A story from the Independent goes into a bit of detail about President Trump’s latest whim: a list of crimes committed by immigrants. A lot of people, because they have read history books, think that this sort of thing is, well, a bit fascist. Pallaquin, who has probably read some history books but absorbed all the wrong lessons, is less concerned.
The wall was flat and visible to the public so of course the Regent’s face was on it. It’s likeness was nearly uncanny, right down to the slightly off skin color.
Standing on the top rung of a ladder, with arms reaching up and a paintbrush with goopy white paint clinging to its bristles, an old woman wrote a name over the forehead of Regent’s portrait.
And another name under the first. Then a third and a fourth and a fifth. She could hear below her the whirl of small wheels and the slap-slap on shoe leather on concrete.
A young man, one in a pack of young men passing by called up to her. “Hey! Woman, what are you doing up there?
She looked down at him and he up at her and their eyes searched each other for a brief moment. She caught the way his brow crinkled at her dark skin and knobbly, gnarled knuckles and joints. “I’m making a list of people lost. My list. Everyone I knew who’s gone away.” She turned from the youths and painted another name, this one over the Regent’s left eye. A sixth name went across the bridge of his nose and a seventh over the right eye.
“Okay. Careful now.” The kids moved on. They were young and fair and fairly apathetic because of those two traits.
An eighth name went up. The woman worked all day, breaking only when it became to dark to see. She was back at it the next day. She was painting names across the broad plain of the Regent’s upper lip when the same group of young men passed by, again with the whirring wheels and sneakers smacking the asphalt. The outspoken boy from the previous day called up again. “You’re going to get in trouble, you know?”
“No,” she called down without stopping her list making even though her shoulder ached and her hand was cramping and she really could have killed for a rest. “Or maybe. Maybe they’ll jail me.”
“They’ll do more than that. And then I’ll have to paint your name up there and that’s just going to get me in trouble to.”
“Bullshit,” she laughed. “You won’t do nothing, and neither will they.”
“You do have papers, right? I mean, you aren’t from here. Originally at least, yeah?”
“Fuck you, white boy.”
“‘White boy’? I’m Alex. Come on, what’s your name?”
She paused for a moment from what she was doing then looked down. “I’m Priyam”
She turned back and began cataloging more names and a minute later she heard them leave, heard their wheels and footwear grow soft, faint and disappear.
She painted names throughout the day. So many, many names. Friends and family and shop girls and clerks and students and neighbors and any number of people she knew once and had forgotten about until now as though being on a list could erase or bring them back. She was south of the Regent’s mouth, working in the margins of his jowels when she heard a new sound, a heavier, low rumble thunder-clap kind of stomp. Priyam painted with a renewed, rushed energy that bordered on hasty and pointedly did not allow her eyes to drift down to the street.
She did not come back the next day, but the boys did.
Alex borrowed a thick, black marker from a friend who asked, “you sure?”
“Yeah, no problem. I looked up how to spell it last night.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“So?” With a steady hand reached up above his head, he wrote “PRIYAM” on over the last hanging flesh of the Regent’s chin.