Add Title

Before I even begin writing, I am approached with Add Title and I don’t quite know what to title the language inside me now. Yesterday, sharing coffee with my spouse, I said: I don’t know what to say right now, so I am listening. And I am reading. I want to make space for the voices that get trampled.

I walk toward the park I usually walk to with my dog. This is the first time I am here without her. This is the first time I am getting close to hundreds of other humans since March. A community meditation for Black lives. A breathing in and out for Black lives. A call for action, reaction, response for Black lives. So, I close my eyes and sit with these strangers. I cry into my mask. I think about what George Floyd liked to eat for breakfast. I think about what book made George weep or laugh or wonder. I inhale. I sit. My body aches and I am angry at myself for focusing on my discomfort. I exhale. I peek one eye open and see a dog laying beside its human in front of me. I smile at this dog.

“We come to understand who we are by understanding who we are not.” In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo confronts and questions why white people need to talk about racism, why we need to be uncomfortable, why it is time to be uncomfortable. “Though white fragility is triggered by discomfort and anxiety, it is born of superiority and entitlement.” When I tell my mother that we must defund the police, she said: Aimee, we need the police. You can’t just eliminate them. I said: Black and brown people have never had a system of safety, of protection by the police, so whom are we protecting? To defund is not to suggest complete elimination. To defund is to disassemble. Reallocate funds to communities that have been completely left behind, to offer mental health services, health services, social programs to rebuild what we have crumbled.

I travel on the subway for the first time in three months for a root canal. I hold onto my favorite rock as though it contains every poem by Audre Lorde. It calms me as I try to move through the many layers of my anxiety. I pass by boarded restaurants, cafes, an empty jewelry store. Everyone in masks. I smile at those who pass me by, but my mask hides my friendliness. I ask the dentist if she can explain to me every part of what she will be doing, so I can understand. I ask questions, just like I tell my students. Every question deserves an answer. The dentist is kind, gentle, communicative. At the end of the procedure, I cry. Not because of pain, but because of gratitude.

I walk to Fulton Street, just a few blocks from my apartment and stand beside others carrying signs of protest, signs of solidarity, signs which demand Black Lives Matter. I cannot hear what is being said because there are layers and layers of people, but I clap because I know that I agree. Martin Luther King said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Are we listening? When the protests fade and the signs get recycled, will we continue to listen? The moment we stop listening is the moment we become part of the problem.

While playing cards with my spouse last night, we talk about this month of pride. LGBTQ folks are given one whole month to see rainbows everywhere, purchase over-priced pride clothing from Target and other box stores. I say to him: When you designate a month for people (women, Black people, queer people), you are acknowledging that every other month leaves them behind.

Last year, I let go of the largest story inside me, which was published by an independent press here in NYC. It’s a little book with a big, queer heart. It’s currently on sale at Three Rooms Press through June 30th. Code: PRIDE2020. But if you can’t afford it right now, email me directly and I will mail you one for free.



how to report a crime.

It is 3:30am in the morning and I awake from couch, after stirring earlier in the night. Outside window, a group of men push voices against each other like bowling bowls, trying to pin each other down. I watch, thinking of the power of sight and reaction.

Who to call when, so often, the ones who signify justice are the ones who misbehave the most.

My chest grows heavy, as though suddenly these men are on top of me or perhaps it is all the words drenched in fear, toppling over my bones.

My mate is asleep and I do not wake him; I must react quickly.

I walk away from sheer curtains and window to get my phone. I gasp at the sight of my partner who is reacting to the sounds as well. I tell him what I see; I ask him: what would you do?

9-1-1 is an uncomfortable combination of numbers to dial. There is panic in my fingerprints. I think about these men. I do not want to escalate their anger, but I do not want to wait for weapons to replace fists.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency,” speaks a female voice.

I explain the location and announce this group of men, around 5, who are fighting. There is heavy pushing. Moving into the street. Howls from their vocal chords.

She asks, “What do they look like?”

I answer, “They appear to be men. People of color.”

She asks, “Are they Black?”

And my heart sinks further into my body; I worry it has slid into my lungs or liver.

I tell her: I cannot say. It is dark and I don’t want to assume what race they are.

She persists, “Well, I have to write something down, otherwise the police won’t know. Are they Black?” she repeats.

I take a deep breath and think about my students, many of which are first generation college students. Some are immigrants. Most of which are people of color. Many who have shared stories of being perceived as one race, conflicting with their own. I think about all the Black men who are incarcerated for being Black. That society is jumbling up justice with guilty before innocent. I want to scream at this woman that she is doing the largest disservice by making assumptions and encouraging racism. I want to tell her that I am frightened of this 9-1-1 number combination, but don’t want to be complacent.

I tell her, “I will not and cannot answer that. They are men. And it is 3:30am in the morning. There is no one else out on this street corner, yelling and pushing. I do not believe the police will have any difficulty figuring out who I am referencing.”

Ten minutes pass by, upon which someone could have been shot or injured and I am breathing like a windstorm, staring out the window as my partner and I wait. And wait. For justice.

When the police arrive, they do not get out of their car; I appreciate this. They use their megaphone voices to encourage these men back into their cars. There is no aggressive force from police, only a prompting to leave.

My mate and I walk away from the window after watching the last man leave; I want to know they are gone; I want to hope that their anger has dissipated from the bright lights of the police car; I want to believe I did the right thing.