My mom, brother, and I were at the local pool. It was just a block from our house, so we would go there often to play on the slides and see who could hold their breath the longest. It’s interesting how some places where people gather make the hatred seem smaller. At Querbes, it felt like the stratified realities got lost in all the splashing, chlorine, and piss. We all piss. We all play. Black or white, we could be the same in blue water. We laughed, and chased each other, while mommas sat on the side of the pool. It was the one time in this neighborhood where we could get together and act like we didn’t hate each other.
Then, the gunshot, the screams, and the silence. Not even a splash, then much splashing, and then all I saw was red. It’s a memory that holds to without changing. We rushed out of the pool still wearing our floaties, wedgies and all. The cement was so hot you had to move your feet in a stand still jog.
My feet melted to the ground when I saw him. You know that sensation right past the initial burn? The heat turns cold like fresh menthol. It was a little black boy that was shot. He was only ten years old when the blood stained through his Michael Jordan T-shirt. My mom was a nurse and tried using CPR with oxygen masks and all. The rest of us hovered and heard nothing but the pumping of a child’s chest, and her quick panting, “Come on, come on, come on!”
I’m not sure if anyone saw the shooter run away, but I did. I remember his face even more than the bleeding boy. He was thirteen, running hard, looking back, running scared. He looked right at me with red fear blurring his eyes. I was scared too and racing him internally. I wanted to follow him and show him my favorite hiding spot. I still think about him and pray safety.
Later on, I heard that ten-year-old boy died. He died right there in front of me, but I didn’t have a category for die yet. The other boy died too in the red pool of his mind. I pray someone pulled him out and revived him.
My brothers were his age and used to play street ball with both of them. Then their white rage grew and swallowed any goodness whole. They were terrified of anyone darker than them and hid it behind layers of hatred. I saw black blood, sex, and bats beating my brother’s face in, so I believed them and drank racism like water. Sometimes, I would spit it out cause it was bitter. Sometimes.