This is literary fiction. But we can dream.
The young woman emerges from the podium to loud applause before heading to the exit of the large hall. Everything about her reeks of rigidity and righteousness: straight shoulders, clenched fist, long brown braid, and taut body all sync with the bitter fury of her message. With calm wrapped in anger, she spells out the coming reality of a furious future like a viper ready to strike. The sneer in her mouth dances with the scowl in her eyes.
Is the closing applause one of gratefulness for her message or for the fact that she has just finished?
Few expected Greta Thunberg to be this powerful … or this vicious. Although the petite and plain-looking teenager from Sweden has long been celebrated as a formidable advocate for climate change, her speech at the United Nations on Monday let loose the anger of an innocent victim who has been tortured far too long. Her bearing says it all: “Enough is enough. This is a matter of life or death and I don’t care any more what you think or whether you like me.”
The brightness of her glowing magenta blouse is the only lightness in the room.
A few minutes later, while descending the dark stairway from the stage to the vestibule, Greta happens upon a tall, stocky man whose fanciful blond hair outshines her own blouse. He has arrived early to the hall, walking through the crowds the way he walks everywhere – charging imperiously like a lion on the prowl. Although he hadn’t slowed for the 180-degree turn on the stairs, he abruptly halts at the glimpse of her thin frail legs from a half flight above.
Though half his size in both width and height, the toughness of Greta’s bearing apparently spooks the man, who looks at her wide-eyed from a few steps below. It is just at this moment that her father Svante rushes forward to protect her daughter, now more famous than he, a celebrated author and movie producer. Caught off-guard by people rushing up the stairs, he looks aghast at a burly man sporting a long red tie on a plain white shirt and charcoal suit who stands frozen in his tracks while her daughter says, icily, “Hello, Mr. President.” With her startled father struggling to navigate the growing crowd, Greta continues her path to the exit, bypassing Donald Trump without acknowledging either his status or his stature.
“Oh my God!” exclaims Svante, placing a tender hand on Greta’s shoulder. “Did you see the look in his eyes when he saw you?”
“No, I just wanted to get past him as fast as I could without giving him an opening to go off on me the way he does everyone else. It was like the stairway was filling with toxic fumes and I just wanted to escape.”
“Well, you certainly startled him!” says her father. “Of all the faces he has ever displayed – charming, contemptuous, dismissive, innocent, vitriolic, abusive, whatever – I’ve never seen him with that look…”
“What do you mean, Dad? What do you see?”
“Terror. True terror. He’s scared!” Then, with awe in his voice, he continues, “He’s scared of … you!”
Greta pauses to smile before moving to the exit.
* * *
“David said to [Goliath] the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. ‘” [1 Samuel 45]
“And a little child shall lead them.” [Isaiah 11:6]