Phoebe Wright

See us

See us roll down the burnt hill, a thousand bright balls like an ad for microbead skin cleanser, coming at you in a tsunami of fruit-burst colour. The circus freaks will emerge from their disguised truck when we reach the action, with their stilts, their pogo sticks, their flaming juggling clubs. The contortionists have been told not to contort. It may be interpreted as demonic. We zorbers are the unskilled, non-agile masses. The late-teen enthusiasts, the burnt-out activists with a death wish, the aging hippies chanting their mantras. I brace against the pink plastic sides of the inner ball and I am somersaulting – sky! Rubble! Sky! Rubble! Sky! – as the AK47s chatter closer and closer.

Of course, there was a girl. A girl with piercings in her nose and fire in her eyes, who sat at the front of the Political Science lecture on humanitarian intervention, who said, Of course it’s problematic if you use violence. What if you didn’t use violence? Who said, What if some people cared enough to get killed? A girl who dabbled in circo-arts, and could hula on stilts. There was the internet rallying cry, the pledges and waivers, the tearful parents. But always, up ahead with a backpack, chatting to a muscled contortionist or a bespectacled and passionate law student, there was the girl. Who may or may not have been right. Who may or may not look up from her hoops at the cascade of zorbs, and wonder which is mine.

I’m no circus freak, no human rights lawyer, no soldier, just a drop-out in a plastic ball, which may be pierced by bullets as I reincarnate from man to statistic. But in this moment, in our tumbling fluorescent hope, before we see their faces and their guns, see us.

Phoebe Wright is a writer and English teacher based alternately in Christchurch and in Gulu, Northern Uganda. She has enjoyed taking part in the Hagley Writers’ Course this year, working on both poetry and a novel.