we’re a long time from home. in a city built of deja vus and painful nostalgia. with the familiarity of chicago. but the sun hits you like LA. sprawling salty pavement. rubber friction. how my skin smells after falling asleep on the beach.
i try looking forward but the sun asserts its dominance and my view is blocked. eyes unprotected. vulnerable. raw. squinting till it hurts. thankful for the manmade structures fighting the glare. providing me with shade. comfort. enabling me to see straight. everything is orange and the day is tired.
our aim has yet to be discovered. the purpose of us being here is unknown. but we are certain its where we need to be. we are driving right into this unknown temporary destination. we have the power to turn around. but we’ve come so far. and that would only lead to another temporary destination.
stuck at a red light. do i go forward or do i turn left? the after-glare of the sun blankets my fragile eyes. is the light even red? i want to close my eyes. but if i close them i can no longer navigate the vehicle. which way were we going again? better have your mind made up once the light turns green.
boom. green. left it is. no. too many cars in the way. go straight. wait, i’m already in the left turn lane. i look over my shoulder. untrusting of the mirrors. cars keep swarming my lane. which way is the easiest? which way has less traffic to navigate through? urgency causes panic. does my turn signal even work?
“get in the right lane, quick! now’s your chance.” we’re going forward now. and i’m not even driving.
my sister is behind the wheel. and then sirens. i hear sirens.
“you have to move for sirens,” i tell her.
but where are the sirens coming from? we’ll have to move if they’re doing our way. but they’re not. they’re coming from up ahead. so now we know where we’re going.
we chase the noise. and the noise leads us to a neighborhood.
one of those warm neighborhoods with brick houses and small yards. where children play in the street and grandparents live on the stoop. where you knock on your neighbors door and ask them to turn it down when they’re being loud. never letting a third party intervene. looking out for one another. each person doing their part in a living breathing organism. being here gives me flashbacks and flash forwards of home.
we drive till we can go no further. stumbling upon the cause of the sirens. chaos. chatter. red and blue lights. a large crowd gathers up ahead, blocking the street. i have to see what’s going on. we have to check out the scene. someone could be in danger. the police could have killed someone. it isn’t adding up. we need witnesses. we need advocates. we need voices.
the crowd grows. neighbors. children. moms. teenagers. shop owners. curious folks like me.
police come out in riot gear and infect the neighborhood with fear and intimidation. batons. megaphones. masks. bulletproof vests. steel toed boots. knee pads. masks of a coward.
rage is my antidote to their intimidation. i am not afraid. i am fuming. what are they trying to hide?
the roboclowns speak, “don’t go past this line or we will arrest you.”
what about the people who live past that line? where are they supposed to go? are they allowed to go outside? who is documenting this abuse?
“don’t take notes or we will arrest you. you are interfering with an investigation” barks the megaphone.
i’m on fire. but i comply. weaving through the crowd. down the hill. back to our car.
on my way, i hear someone shout, “praise for our boys in blue.” i feel disgusted and violated.
back at the car, someone tries to steal my bags. they yank and i tug back harder. easily overpowering their weak attempt at theft. holding my own. a female police officer sits nearby on a bench watching the whole thing. calmly. unaffected. filing her nails. not giving a fraction of a damn.
shock and frustration seep out of my pores. i’m about to burst when rene shows up. just in time. i’ve seen her before but don’t know where. she’s seen me before but can’t remember either. her hair is long and probably hasn’t been washed in days. by choice of course. we are glad to see a familiar face.
one of her comrades walks up to her and says, “did you hear about oscar?”
my heart sinks deep in to my chest as i connect the dots. i don’t know oscar, but it doesn’t matter. i close my eyes and i can see him. khaki shorts. socks and slide sandals. backwards baseball hat. olive skin. dark shaggy hair.
everyone is hugging and crying. mourning. oscar is the one they shot.