What are we marked by? Are we not supposed to be born with moles? Is that it? And why is mine red? And do I remember right that I have (or had) two? No, it was that they switched it on me or something. I just remember growing up thinking my birthmark was this brown dot (mole) on the side of my toe, and then sometime when I was maybe even college age, seeing my birth certificate or some form from baby me time saying my birthmark was actually this reddish scar-looking thing beneath my shoulder blade and thinking, Wings!
Songs that can circle back on themselves. Loops that let me forget when they reset, that blend beginning, middle and end. That help me to lose time, or at least loosen its hold.
There is the way I write for work.
There’s how I write for me.
Which is different_
He thought of them as resets, moments when his memory flickered. When driving he couldn’t recall whether he had remembered his phone despite the text message he had sent while waiting for the car to warm. At home he wondered whether he had left the oven on or was it today that he had cooked. Other times he thought of times he couldn’t remember and imagined them into memories, filling between the flashes, the strobe lights of a possible past.
I wrote a version of this a few weeks ago while driving back to Los Angeles from Arizona. I pulled off the highway to write it. The whole drive until that point, from the Grand Canyon to Williams to Kingman to Ludlow, I couldn’t stop wrestling with how I felt when I was in Arizona and why. It was the first time I spent real time in the state – meaning “not holed up at a business conference” – since I was a kid, since I realized how some people look at me and people who look like me, since I learned what that 7th grader meant when he called 6th-grade me a “spic.”
I wrote it on the side of the highway, then I put it away. It felt too angry, too unfair, too personal. Then tonight happened, and I feel too angry because this feels too unfair, too personal. To me and people who look like me and other people who don’t look like him. So here’s my anger. Here’s how unfair it feels. How personal.
To the white in the “The 2nd Amendment is my Homeland Security” shirt.
To the white who smiled at my white girlfriend but didn’t look at brown me.
To the white in the bright orange vest and bushy mustache.
To the white in the UNC hat with the sunburnt neck.
To the whites wearing biker cuts into the Kingman Cracker Barrel.
I don’t know you. Who you are, what you believe, how you see me. I could hardly see you. I saw around you.
I couldn’t see if yours was a racist’s face because I couldn’t see past this place.
I couldn’t see what you saw in my face. If you saw my face. If you saw what I saw in you, even if it wasn’t in you.
And then I looked away. I didn’t want to see it, even if it was in you. I didn’t want to give it life.
And then I crossed the border into California.
And then, two minutes across the border, I saw a Trump billboard.
And then, three-and-a-half hours outside of LA, surrounded by a desert that turned brown or always was, I saw a big rig in my rear window, its grill coated in the confederate flag.
I can’t sleep, so I’m just gonna write until I can.
Give me a keyboard I want to write
Not a pen or pencil
I want the words to rush too fast for that
Blaze like the pain, burn onto the page
Words to hurt
The TV hurts to look at, to see what this means
Half the country wants him
Half the country believes in him, in what he believes
At least half of those that voted
The remainder, the ones who sat it out
This is what you stuck us with
This is what you said with your silence
Fine that he disrespects anyone who’s other
Fine that he disrespects the truth
This is the line you let us cross
The others, the ones with their third parties and write-ins
This is on you too
Did you believe your candidate could have won?
You wouldn’t vote for her, but did you think your votes for them would beat him?
Did you want them to?
This is what your vote won
This is what we lost
And this is how he won
And this is how we let him
That ignorant innocence that thought this isn’t us, not anymore
That thought this couldn’t happen, not here
That thought this couldn’t win, not him
This is us
This did happen
He did win
And now we feel like them
And we can’t
I could stop here
Got a mall
Can get a house
Pull up in the driveway
In a town of drive-thrus, of people
Getting gas to go where
“I want to write this thing.”
“So write it.”
“But I want to put it on the internet.”
“Oh… Is it good?”
“I haven’t written it yet.”