Participating in a historical event, experiencing, even making history can get pretty boring after a while. There is no longer any other conversational topic: news, thoughts, meetings, discussions rotate so mercilessly around The Event it can make you dizzy, exhausted or bored, or conceivably all three at once.
Quite a few of the activists were either dizzy, exhausted, or bored. And quite a few more were sexually frustrated.
The inner circle had gathered once again in the foyer of the Portland Building after the three-piece- and polyester-suited professionals had deserted the place in order to discuss the question, What Do We Do Now. As usual, the weather made any kind of a meeting outside out of the question. Eventually a somewhat thinned-out group of activists joined them for the proposed conference, but they had to wait. Activism was obviously on the wane.
"Things are winding down a bit, aren't they?" Myrine said. She was leaning against a pastel wall with her arms folded in front of her, observing the women trickle in. Deborah was notably absent. She had finally abandoned her fling with reality and returned to fiction, starting her delayed writing project and deserting the strike. Just one more sign that initiative was diminishing.
"Really?" Diana asked. Still feeling the effects of a major case of euphoria from the publicity of national coverage, she hadn't noticed that anyone else was losing enthusiasm.
"So what's up, Lyssa?" Lily asked.
"The authorities are beginning to lose patience with us," Lyssa began.
"You really should have been there," Mercy said in an aside to Sam, who was accompanied by a camerawoman this time. Not that there would be much to film, but she had to maintain her professional cover.
"Isn't that the point?" Roxana asked.
"Well, it is and it isn't. They've been very lenient, letting us use Waterfront Park and not throwing us out of the Portland Building, but it seems to have been in their best interests to do so. Our activities are giving the city a lot of free publicity, and if the average businessman is having difficulty adjusting, tourism is booming. This month we've passed Seattle in the number of visitors and are running a close third to San Francisco for west coast cities."
"So in essence we're assisting the establishment," Carrie said.
Lyssa smiled in a sardonic way she never would have just a few months before. "It almost looks that way."
"What precisely is the establishment?" Sam asked, more to herself than anyone else. "I've never been able to figure that one out."
"On the other hand," Lyssa continued, "our public officials were not particularly pleased with the way we disrupted the Tom McCall Run."
The thinned out crowd cheered.
"And they were even less pleased with the paper doll that was burned in front of Portlandia."
The women cheered again.
"Unfortunately, it's nothing to cheer about," Lyssa said earnestly. "I think I came out of the confrontation pretty well, but they arrested a few women who they say were there and are threatening to charge them with arson."
"I can take care of that," Virginia said.
"I can give them some shitty publicity," Sam contributed.
"We don't have to let it come to that," Lyssa said. "I've worked out a compromise, if you'll agree to it, that is. The authorities are willing to grant us certain conditions if we will end the strike."
"And those are?" Carrie asked.
Lyssa pulled a piece of paper out of her handbag. "Rape education, a task force, and increased access to legal counselling for rape victims for starters. Did I forget anything?"
Carrie nodded approvingly. "Sounds pretty good."
Lyssa smiled. "Oh, and no swim suits."
"No swim suits?" Lily asked, giggling.
"At the Rose Festival."
The women cheered louder than before.
"But in exchange for all of that we've been given an ultimatum."
"We end the strike before the crowning of the Rose Festival Queen."
"But there's been another rape," Carrie pointed out. "We said we wouldn't quit unless the city was rape-free for a month."
"We said we wouldn't quit until the war of the sexes was ended," Myrine said with more than a trace of sarcasm.
"And we said it on April Fool's Day," Mercy remarked.
"Luckily," Roxana added.
"The problem is that enthusiasm is waning," Myrine pointed out. "At least if we took the compromise and quit we wouldn't lose face."
"I've had my doubts all along whether 'war' is the right strategy to take against violence," Virginia said.
"But you can't deny the success we've had," Lyssa protested.
"Just wait and see what will happen when we stop," Myrine the eternal pessimist said. "Revenge."
"Don't you think we've achieved any kind of lasting changes?" Lyssa asked.
"The concessions from the city are a good start," Myrine said. "But you should have added public funding of self-defense courses and rape prevention workshops."
"Good idea," Lyssa agreed, scribbling notes on her piece of paper.
"I learned something very useful as a Girl Scout," Myrine continued.
"You were a Girl Scout?" Lily interrupted, giggling again. Slowly but surely their relationship was returning to normal. Lily had been tentative and nervous for days, but Myrine's behavior was so above reproach that Lily couldn't possibly stay that way for long. A certain amount of tension remained, however; it would take them years to be unconstrained again.
"I was a Girl Scout," Myrine confirmed without enthusiasm.
"So was I," Lily confessed.
"You were also a cheerleader," Diana reminded her ruthlessly.
"Let's forget about that," Lily pleaded.
"Since you were a Girl Scout too, you'll remember that the motto is 'be prepared,'" Myrine said. "That's what we should be --prepared. Men won't stop committing rape until they know they'll get beaten up if they so much as touch a woman against her will."
"You're hopeful," Diana said.
"Always have been."
"Well, I still think we've been able to reach a few people out there," Lyssa insisted. "It's so much more logical for men and women to work with each other rather than against each other that they have to see reason sooner or later."
"Probably later," Roxana commented.
"So is it agreed? We're accepting the conditions and putting an end to the strike?" A hint of disappointment could be detected in Lyssa's voice, despite her efforts to arrange a truce.
"Put it to a vote!" one woman called out.
"Yes! A vote! A vote!" others joined in.
"What's the matter with everyone?" Lyssa asked. "Losing your willpower?"
The crowd answered her with guilty silence.
"They all want to get laid," Myrine said.
The silence got deeper and heavier.
"Maybe we really should put it to a vote, Lyssa," Mercy suggested.
"Okay, vote it is," Lyssa said. "How many are for ending the strike?"
A communal sigh went up from the crowd, and one by one the hands followed. A count was obviously unnecessary.
"Not everyone's here," Diana pointed out to comfort Lyssa.
"But what about you, Diana?" Lyssa asked.
"I guess I wouldn't mind ending the strike either."
"Then end it it is," Lyssa said.
Another audible sigh took to the air, this time definitely recognizable as relief.
"But it would be anti-climactic if we just gave up," Mercy protested.
"We aren't just giving up, though," Lyssa insisted. "There are the conditions to be fulfilled after all."
"But Mercy is right," Diana said. "To just end it would seem rather tame after all the uproar."
"We have to go down with a bang!" Lily said and laughed.
"Why don't we have a party?" Diana suggested.
"Party animal," Myrine complained.
"A party to end all parties!" Lily said. "A city-wide bash!"
"Walpurgisnacht," Mercy murmured.
"What kind of magic formula are you muttering now?" Myrine asked.
"I said Walpurgisnacht," Mercy replied, raising her voice a little. "The night of the witch."
"Oh, wonderful!" Lily gushed, accompanying the gush with a peal of laughter. "How appropriate! When is it?"
"Perfect," Lyssa said. "That will make the strike exactly one month long, and the authorities will have to be satisfied."
"What do witches do then?" Diana asked.
"They have orgies," Mercy replied with a wry look.
The women laughed and clapped.
"Then that's settled," Lyssa said. "We'll end the strike and have a party. War will be called off and be replaced by PEACE."
"By peace. Right. Just like that," Roxana commented sardonically.
"People Embrace And Create Equality!" Lyssa said triumphantly, a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, sister," Roxana muttered and shook her head.
"I think I'll keep teaching self-defense courses," Myrine said.