The story ends with civil goodbyes and the writer walking skew past the Logan Square monument with a smile slowly breaking over his face. Lesson learned, the theme music swells, possibly a Bob Marley cover or something with a ukulele.
The civil goodbyes were preceded by compliments, a bit of gushing adulation that slightly embarrassed both the writer and the man wearing the large vinyl sign saying “Psychopaths Have No Shame.”
“It’s not right. That’s what keeps compelling me,” he said before that.
He was standing on the triangular island created by Logan, Kedzie and Milwaukee as they swirl the roundabout circling Logan Square. He was standing alone, waiting for the two friends who would join him, who join him every Saturday on the island.
Another vinyl sign was rolled up at his feet, to be hung from the wooden framework he wore on his body if he wanted a change from the psychopath sign. The words “Bradley Manning” were visible on the roll.
What came before that was talk of 10 years of war built on a lie, of protests that deafened a nation whittled down to three old hippies spending a few hours each Saturday with placards and sandwich boards yelling at traffic, of “300 million Americans who can’t be bothered.”
He said that part. That’s what came before.
He looked up as he was approached. He was an older man, gray hairs peeking from his stocking cap. Men who’ve worked in their lives have a certain look. He had it. Coarse hands. Wind-burnished skin. Bad, horsey teeth, although that probably wasn’t due to work as much as to dentistry.
He seemed surprised when someone walked up. Ten years of Saturdays protesting the war, of yelling at cars and passers-by to give a good goddamn about the blood that built their world. Saturday after Saturday in the snow and sun, protesting two wars that we committed but can’t bother with now because it’s a sunny, chilly March day in Chicago, Ill., and goddamn it there are brunches to get to.
Ten years he would soon say were because he felt something wasn’t right.
The story starts like this:
“May I ask you a question?” I said after a civil hello. “How do you keep going?”