by Colette Coen
I watch her standing there. She had been working with the local schools for the past six months, discussing and planning; choosing and preparing. They put pictures about it in the local paper to get the community’s support. The remit was to bring the children closer; break down sectarian prejudices and produce a message of hope. Their theme: no more divisions.
I’ve seen her type before. They think they can make a difference. She thought the children would understand each other better because of her. You could see it in her equality smiles as she handed out the paint pots and brushes, I know, I was watching. You could hear her thinking that the kids would stop seeing those who went to a different church or a different school as the two-headed monsters they really are.
So here I am, keeping my distance, as she looks at the scattered bricks of the mural. Each brushstroke intended to melt the walls that divide. But what she doesn’t understand is that those walls were built over years to protect and retain; to control and restrain. They are not easily demolished. They are our walls and we won’t give them up without a fight. She didn’t really care about her stupid painted wall. She didn’t nurture it the way I nurture mine. It only took a sledgehammer and down it comes. And she cries over it, like it means something.
Colette Coen has just completed a Faber Academy course and is working on her first novel.