This piece is dedicated to my grandmother Terry Lyne. I would not be the young woman I am today without your endless love, and support for my ambitions. Thank you.
I closed my eyes and all I saw was blackness. I kept them shut and all I saw were shards of glass and the frothy sweet liquid seeping into the carpet. I closed them tighter and felt warm tears welling in tight crevices, bursting through small cracks, and streaming toward my ears.
My eyes had been open at one point. I don’t know how long it had been since. It didn’t matter I hadn’t seen anything anyway. I didn’t see anyone as I fled from the conference room down the stairs and into the street. I didn’t see the children playing on swings as I entered the park, or the birds singing in the trees. I didn’t hear them either. All I could smell was chlorine and the only taste in my mouth was a bitter tang. Like I had licked a Vic oden but hadn’t bothered to sallow it. I remember my face feeling puffy and swollen. The way it does when I’ve lost control and boil over, and I felt my heart, with all it had, protect the creature that lives inside of me. The one forced into a life of submission, but is then systematically provoked… then accused.
My heart had won and now all I felt was soft air cushioning my face. I could feel the cool grass beneath me and the damp earth beneath it. I let it catch me, absolve me of my pain, and support my transcendence. I could smell the dewy park air and moisture returned to my lips. Now I could hear the people passing and the children laughing. I felt the life that surrounded me and let it speak.
I opened my eyes and all I saw was white clouds in blue sky. I recalled the remarks on my hair, on my skin, how I dressed, spoke, and carried myself. White noise, I reminded myself. That's all it was. I took the malicious critique. I took a deep breath blew it to the sky and let it float away. I recalled how I was called into question. Was I black enough, was I too Hispanic, was I poor enough, to claim the history? Had I been dealt enough discrimination to experience the pain, to empathize? Questions to be answered, but there was no question. I was not white.
I held on to this and wondered why elephants were murdered for their ivory tusks, but ivory skin stayed intact, rejuvenating, prized and protected. The fair complexion. What was fair about it? Nothing.
Right now I laid in the comforting coolness of the park but I knew I had to go back, if only to pick up my bag and go home. I knew what would be waiting for me. Someone would offer a sympathetic hug. Even though I wouldn’t want to be touched I would accept it. Some would try to understand, but wouldn't be able to see how the world we share is still filtered in black and white. I’d be a spectacle until I turned my gaze on those who watched me, waiting... There would be a conscious silence, until one proud pink pout, set in ivory skin, framed with golden hair would whisper, “Why is she so sensitive?”
Because, while you and your culture are protected, dressed, in Kevlar. Our culture is stolen. Our bodies, unjustly groomed for target practice.
Photography by Gabriela Wilson