In the Air Tonight
Hi. I lose my literary voice for weeks at a time. Well, it's always there, but somehow finding the time to write the words really escapes me most days. However, I have to write this or it may threaten to silence me for good, because certain things have to be spoken on.
There's so many crazy things happening in the world and I know that it's always been this way. I often joke about no longer watching the news since our current president has taken office. While all along, I have the news playing in the mornings as we get ready for work and school. Mainly to listen to the weather and traffic report and then the real sorrow squeaks in and I overhear it; such as, children being separated from their parents at Immigration for months at a time or maybe forever, or the state of our government and the underlying racism that brews in every state in America. Or how about black people being shot and killed even in our own backyards for obeying rules, or running, sitting still in our cars, for not signaling when making a turn, for keeping our hands up, for running home, for simply wearing a hoodie and posing a threat just because we were born in this beautiful brown skin. Black people all over the United States are being gunned down by police officers while wearing body cameras. We all see it. Almost every last one of us. We see it in the news, or on social media, or in the paper and when all else fails, there's good old fashioned word of mouth. It's a scary time in these streets. The scariest sometimes are the stories like a 10 year old boy going missing while swimming and is found days after he's drowned. The one that is truly plaguing me though, is the story of the 15 year old boy who was stabbed and hacked to death (with a machete) by a gang of young boys in front of a Bronx bodega. He was literally dragged out of the store and murdered. The worst of it, is that it may have been a case of mistaken identity and it was all caught on camera. All of this has my heart so achy and it's more than just the fact that I have a 14 year old boy of my own. How can a mother sleep?
Which brings me to tonight. At approximately 1:15 am, I was awakened by a very loud outcry. I live right off the East River and it's pretty quiet and calm at night. All day really, so you can imagine that a young woman's screams were piercing. I sat straight up and listened for more. Everything stopped in my quest for that one distinct sound. Then again, there was systematic screaming. I tried to decipher if it was a cry for help. I ran to the window and scoured the street with my eyes. My warm palms lay against the cool glass of my partially opened window,... my forehead too. I appeared crazy; I'm sure of it. I only saw parked cars. Still sleepy, I tried to regain laser focus. The screams continued. I quickly scanned to see if I was the only one looking out. I was terrified. My hands were shaking and my heart threatened to leap out of my body. Surely, she was dying and I had to do something to let someone know that I can hear you. I heard her loud and clear. It was pure distress. Still, I saw no one, but the screams continued. She wasn't saying help, but that is what it sounds like to me. I yelled through my window guard into the dark summer sky, "HEY!" More screams. All I could think to say was, "HELLO! Do you need help?" Finally, I saw her. She was a young black girl about two hundred feet in front of and below me. One block over. The outdoor parking lot awarded me a clear enough view and still I couldn't make out actual details such as hair and clothing. As quickly as she appeared, her figure disappeared and then there was another of a young black man. He slammed a car door and then walked to the other side and slammed the passenger door. I was holding my breath. Was she inside? I scolded myself for not paying better attention. What would I do if I had to give the police an accurate account of what was happening? I yelled out once more, this time at him, "HEY!!!" (as in I see you...kinda). I realized that she wasn't in the car at all. He called out to her, "Baby... Baby..." this threw me a little. I couldn't understand what was going on at this point. I ran to another window in my apartment. A room where I had the lights off, which made no sense when I could have just turned the lights off to begin with. Now when I searched with my eyes, I saw them playing what looked like an unnerving game of chase around a row of cars parked on the street below. She was ducking down and I wondered if I should call the cops, but now a days you never want to be the person to call the cops on young black people prematurely. As things can get out of hand quick quick. I waited and sure enough, their figures came together and they were talking. Just then, below me a Police car cruised through my block with the high beams on. The flashing lights were swirling but the sirens were silenced. I wanted to yell, "Go that way!" Instead, I just stood in a state of panic that I hadn't felt in a long time.
Eventually, the two figures slowly walked away together and although I was relieved, I was equally as annoyed at her crying wolf. No one ever thinks about how the witness feels. In the few moments after the horrific screams, I sat rattled. My thoughts were swirling like a hurricane. I wondered how the parents feel at Immigration, when their kids are taken away, how passengers have felt when the driver gets shot right next to them, how it feels when all of us watch something terrible awful for the first time on the news or social media, how that 11 year old boy felt when his 10 year old brother disappeared into the waters off the shore of Long Island and how those witnesses (the two nurses in the background that walked by or the people in the bodega) felt knowing that a 15 year old from the Bronx met his death in a matter of seconds just a few feet away by machete.
It is really all so frightening. However, it is so important to see it. That's what tonight taught me. In the best case, nothing will come of it. In case something does come to fruition, no matter how awful, it is so important to see, feel and speak on it. This is our world. Even though it is not in the best shape, we have to be vigilant enough to stand up look into the night and yell, "Hey! Do you need help?".
O N E L O V E.
J A S