This story is by Larnelle Sinegal and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
If she swings that crusty red burlap sack into my arm without an apology one more time, I swear I’m going to snap faster than the camera shutter on that iPhone she keeps hoisting up over her head.
I mean, I get it. She’s excited to be here. The magnitude of her enthusiasm is evident in her plump, blood-filled cheeks. Cheeks that are as red as that “MAGA” hat she so proudly displays, like a jewel encrusted tiara. A symbol of her perceived return to her proper place in the hierarchy of America.
Another flash. Another selfie.
I can see from my position at the back of this perpetual voting line that the image is distorted. She holds the phone higher. Stretching her tattoo enveloped arm as high as she can, in order to fit her behemoth of a husband in between the guidelines of her cracked screen.
His prideful smile, although camouflaged between a salt and pepper beard that would put Duck Dynasty to shame, is as wide as hers. Revealing the remnants of moist tobacco dip resting between his teeth.
Man its cold out here.
I shoulda brought the coat with the hood… Never mind…
This isn’t the type of crowd that takes too kindly to a black man wearing a B.L.M hoodie. They are already staring at me behind side eyes and twisted lips. Looking at me like I’m that one Negro who escaped the plantation.
The last thing I need today is to be hemmed up by one of these card carrying NRA members, who are all too zealous to brandish that chrome plated .45 and add another notch on their belt by double tapping two rounds to the chest of another black man who fit the description.
Am I being a bit too dramatic? Overreaching in my stereotypical observation of my surroundings? Possibly. However, I’m sure if you ask my cousin Stephon…wait, you can’t ask Stephon anything anymore. He was killed a couple of weeks ago. Took three hollow points to his neck and chest. Asphyxiated on his own blood on a cold sidewalk.
I still remember how Aunt Janice, his mama, screamed.
The shooter was a 45 year old, white man from the Upper East Side. He gave an ever so cogent interview, claiming he mistook Stephon for a burglar when he saw him trying to climb through the open kitchen window of a two-story townhome in his subdivision.
He hastily removed his matte black Glock 23 from his concealed holster and confronted Steph in the front yard. Before Steph could even explain how the house was his and he was simply going through the window because his two year old daughter locked the front door, the guy shot him.
Guess what Steph was wearing? A black hoodie.
Can a black man be cold in America?
What’s the temp anyway?
I could run back to the car and get my coat. Hell I’m already at the back. Losing my place in the back of this line composed of red and blue zealots ready to verbally and physically obliterate anyone with an opposing mindset is not my concern.
I’m more interested in avoiding that sturdy shoulder lady with the half shaved blonde head and rainbow tattoo on her wrist. She bomb-rushed me like Taylor on Theismann in 85 as soon as I hopped out of my Kia Sorento.
That’s right I drive a Kia. No Cadillac with a sunroof top and diamond in the back for me. I have a wife, two kids and a dog. I need the leg room and I don’t need to be pulled over every time I come home from work and drive through my gated community.
I’m already paranoid anytime I see red and blues flash across my rearview mirror. You never know when failing to signal can escalate into a police report stating, “because of the furtive movements the suspect made while reaching for his cell phone, Officer Joe feared for his life and discharged his duty weapon sixteen times into the suspect’s torso.”
Anyway, back to the lady with linebacker shoulders.
She ran at me so fast I almost launched my Yeti directly into that “I’M WITH HER” emblem at the center of her broad chest. Came at me bouncing and throwing hi-fives. Talking about “We gonna do it today!!!” like we about to win the Super Bowl or something.
What’s this “WE” business anyway? What gives her the audacity to presumptuously assume that I’m voting for her? Is there some unwritten rule that all citizens of the African-American descent must pledge their unconditional allegiance to the left? Is that a part of the black code?
My moral views are conservatively skewed anyway. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I own two guns. I believe black lives matter in the womb just as much as they do when being shot by the police, so I am against abortion. I even voted for Bush in 2004.
Now did I vote for Barack Obama? Absolutely!
Now did I vote for Barack Obama because he was a Black man? Absolutely!
If his name was on the ballot today I would do it again. Since the 200 plus years of this nation’s existence there have been millions of black people who have resided in this country, and forty-four Presidents who have resided in that White House. Why in hell would I forfeit the opportunity to see one of those Presidents finally look like me?
He is more qualified for the position than any of the options I have to choose between today anyway. Vote right and I’m responsible for putting nuclear codes into the hands of a sociopath. Vote left and I sign off on a liar who would sell their soul for the oval office.
Has it gotten colder?
There we go. I knew it was only a matter of time. The infamous pick-up truck with the mud tires and the 4 inch lift kit sporting two Confederate flags the size of California King bedspreads, flapping out of the truck bed.
I didn’t really care about that bloody rag until I witnessed it being so proudly waved from side to side across the sky as about fifty men dressed in bedraggled white robes and matching pointed hats gathered on the side of a country Arkansas road as I drove my college girlfriend to her house for spring break.
That image of the Klan in 2004 was every bit as menacing, sinister, and exasperating as I can only imagine it would have been to my grandparents in 1964. To those whose ribs were cracked by 300 pounds of pressure from the fire hose. Those whose flesh was ripped apart by the razor sharp teeth of vicious German Shepherds. Those who were degraded and suppressed. Those who lived under the constant fear of being ripped from their beds in the dark hours of the night to be beaten, mutilated, and hung from a tree. Those who sacrificed life and breath, so that I could have the right to do what I am standing in this very line to do today.
I remember a few years ago during one campaign, several celebrities coined the one liner “Vote or Die.” A feeble attempt to encourage minority voters to step away from their burdensome lives and cast their ballots. As if somehow pushing a button attached to a candidate who is only concerned with our welfare every four years was going to magically save our lives.
Vote or die? We’ve been casting ballots fueled by an admixture of two parts fear, one part hope. Exercising our civic duty while being exorcised by the same higher powers we put into office.
Still voting, still dying. Being gunned down in the streets by the police and our neighbors. Forced to still protest in the streets to iterate that our lives matter.
Voting, yet still being born into a spider web of systematic racism. A web whose viscosity increases the higher we attempt to climb out. We’ve been marooned in this web so long we’ve been forced to turn to cannibalism. Tearing each other down like savages. Fighting to be Lords of the flies.
I’m closer to the front of this line but no closer to a decision. I could walk into that booth and choose between the equal of two evils. However, how could I sleep knowing that my vote, left or right, is an affirmation of my condonation of the immorality displayed on both sides.
Or, I could turn, walk back to my Kia and be prepared to face the wrath of all the black people who will claim that I just spit in the faces of every black person who fought and died for my right to cast that ballot. Ostracized. Forced to be silent because they tell you if you don’t vote you don’t speak.
Damn. It’s cold out here.