This story is by Desiree C Thompson and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Most times, it didn’t feel as horrific as it sounded.
As it smelled.
The blanket of undeniable humanity being ripped from its roots, and splayed bloody across each dawn.
We woke up in this.
It’s unclear to me how we met.
How we recognized each other.
But I knew.
You allowed yourself the pleasure of holding me.
And then We knew.
I delighted in my skin–this time, the color of Twilight.
Black like the Unmanifest.
Held my smile as I watched storm clouds roll across your face.
Foolish for trying to make love in a nightmare.
That’s what you told me after the first time.
It’s not that I hadn’t heard.
Words whispered over whelps and bleeding flesh, are deafening.
It’s just that.
There was never a choice, really.
Stars can take two million years to die.
I said to you, often–
Death is not always dying.
I could see you mouth it to yourself on days when it was my turn to suffer.
To surrender to the heat, the whip;
Blood drawn, body breached in triplicate.
And I said to you, often–
But you don’t have to watch.
If it wasn’t for the way you flinched, it would appear that I’d never spoken.
The first time you saw me heal, you fainted.
All six feet of you dropped to the floor like an offering.
It was a joke among the children.
The white man that fell to the feet of the “slave who raised the dead.”
You didn’t mind, though.
Worship, as you called it.
We learned that I liked to be taken to the floor with you.
I’d summon my energy back as you anchored my body to the earth.
You helped pull me to center.
It became apparent to me, first,
That I wasn’t going to survive this.
“This,” encompassing the totality of my existence within this little slice of the underworld.
This place where we were born, raised,
And slaughtered to the inhale and exhale of the white bucolic.
I realize, now, that there was never any space for you.
–Your whiteness, sure.
That was aggressively infinite.
But we never talked about how you felt.
How you fared.
How you answered your uncle’s:
How’re them niggas today?
Or your father’s:
Make them graves away from your mama’s roses, hear?
Or my screams.
So we tried saying less.
Figured it’d be easier to grieve memories of silence.
My soul was never satisfied with that,
And you’d follow me anywhere.
We sang, instead.
And hummed when the sorrow,
Or the fear,
Or the ecstasy of touch became too much for the container of our bodies.
It was easy to find the harmony, then.
You loved me as I drowned them that morning.
The babies that were forcibly all of me and none of you.
You reminded me that freedom looks all kinda ways.
That was my favorite part of you.
Like the thick, solid piece of wood in the fire that takes the longest to catch.
Too bad you caught like kindling when I told you about our babies.
And for a second, for one terrifying moment, I saw who you were raised to be.
And it was my turn to flinch.
But you dropped to the floor in horror,
And sang blue notes to my belly.
There were about a hundred ways you could’ve kept us alive.
Delayed the inevitable.
You knew this,
And mentioned every one as you out talked the sunrise.
But I didn’t belong to you.
At least, not in body.
And you never wanted to own me.
That’s not how we worked.
That’s not how spirit works.
And liberation had always been the priority.
I don’t know what I was expecting from that moment.
Some part of me hoped that it would be just like the other times:
You watched, I fell.
You watched, I tore.
You watched, I bled.
You watched, I shouted to my God.
You watched, I hid inside myself.
But. Ever the contrarian.
They tied the noose, you wailed.
I swung, you wailed.
I twitched, you wailed.
Your father swore, you wailed.
The crowd dispersed, you wailed.
With clenched hands around my stomach,
I held our babies as we left.
And you dropped to the floor in exaltation.
Later, you watched Beth cut me down;
Stop my seizing with a blade to my throat.
Neither of you spoke,
But I think she became a little softer that day.
Stammered in hurried tongues about railroads and John Brown.
I warned you.
This is not a love story.
So you laughed.
An empty, soundless thing that echoed the ghosts in your throat.
You walked away, and let your goodness die with me.
You were your father’s son, after all.
What do I say now that I remember?
I cried for myself, yes.
For my babies, our babies, but honestly?
Most of it was for you.
I drifted back into the light, as you sank into undiluted devastation.
Beloved, how could I do this to you?
But then I remember that it’s bigger than me,
Than our concept of time.
And I can tell you that we have the power to continue our work together.
That we descend from ourselves and we can do it this time.
We are the magic,
The blue notes,
And the inevitable.
And we have 1,999,875 years before we die.