The Red Room (Poetry and Stories)

Black Light

I want to calm down.  My belly is on fire; my ribs vibrate with each heartbeat.  My fists hurt, the pain of my rage soaring up the length of my arms.  I take a step back, not because I’m prepared to run, but because I’m prepared to fight.  I understand where that leads.  I don’t want to die, not like this: humiliated.  Suspect.  Black. 

“I said freeze motherfucker!” the cop roars over the battle drum in my ears.  “Get down on your knees and put your fucking hands up now!”

I take another step back.  My wife gazes at me across the dinner table.  Her smile is radiant, and I take pause at the odd phrasing of black light.  She is a black light in the face of too many injustices.  My children look at their father, my boy with his dreams and admiration; my daughter, for whom I wish all those things society dictates are not for her. 


Black Lives Matter, do the right thing. Illustration from 2011

I take another step back, aware it is my last as the officer lunges for my throat.  I’m choking, my words lost in a confused orgy of coughs as I grab frantically at his wrist.  He has his gun to my head, and he’s screaming at me to comply.  He notices my hands clutching at his wrist and he lets go, taking his own stepping back, speaking hurriedly into his radio.

“He’s going for my gun!” he lies. 

He aims.  Between us there is a second when we share a glimpse of eternity.  I hear no thunder, and I feel no lightning.  Instead there is a weightlessness.  It feels like flying.  My wife smiles from across the table.  She reaches out to me; I can never touch her again.

I sense rather than feel the asphalt.  I’m trying to breathe.  I can’t breathe.  Why won’t he let me breathe? 

My field of view is inundated with light, a white monstrosity consuming whatever remains of reason.  There is a cacophony of sounds; of sirens and tires; of exclamations and tears; of demands of ‘why?’  I feel myself being turned over, cold metal on my wrists.  Light and noise fade until I am blind and I am deaf. 

I made it out. 

There’s nothing left to feel.

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