I was in seventh grade, or maybe eighth, when the girl in the fuzzy sweater told me I was cute.
I still don’t know why she decided that I was going to be her boyfriend. I was awkward and out of place. I don’t remember ever fitting in, and certainly not with the girl in the fuzzy sweater.
Every time she spoke to me, I froze up and blushed. I would sink down as far as I could in my chair. At first she looked like she thought it was cute, but it wasn’t long before she was annoyed by it.
One day, as I sat in English class, I got a hot flash. My body was shaking. I was sweating. I couldn’t move.
The girl in the fuzzy sweater asked me what was wrong, and I told her, in quiet, embarrassed tones. She told me to tell the teacher. I said I couldn’t. She got mad and said that she was sick of me.
The girl in the fuzzy sweater never spoke to me again, and I never had another hot flash.
This was one of the places I learned I couldn’t.
(To the tune of “The Addams’s Family”)
He’s selfish and he’s creepy
He’s grabby and he’s peepy
Let’s hope he’s getting sleepy
It’s Trump and family
His wife is kinda dour
Gaslighted and so sour
Was it worth it for the power?
It’s Trump and family
Slick! Sick! Small dick!
And don’t forget the daughter
She’s ready for a slaughter
Her brothers are marauders
It’s Trump and family
“It might just seem like a pointless detail to you, but it’s a symbol, is what it is.” He leaned in close to me, so I could smell the garlic and cigarettes on his breath. “A symbol of who I am. A cog in the machine. But not just any cog, oh no. A rusty cog, with a chipped tooth. It was once destined for greatness, but now it just grinds away. Dreaming of its lost aspirations. Waiting until it’s replaced by a newer part. Titanium, not steel. Steel was part of the past. Steel has lost its relevance.” He sat back, sighed, and found himself staring at where the two walls met the ceiling. I watched him in silence, thinking he was done. And then, in a long, defeated exhalation, he spoke: “It’s never a small detail to a small cog.”
My story began before I did,
Written on leather and linen,
Papyrus and stone.
I was born in the taint of the oppressor
Stained white with a fabricated purity
Invented by men
Then forced into the mouth of God
My story was hammered into drying clay
Like pigeons’ feet
Across the centuries.
My myths were chanted
Around snow-ringed fire pits
And quilled onto leaves of hemp.
I cannot deny what has been braided
Into the sinews of my skeleton.
My story began years before I did:
This skin I wear was stitched
From killers of witches
And slayers of Indians
And enslavers of Africans.
This sin was born of the false piety
Of misguided faith.
O, that I could peel this skin like a snake!
But the venom that poisons this blood
Is not drained so easily as that.
My story began years before I did
But it does not end until my final breath.
— ptkh 051517
Today, I am a hero to a gull. And probably a sparrow.
Coming out of the Target on John R, I saw a gull attacking a heavily greased brown paper bag. He wasn’t getting very far, and was clearly frustrated.
As I walked over to look in the bag, the gull flew off to a safe distance, eyeing me warily. Was I going to steal his lunch? Was I going to make HIM lunch?
Instead, I made him lunch, but not the way he feared. It was a bag of sweet potato fries, so I dumped them on the ground and walked off.
He flew back and eagerly munched his lunch. I also saw a sparrow hopping around at a distance, presumably waiting for the gull to fly off.
On one of my routes home, there’s a signpost to which has been affixed a stuffed animal and a plastic figurine of an angel with the head of a little black girl. It’s bleached now from the sun, and the stuffed animal has gotten raggedy from the weather, and the desolation of it gives me a momentary pause that my life could be worse, that somewhere someone lost a child to tragedy near that corner. Today, it was even more poignant because a block later I saw a homeless man asleep on the sidewalk, tucked into the shadow of a building. Meanwhile, several miles south on Woodward, the Qline opens up this weekend, not far from where Mike Ilitch failed to live long enough to see the opening of the joint Red Wings/Pistons sports arena in the increasingly regentrified Heart of Detroit. How many of those gentrifying hipsters drive past the homeless black men hiding in the shadows of buildings without even noticing their existence? Meanwhile, a sunbleached angel remains in testimony that the lives of the invisible and displaced matter, too.
And tomorrow, I’ll wake up white again.