It was 1:37 AM and contrary to what she had called down the stairs to her mother approximately four hours prior, Francesca was not asleep. She hadn’t meant to stay up so late, but the rabbit hole of quizzes to find her spirit vegetable based on her astrological sign (it was asparagus) had a tendency to make time pass at an alarming speed, so it was with an epic yawn that she made to click out of her Safari window. She hesitated slightly, then refreshed the page one more time just in case there was some other vegetable-related information she had yet to learn about herself. The latest headline was enough to send Francesca’s eyebrows high enough to disappear underneath her blonde bangs. Shailene Woodley. Arrested. That had to be a joke. She went as far as to cover her mouth to keep her sniggering from alerting her parents to the fact that she was still awake at such an ungodly hour. What, besides a subpar performance in that movie she’d only watched because of her mother’s ridiculously persistent crush on George Clooney, could have possibly landed her in jail? With a pointed ignorance towards the growing obscenity of the time, she opened the article and began to read.
So that’s what it was. By the second line of the article Francesca was ready to write off Woodley’s activism as another white girl’s journey to self-importance and social media fame–a judgment she felt entitled to make despite the fact that she too was a white girl who enjoyed social media attention every now and then. Discomfort stirred in her chest as her eyes scanned the screen, sending tendrils of red heat up her cheeks. This was real. A garden of questions burst into bloom in her mind, clouding her judgment and guiding her finger to click on another article and pushing her down yet another internet rabbit hole, frowning at endless streams of information. By 2:30 AM she was so riled up that a message from the New York Times alerting her to the fact that she’d used up her 10 free articles for that month nearly made her chuck her laptop at the wall. By 3:00 she was a seasoned expert on the Sioux, who she was pretty sure she’d done a report on in elementary school but may have been mixing up with another Native American Tribe. Maybe it’d been the Cherokee. Who knew– they all sounded too similar for her to keep track. By 3:30 she was enraged at the fact that she’d only heard about the issue in the first place because of some actress who had taken interest. She was filled to the brim with ancient praise for the water and the land, frustration at those nasty Pipeline people who didn’t think of anyone but themselves, vows to never listen to those two-faced police again, and an unshakable feeling of guilt.
By 4:00 she was ready to convert that guilt into action. She was going to DO something, and she was going to make a difference. She was going to be Francesca Rollings, savior of the Sioux. By 4:10 another article had informed her that she wasn’t supposed to think herself a savior of minorities just because she cared. By 4:15 she had proudly checked in at Standing Rock on Facebook, which quickly turned into a plan to go there herself and protest and champion the cause and win. A quick weather.com search at 4:17 brought the news that North Dakota was really freaking cold, so that plan was nipped in the bud.
Francesca threw her head back in frustration and accidentally banged it against the wall with a sound loud enough to send her mother to her doorway, squinting through the dark with a mixture of rage at being woken up and worry about her eldest’s wellbeing simmering in her chest. That meant 4:18-4:19 was spent pretending to be asleep until the silhouette of her mother left her in peace to feel the intense, unshakable angst of not being able to solve the world’s problems. By 4:20 she was back sitting up in bed with the dull glow of her laptop screen assaulting her itching eyes, with Facebook’s innocent “what’s on your mind” inviting an angry rant that ended with approximately seventy five exclamation points, a link to donate to a charity that she herself couldn’t donate to because she was saving money to buy a car, and several iterations of #NoDAPL. By 4:40 she was exhausted, needed to be up in two hours, and ready to press post on her masterpiece that was going to change the world and bring justice to the disrespected Sioux people and their sacred space. She paused. If she posted now her mother would see the next morning and know she’d been up all night. What was the point of getting a car if she was going to be grounded for the rest of her living days? That wouldn’t do. With a long sigh, Francesca shut her laptop and flopped backwards onto her pillow. The entire thing was hopeless AND she still had to go to school that day.
By 4:43 she was fast asleep. Her subconscious mind roamed along plains of North Dakota where she was one with Sioux, visions of elaborate beads in bright designs adorning the insides of her eyelids. Prayers for the land and sky took the tempo of her heartbeat as her breaths slowed to deep, rumbling snores. The rush of blood through her veins mimicked the sacred flow of the Missouri River, but the swift course that roared in her ears grew slower with each breath until she was left alone with the silence and her blankets and her sheets and her the tall glass of water by her bed and the knowledge that when she awoke that water would still be there, not from the icy blast of an industrial hose, but from the peaceful stream of her sterling kitchen sink.