart had almost seized its beating. A million words were getting erased right in front of me. A million memories burning into dust. A million souls getting torn from their peace. A million souls torn from their peace. A sea of blood draining and all that is left? An empty piece of land, ripe for gentrification.
I could have lingered indefinitely, enveloped in unshakable sorrow, mourning the vanishing of the last ember of hope—unable to nurse the sores and wounds on my body for the ones that were now forming in my soul. I could’ve cemented myself in that place and time if it weren’t for a flash of bright pink catching my attention. I could pick out that specific shade of magenta from anywhere.
Then there they are, a group of students that once interned at my publishing house, wrapped in the colors of the revolution, and in their arms are books covered in ash so carefully held. How weren’t they caught wearing such bright colors? I’ll never know, but perhaps they preferred that. They embraced their role as the rosy-colored lighthouse amidst a vast, foreboding sea of red, fearlessly illuminating the path for those lost and confused. Unfazed by the potential dangers they might attract, their strength and determination endure because they were far from helpless.
When they finally noticed my gaze, they flash me knowing smiles. Through their exhaustion, they manage to reassure me with such a simple gesture. One of them, a tall girl, cocks her head towards an alley. An invitation. A hand stretched out. A way out of this nightmare.
As I cast one final gaze upon a burning legacy, I muster the resolve to step back and embark on a path towards a brighter one. A surge of hope fills my chest—the kids are alright. I think they're more than alright.