You’re holding the newspaper in your hand as if you plan to strangle it.
Why do they tell you these stories of black boys dying if no one
plans to actually do something about it? Why must they storm
your mornings with this? Are they sick?
The last time a white woman clutched her purse in your presence
you nearly punched her. You nearly told her how that shit stomps
your heart. You did nothing. Black fist paralysis.
You remember what your friend said the other day,
about the service, the new gift of manufactured amnesia,
the intravenous deliverance of eternal sunshine,
how they give you pills, you’re out cold and they sneak into your house to hook up a computer to your brain and erase whatever you wish. Two weeks later you saw him prove it, as you both watched your favorite movie and he burst out laughing at the punch lines
both of you had for a decade known by heart.
You know there was an age at which you knew nothing
of the ramifications of brown skin. You don’t remember what
age it was, but you want it to be now. Now. Now.
The pills they gave you are in your hand. Your lights are off.
Your watch blinks. They’ll be here in an hour.
How many days has it been? You don’t know for sure but you
haven’t picked up a newspaper in three weeks. The headlines
are confusing; they seem like a foreign language.
It’s July 4th, and you don’t know why everyone picked today
to light fireworks, but you’re falling in love with the sky.
It feels like you smile too much. No one smiles back at you honestly.
They’re warding you off. You don’t know what they’re ashamed of.
Your cousin is staring at you incredulously, after you’ve calmly told
him you don’t know Malcolm X’s birthday. His hands bite your shoulders
as they ask where is your pride?!
You get a phone call about your cousin being beaten by cops. Your first question is did he have a weapon? Was he assaulting someone?
Was he on drugs and out of his mind? You never ask if his skin
was too dark that day for somebody’s mood, you never ask if he’d
been pulled over for being too safe of a driver. It never occurs to you
to ask anything like this. All you feel is pain, for one man being
harmed by another man. There is no history to complicate the
impulse of compassion.
You’re at the nursing home, seeing Grandma. Her caretaker kindly
tells you that you and she share the same smile. Like something
in your heart has lifted up. As if this is no longer the world where
your lungs belong.