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.





it’s early in the morning. but we are late. i am late. i have to be somewhere. anywhere. not here. i desperately want to leave. but i can’t go alone. i can’t leave without them. maybe if i wait in my car, they’ll take the hint and hurry things up.

and so i wait. hoping they’ll notice my absence. search for me. their search leading to the car. my car. or at least i think its mine. they’ll get in and we can get out of here.

and so i sit. back seat. mind racing. no leg room. no head space. no room to sit up straight. no room to think straight.

waiting feels like an eternity. and waiting is an eternity. i am eternally waiting. waiting for the next thing. escaping the present. anticipating the future. living in the past. my brain is scattered. and i am waiting for the pieces to find each other.

they open the door. get in the driver’s seat. we’re ready to go. and then. the friend. takes their place. the new friend. they picked him up while i was waiting. this friend is not my friend. this friend is their friend. and this friend is a stranger to me. we do not speak the same language.

the friend asks for a ride. where to? they aren’t sure. they aren’t from here. unfamiliar with the area. they’re only visiting. and they want a ride. i am bitter toward the friend because the friend has no sense of direction. i don’t want to help them. i want to get to where i need to be. wherever that may be.

why is the friend driving? how did this happen? this is my car. are they going west? north? certainly not east. certainly not where i’m headed. and they can’t go south because we are already headed north. we can’t turn around.

i’m using my energy to fuel my car and he’s taken the wheel. he’s driving like a maniac. i can’t even see where we’re going. does he even know? his head is blocking my view. so i close my eyes and wait.

we continue north. i guess we’ll take this highway till we hit the crossroad. we’ll get rid of the friend so we can go east. and they can go west. we’ll drop him off at the airport.

when i open my eyes, we are driving over a lake. a flooded lake. people are living out of boats on this lake. i thought we were on the highway that takes us to the airport. i take this highway every day and have never seen this massive lake. has the lake always been here and i’m just now noticing? or are we on a different highway, heading into the unknown. i panic. where is he taking us?

we reach the end of the highway. and we’re at the airport. the airport is a beach. sandy and dry. and we are no longer in my car. the car has dropped us off and has driven away without us. and i don’t think it’ll ever come back.

i feel abandoned. alone. lost without my car. but i should have known. the car was only temporary. the car never cared about me. it was only a vessel. taking me where i need to be. but i’m in the wrong place. there has to be some type of mistake.

i guess i’ll wait. comb the beach for interesting objects to pass the time. and there are plenty of interesting objects here. washing up onto shore. rocks. tumbled glass. beautiful distractions.

i want to collect them. to feed this innate compulsion to acquire things. not really thinking about it. just doing. i reach out into the sand and a wave crashes over my hands. the tide is rising. the sky is misty and grey. everything is grey. even the water.

i run away from the water. it’s coming for me fast. my feet are sinking into the sand in this attempt to flee. the ocean wants to swallow me.

but i escape. just in time. i get off the beach. through the bushes and on to a gravel road. i hear noises. distant clatter. some. bodies shuffling in the bushes. i thought this place was deserted. but they live here. on the fringes of society. chased away from the concrete structures. how many are there? what will they look like?

they never come out of the bushes. i go in. a hidden colony. is this my new home? i hope not. i don’t look like these people. they don’t look like people. they have no identity. only a few still look like people. the new ones. the ones who have been here longer have white hair and greying skin. and the oldest ones are completely grey. hairless and naked.

the longer you stay here, the more you blend in with the grey. nobody seems to notice me despite my appearance. i’m sure i stand out. i am the fresh meat.

an alarm sounds. drums beating. echoes muffled by the sand. somehow, we all know where to go. what to do. lay down and close your eyes. don’t you dare open them. don’t you dare move.

the drums pound through my chest. we’re waiting for someone or something terrifying. waiting for it to come out of the bushes and inspect us. this creature is hungry. i’m so overwhelmed by this new environment that i have no room for fear. i am surprisingly calm.

the creature comes in through the bushes. he has arrived. the moment we’ve been waiting  for is here. he has long white hair and is wearing a blue uniform. slowly pacing through the crowd. a mist falls down upon us.

our eyes remain closed. curtains shut. a screen commanding me to clap my hands is projected onto the darkness of my eyelids. i obey. i hear others clapping along. but not everyone. not the person next to me. they are silent. they are still. and they go limp. i hear a thud. they get dragged out of the bushes by this creature.

we can open our eyes now. everyone is so glad it’s over. so glad he is gone. i look around and notice that the others seem to be traumatized. but not me. perhaps i’m in shock. too much information coming at me at once. no time to process it. or maybe i’m immune.

we gather in a circle as a woman hoses us down. urgently washing the mist from our skin. white fuzz begins to grow from their faces. soft white fuzz.

am i growing this fuzz? what does my face look like? did i get sprayed? am i even here?