Love Like Pepper Spray

(from “Grayscale, You in Black)

She had been screaming for nearly two hours without breaks, to the point where there were only faint traces of her voice remaining in the back of her throat. Tears flowed unchecked down her face and onto her chest. There was some jostling in front of her, as there always was at one of these marches. A man had dropped one end of the giant banner he was carrying splashed with the words “No Justice, No Peace” in red paint, and he was struggling to pick it up before other protesters started to step on it in their haste to keep up with the crowds marching towards the White House. She bent down to pick up one end of the sign and straightened up to hand it to him. And she thought to herself, what if this was him? Him of the glaringly white eyes threatening to release a flood of anguish and pure rage at any moment. Him of the muscular back and the smooth baritone that belonged on her grandmother’s record player. Black love. They could pose like one of those paintings of half-naked couples draped in some printed fabric that Muhammed, her Afrocentric neighbor was always trying to sell her. And they would laugh at how silly it all was. But then she looked at him. She realized that they could be very happy together, and perhaps produce a few little ones. But then these babies would grow up, and they would have to have the talk with a capital ‘t.’ About how their overdose of melanin made them susceptible to squint-eyed suspicion and groping and hate being spat out constantly, and actual spit. She looked at him, and was about to ask if he would like to get together and make mini-freedom fighters like themselves. But she was struggling with the urge to wail to the sky, so instead she said: “Great night for a riot, isn’t it?”

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