I’m A Writer, I’m A Coward

I know everyone plays a part.

But everyday I wonder If I’m playing the right one.

Caracas, 2014.

Monday. A ruby sunset peeks through the classroom curtains. I hear shouts of protest a block away. Then one, two, three shots, as a faint smell of tear gas breaks into the classroom. My throat starts itching. My stomach twists and burn. I’m retching.

I contain it. And I can taste it. It tastes like coffee and bile in my mouth. It tastes like an empty stomach and revolution.

 

But the class continues. What did you expect? A heroic deed? Stop reading now then.

I’m a writer, a coward. Not a hero.

 

We’re reading Ernest Hemingway The Killers. Such an irony. That month, 43 protesters never made it home.

But I did. I’m alive. And I’m writing this.

Coward.

Yet I always wanted to be a hero. But I just a write. Lame. Words won’t overthrow a government. No, no dialogue would, nothing but popular uprising and rebellion.

Sweat and blood. Tons of it.

That’s why these rioters in the street were the real heroes. They would grab a heated tear gas grenade with their bare hands. They would fight, unarmed. They would withstand pellets, tears, and blood. They’re fighters.

Fighters fight. Cowards write.

I’m back in 2014. A girl shrieks down the street. Now that’s enough to distract us from Hemingway’s prose. I can picture what’s happening there. Two National Police guards dragging her by the hair. They hit her in the head with the stock of a shotgun. They spit at her. They laugh.

They get up on their bikes while they touch her. They take her away. Her screams  and the noise of the motorbike both dim across the distance.

I think of my sister. Her face comes to my mind. She begs me not to leave her. But I can’t move. Her hazel eyes almost pierce me like a buckshot as she shoots:

“Fucking-coward.”

TOPSHOTS An anti-government activist is arrested by national police during a protest against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro government in Caracas on March 13, 2014. A total of 28 people have been killed and 365 injured in anti-government protests rocking Venezuela, the country's top prosecutor said Thursday, lamenting an atmosphere of "violence and chaos".AFP PHOTO/LEO RAMIREZLEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images
An anti-government activist is arrested by national police during a protest against Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro government in Caracas on March 13, 2014. A total of 28 people have been killed and 365 injured in anti-government protests rocking Venezuela, the country’s top prosecutor said Thursday, lamenting an atmosphere of “violence and chaos”.AFP PHOTO/LEO RAMIREZLEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images

I can’t take it.

“Are we going to stay here and do nothing?”

I’m standing up. Everyone’s looking at me. The teacher is looking straight at me. My legs are shaking.

“Listen to me,” He says “everyone plays a part in a war. There are different ways to fight. Want to go down there so they can take you away? Go ahead. We won’t stop you.

Want to stay here and learn how to write so you can tell this story? Then calm down, and get back in your seat.”

And from that day. That’s all I’ve ever done.

I just sit, and I write.


Back in 2014 in Venezuela, 43 people died during the protests. Several more were tortured.

I wasn’t tortured.

I didn’t die.

And we, we didn’t overthrow the government.

In 2016, things are even worse. Caracas, the capital, is still one of the most dangerous cities in the world. With 120 deaths per 100,000 in 2015 only. And our economy?

A joke. An awful one.

Yet somehow, in the most dangerous city in the world. I choose to be a writer.

It has kept me sane. It’s one of the only things I got left. It’s my weapon.

It gave me strength when my grandmother died this year. It gave me strength when I had to say goodbye to every single one of my friends. It saves me every day, it’s my job, it feeds me, it gives me a purpose.

If I wasn’t a writer I wouldn’t be able to work through the internet and earn a proper income. I wouldn’t have a drive. I wouldn’t be able to write this piece so the world can know -once again- that we’re fighting a different kind of war over here.

We’re fighting a dressed-up dictatorship of thieves and we need more voices.

So today, I’m that voice.

Today, I’ll sit and I’ll write

But I won’t hold my tongue.

I won’t be a coward.

Not today. Not anymore.

 

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