An Unfamiliar Place

My foot’s through the door and there’s green all around me. The shops and fast food restaurants morphed into trees and more trees. No longer do the buildings graze the polluted skies. I can see stars now. I can see the stars because I can see the night. No longer is it a black restricted square in my room window. I can walk home at night without a shiver thrown down my spine

whenever I hear a “Hey mami” from the same demographic of aesthetically galling group of Latinx men that apparently can never find a shirt to fit; a crescent shaped portion of their stomach always hangs out out of their shirt and over their pants, shaking every time they giggle over the prepubescent childish remark they throw my way. They expect me to catch it, but I let it fall on the floor and I promise myself I will never walk home this late again. Now, I can walk home and devour night. I can see every individual star for what it is, a burning flame. I can feel the cold sending my nerves into a frenzy, because we’ve never allowed the moon to greet us this way before. I can smell the crisp aroma of oxygen and nicotine.

How can someone willingly glue a time bomb between two fingers? How can someone be so displeased with the nothingness and everything we were given to choose a gradual slow death? How can someone choose to intoxicate everyone else around them? When I used to walk home I held my breath, not knowing if I was going to make it through the night. It would just be impossible to tell if you looked at someone the wrong way, and if they felt particularly agitated that night. Now, I hold my breath to prevent the white cylinder from poisoning my system with every exhale they release. I guess I can find comfort in the predictability of the situation this time. I don’t have to doubt what I’m going to be getting into now because I know.

I know I am exposed. I am exposed to the social justice warriors with a torch in one hand and a cigarette in the other, running to a place they haven’t figured out yet.

They complain about inclusivity, but are so exclusive themselves. They attempt to denounce their privilege that they have clung onto so dearly their whole lives, but still plan on reaping the benefits. At home, I was part of a brotherhood, a community, a spectrum of different shades of brown that were all strung together. Here, I’m an awkward mole, an imperfection in their sea of white skin. I’m seldom approached because I refuse to delve into their approach to life. I hold way too many responsibilities to be found sitting on a bench with a cig.

I grew up with work ethic droned into my way of living. If you did not work hard, you were wasting your time. I could recognize hard work from a mile away because my parents were never home, in order provide food on the table. But sometimes, that would not even work because when my mom sloshed lentils onto our plate when we knew we had no money for anything else; we would eat this for three days straight.

Now, I have become the employee to keep this privilege of higher education. I had to work hard to get where I am now. But, I have to work hard to even stay here. Time became a social construct; I measured my days in the amount of work I got done to reward myself with sleep.

So I’ve morphed the two spaces: the trees are my buildings and the cigarettes are my “Hey, mami’s”. My community is my work and my college is my home. I will enjoy my walk home because I could not do so before. I will indulge in the stars illuminating my path because in the end we are all a cluster of nothing. We look up at the sky believing that there is something else out there for us.

But  really, we place our fate in a radical hope.


Image by Bianka Bell

By Gabrielle Reyes

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