I want you to be angry
but your anger scares me
You are not overly sensitive
but I have been sensitized
to ideas that aren’t there
to violence and black men’s arms
and ripped muscles strangling
the air from white girls’ lungs
overpowered and taken by the dark
I want to be angry
that I can write these words
that I can spew prejudice
from my lips
with as little effort as breathing
I want to be angry that your dark skin
reminds me of that playground bully
who wouldn’t let me go down the slide
when I was six or seven
because then he wasn’t just a child
like I was just a child
he was a little black boy
and he was mean to me
And it’s easy to be angry
because the TV tells me it’s okay
because anger begets anger
and if you’re already on fire
then I can douse you in flames
But I’d rather be angry at me
that I hold these strings together
when I want the tapestry to unravel
that I hold onto these scars
when I want my wounds to heal
because I want to be sensitive
but not desensitized
so I suffer by your side
for all the harms I have inflicted
for all the lives I have ended
for all the people I haven’t seen
for all the voices I haven’t heard
for all the hands I refused to hold
A month passed since that afternoon at the club, that night in the park. I thanked the tech kids at school for their help, and when they bugged me about it, I told them it wasn’t important anymore. Justin asked to keep the glove, so I let him; Beaver told me I still owed them. I don’t think they’ve got the guts to take me up on that debt.
I see Pace almost every day. We talk. Little things, mostly, till Pace gets all Yoda on me and I can’t think of anything to say. He keeps asking if I want to meet the others in the Underground, but after my last meeting with them, I’m not so keen on reintroductions.
I’ve spent the month training. I’ve learned to bypass the physical stress and induct it mentally; inverted meditation, in a way. My focus is stronger now, reaching that point of orange ambiance, but once I’m there, it’s all anger and energy inside. Part of me wants to get past that; part of me knows it’s my only fuel for the brightest fire.
We’re in the park again, Pace and me. On the bench as before, my arms to my chest, his arms spread-eagle, one draped behind my back. The leaves are starting to turn. The wind blows. I shiver a little; Pace just laughs. He hasn’t said anything yet. Neither have I.
“Listen”–we speak at the same time and stop just as fast.
My watch read midnight when I made it back to the Underground. The club was open with ladies’ night specials flashing on the signs out front, but I wouldn’t be let in, I already knew that. So instead I turned down the side alley, hoping against hope, and finding it granted.
Pace looked up at me and grinned, but didn’t move from where he leaned against the side of the brick building. Except for the darkness around us, he looked little different than he had earlier.
“Thought you’d come back,” he said. “At least, I hoped you would.”
I walked alone in the park. I could see the buildings downtown rising behind lush trees, flanked by clear skies and the afternoon sun, but the quiet grass and pockets of shade helped me forget the city all around me, helped me forget–just a little bit–what I had done.
My fist felt fine. The muscles in my arm were sore, and I kept running my fingers over my hand and looking at my knuckles up close, but I couldn’t see anything on the surface. Whatever I had done, whatever had happened at the Underground, it was not human.
The Underground was a nightclub downtown with a dilapidated sign and ladies’ night every Thursday. They weren’t on top of the scene anymore, but they still had radio ads and made a killer on the weekends. Didn’t think they were open during the day, but I made my way to their doorstep after school the next day like Pace Vaughn had told me to.
As expected, the doors were locked.
I caught movement to my left and turned to see someone in black slipping into the alley nearby. I glanced around, saw no one out of the ordinary afternoon traffic, and decided it wouldn’t hurt (or at least not hurt too much) to follow him.
But when I turned down the alley, it was already empty.