A crowd of about 20,000 carrying banners and posters and signs and umbrellas had assembled at Waterfront Park for the rally. Police were everywhere. The enormity of the crowd was beyond anyone's wildest imaginings; Portland hadn't seen such a demonstration in a decade. The city was on its head and having a hell of a time.
An impromptu stage had been set up in the park, and Lyssa, Marty, Deborah and Mercy were already there when we arrived. Roxana was not participating--she said she was developing an abhorrence of mass movements. Lyssa had the glint of purpose in her eye, sharpened by success. She also had a fittingly melodramatic sign reading "Advance with rage unsoftened!" which she was holding upside-down while she tried to adjust a microphone. Marty was assisting her humorously while Deborah looked on. Mercy and her two boys were standing nearby and chatting with Deborah.
"Hero! Hi!" Mercy said and gave me a big hug. She introduced me to Deborah, who was cool and humorous, but also sincerely interested in my travels.
"You were travelling alone to all those places? Greece? Egypt?" Deborah asked. To my amazement, I thought I detected a hint of admiration in her voice.
"Well, not all the time," I replied. "But basically, yes."
"Maybe you would have something to contribute today too," Deborah suggested, nodding in the direction of the microphone. "You must have had a lot of interesting experiences."
"Luckily, male violence was not one of them. But I did have quite a few close calls." At the thought, I couldn't help laughing. Deborah and Mercy looked at me strangely. "I've developed a lot of strategies for ridding myself of unwanted male attentions," I explained.
Deborah chuckled. "You'll have to tell me about those strategies sometime."
"Be more than happy to." So now I was chummy with celebrity too. I had not only returned to Portland at the right time, I had the right friends. With no investment of time or trouble, I found myself automatically in the inner circle, on the outer fringes, perhaps, but close enough to have all the advantages without paying the price. On the edge of thirty, after enough adventures to last me a lifetime, I liked the view from the sidelines -- it's better on the nerves that way.