It was late Saturday evening. Jeremy was walking home from SAT prep, alone, as he did every Saturday. As he turned the corner onto Henn, three men ran towards him from behind, dressed in dark colors. One of them was carrying a then-unidentified black backpack. The woman who’d taken the video with her phone from her fourth-floor apartment got a clear shot.
As the men rammed into Jeremy, the one holding the backpack shoved it into the boy’s open arms. They kept going, not looking back. Jeremy spun around, holding this bag he had nothing to do with.
But, in that second, as he pulled his earphones out, two police officers rounded the corner. Jeremy raised his hands. He was shot, twice, and died at the scene.
I got a letter from my mother. After staring at it for a few minutes, I tore open the envelope.
“I know you told me not to contact you…” she wrote.
I took a deep breath.
“…but I was wondering if you’d seen the news last night.”
I folded the letter and put it back in the envelope with shaking hands. Of course I’d seen the news. I stood, holding my glass of orange juice, and walked out to the balcony.
When these things happened, my mother would usually emphasize forgiveness. “It was a mistake,” she would say—she, who’d lived through the worst of it. “They didn’t mean it. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
My cousin, Daniel, who’d always come to our place to vent about it, would respond, “Right, Aunty. Because we all look the same to them.”
And then they would turn to me, which I thought was odd, because I didn’t have any power. I had powers, yes—the ability to wipe every racist cop off the face of this country—but not any real power. Not the kind that would make people listen.
At the behest of my mother—she’d had a dream, see—I came out to the world as superhuman. I dressed in dark colors, darker than my skin, with a white emblem on the front, the meaning of which I no longer remember. Everyone wanted to talk to me, and I knew why. Yet they had the nerve to beat around the bush and ask how I was able to have sex without hurting my partner, or if I was an alien. They’d done it before, of course, with other superhumans, but this time was different.
“How do we know you won’t hurt us?” local talk show host Mandy Miller asked, looking doubly interested, for some reason. I thought she was going to ask to touch my hair.
“I’m American,” I said, resisting the urge to wipe my chin under the hot studio lights. “I won’t hurt my fellow Americans.”
“Really.” Her smile was so fake.
“I’m harmless. You can trust me.” I gave her a thumbs-up while gesturing to the mask that covered almost half of my face.
The audience laughed. The armed guards with assault rifles, who stood just out of the camera’s view, didn’t. When Andrew O’Keefe—known publically as Paragon—came out as superhuman two years ago, I didn’t remember him being treated so hostilely.
Mandy cleared her throat. “Well, you can imagine, given your…um…complexion…that people will be wondering…what your stance is…on the recent shootings.”
“You’ve heard about what happened in Atlanta.”
It wasn’t a question. “Yes, and it was tragic.”
“He was a criminal. He had priors. Theft. Breaking and entering. Aggravated assault.”
I had to be careful here. I looked out at the audience and saw Daniel and my mother sitting in the front row, the latter in her best hat. Daniel wasn’t smiling.
“No one deserves to die if it can be avoided,” I said. “He complied.”
Mandy leaned forward. “What are you saying?”
“I’m stating facts, Miss Miller. It’s not my intention to take sides.”
Walk deeply across black sands before sunlight
Padded toes against weather-worn edges,
it’s almost embarrassing
to hold yourself above experience.
Faith is chance and charming,
you forget, palm entering the white air before your body,
a new path every time, you think
you come here to be.
You are not lost in art, here
the stills are in your cells
inked in the white of your eyes
and the shadow your laugh leaves in cluttered photos.
There is sound when you move over the rocks
Existence knows the whine of your energy
and delivers inside this dead channel, white and
bottomless. It’s pitiful to want to transfer the
tableau onto any old stained wall.
You know this, you hope something sharp will cut your foot,
make you feel divine
and dark in equal measure