I’m thinking of my past, of a mansion filled with kings, queens, and rooms in which to sleep. It is a dead relative from whom I’ve had to move on.
It hurt to lose my ceiling, but now I count the sky as one. And I’m not delusional, I know my cardboard isn’t a mattress, but I still find it comfortable. It’s two boxes I spray-painted black, stomped flat, then taped together; there’s a spot in this alley that gets sun all day, I leave it there to collect heat and when I lie down at night, like now, it’s still there for me to meet; plus, the fumes help me sleep.
Usually I breathe deep, and stare at Orion’s Belt til’ it coalesces into a single star so bright I shut my eyes until daylight, but tonight it’s not doing the trick. I’m a man of my environment, and despite the darkness, the world is very much awake at this moment.
A black man was murdered by a police officer in broad daylight; despite the man himself saying he couldn’t breathe, despite the man’s dying pleas for his already dead mother, despite the protests of the crowd gathered around the scene, the officer refused to raise his knee from the man’s neck. And it turns out the murderer already had a track record of killing minorities. He is not unique in his profession; the people have had enough.
Protests around the country have almost all devolved into riots and looting of some sort; no matter if a lone actor is responsible, or the protestors, or police plants, the damage is reasonable to me. Stuff is only valuable if people are alive to value it.
The city protested yesterday, and another started an hour ago a couple blocks away. I didn’t go yesterday either. I support the cause, but have been punched too many times to go looking for trouble. I’m not the fastest runner, and sky for cinderblocks sounds like a terrible trade…
What I will trade is pride for what I define as being alive.
Comfort being an impossibility, I sit up – hear sirens – screams of ‘Black Lives Matter’ – then a P.A. system ‘CLEAR THE AREA – DISPERSE – YOU ARE ALL IN VIOLATION OF CURFEW’ – ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ – more sirens – screams…
“Hell.” I say and stand up. At the far end of my alley swat-geared officers swarm civilians inside a tear gas fog. While the chaos is still concentrated a duo breaks free and runs toward me – I hide behind a nearby dumpster.
Their footsteps stop right where I was trying to sleep. “FUCK! My eyes, man.” Says Person 1.
“Shoulda wore goggles. C’mon, we don’t have much time.” Says Person 2.
“Hold on I literally can’t see – where’d you get those from?”
“The Antifa website.” Person 1 says proudly.
“There’s an online store?”
“Where do you think I got our bandanas from? Two-day shipping for recurring customers.”
“Just shut up and pour that mil – ah – “ Person 1 sighs, “Fuck it. You got the molotovs ready?”
“Yeah but we need something to keep the fir-” I hear the shuffle of my cardboard, “Maybe they do want us to burn shit down. Someone had to have planted this here.”
If my hiding spot had room I’d hang my head. “Who cares. Let’s do this.” Person 1 says and their footsteps pound away, I hear more people coming down the alley, and the echo of a megaphone – I slip away in search of further shadows.