There was a moment today, where I panicked. See, Erica Garner has just passed away, and as people wished me a Happy New Year, I found a special, strange (projected?) sort of callousness in their gazes.
Today, in my life, for all intensive purposes, I had a good day. I went rock climbing with my partner. Had a pretty great burrito at Del Taco (Cali steak guacamole if you were wondering). The sunset was beautiful. I made plans for the future. I even made a breakthrough in my understanding of crypto- (hyper?)currency and the concept of a financial flood of sorts, during the death of an obsolete currency.
That of course, is beside the point. Because all of the events aside, as the night drew closer, and my awareness of the now ending year came to the forefront, black was the color that was in front of my eyes and mind. The song “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” by Nina Simone pictures with almost surreal clarity, how I felt going shopping for simple ingredients. Keenly aware of the color of those around me, without an ability to turn off the 24 news reel in my head of present-day black lynchings.
The thoughts, ‘Could I trust this person to save me?’, ‘Would they look me in the eye and shrug?’, ‘Would they call the police on me, just because I was here?’, ‘Can I trust them to leave me be?’, ‘Am I safe here?’; they ran through my head at a pace so quick I couldn’t react to them. So I kept it moving, raising my chin higher, every time that fear began to coil in my stomach, my movements increasing in unsteadiness as I hurried through the store. My body seemed to scream to me that the faster we moved, the faster we would be away from the danger. The silent, confused stare. As if I was a racecar everybody was simply waiting to crash, intrigued in fact, that I had not already, the way I was conducting myself.
And then, suddenly, the face of a black woman waiting for me at one of the counters. I was, in a word, relieved. A part of me that was holding in the words my soul was screaming at that empty stare I seemed surrounded by. At least, my lungs seemed to whisper as I exhaled, I am safe in this interaction.
I fumbled my keys to the floor, accidentally ran my cart into her counter, and I left my glove in the basket, all the while flashing a sparkling smile that highlighted my obvious sense of ease and inner peace (read: /s). And she nodded, flicked her eye in the direction of her manager that was giving me an overt “I’ve got my eyes on you look,” then said “how’s your day today?”
In that one moment, I felt myself rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of my self-deception, from some emotional sunken place. I realized in that moment between the seconds that since her heart attack, subsequent hospitalization, and finally, passing, Erica Garner’s face has been in the forefront of my mind.
I didn’t know what to say in that moment either, but I wouldn’t lie, so I said, “Girl, it’s been one of those days. She nodded, pursed her lips, kept checking out my items with a sympathetic smile, and asked me about nose ring.
Now, having returned home, listening now to the chaotic “Moanin’ ” by Charles Mingus, I find myself pressed for time, like a deadline I feel coming for an assignment I didn’t know I had been given. My mortality, my blackness, my mind I feel, numbed, as though I had been wading through icy, leaden water. Every moment, dense and slow.
What better thing for me to do, than to listen to jazz music and weep?
I have rarely, even in my own mind, let myself grieve properly. With every passing, I feel a bit of my heart crumbling away, and instead of trying to heal it, I think that I must bury it too. Deaths are a time for others, I think to myself. Be strong. Let your smile be radiant. For them.
But here I am, listening to jazz music and weeping.
And it’s so lovely to finally just, weep.
Just in writing this, I have gone through so many different emotions. Different traumas, personal and global alike, the memories of which pass in front of my eyes like fireflies in summer. They blink, and then they are gone. The weights I was carrying were also made of loves lost. And it is such a bittersweet thing to let go of all that we have lost, even if it is needed for our own emotional, mental and spiritual survival.
How am I to live without you, Trayvon Martin?
How am I to live without you, Sandra Bland?
How am I to live without you, Mike Brown?
How am I to live without you Tamir Rice?
How am I to live without you Alton Sterling?
How am I to live without you Korryn Gaines?
How am I to live without you Philando Castile?
How am I to live without you Eric Garner?
How am I to live without you Erica Garner?
And yet here I am, still here.
…The point I’m making is, I feel quite sad right now and I don’t want to do anything but drink hot cider and watch hokey movies from the sixties like Barbarella that make me giggle.
I am sending my love to Erica Garner and her family, to all of the other black people out there also in mourning, and to that cool checkout counter lady that ran damage control for me while I was dancing terribly close to a panic attack.
Y’all give me life. My love to you. ♦