“Please…..I can’t breathe.”
**We see an African-American man being brutally shoved to the ground. A police officer handles him in a way he normally never would handle anyone else. He places his knee on his neck, slowly choking him to death despite the man pleading for mercy, saying he was claustrophobic. Soon after, an ambulance was called to take away the dead body.**
The piercing sound of an alarm clock jerked 16 year old Mason awake. He sat up as he noticed he’d broken into a cold sweat. Taking a minute to steady himself, he released shaky breaths as he stared at his reflection in the mirror opposite his bed. It had been months since George Floyd was ruthlessly murdered by two White policemen. The “Black Lives Matter” movement was going strong and the fight for justice was becoming more intense as the days went by.
At the breakfast table, his mother noticed he looked off. But what could he say to her even if she asked what was wrong? That he was afraid? Afraid of falling victim to the same abuse he did? Every day he went to school with sweat on his collar and came home with a black eye which he covered with an eye patch. When his mother asked what happened to him, his usual response was that we walked into a door by mistake.
Today was no exception. He’d just finished eating lunch alone at a table, trying hard not to cry into his pasta salad. Quiet by nature, he didn’t really have any friends to hang out with. He could only get two dollars to buy his lunch. It’s not like his mom could afford to give him any more money anyway.
Just when he thought his already bad day couldn’t get any worse,
“OH LOOK! It’s the black boy. What’s up, freak?”
“Ha! What a loser.”
“Imagine being friends with THAT. Watch people like him ruin America.”
There were other African American kids in his school, but none of them were bullied. Just him. Why? Because he was the only one all by himself. He was the poor, lonely black kid, who couldn’t afford new school books every year and often used his sister’s hand-me-downs.
“Leave me alone.”
“What was that, weirdo?”
“I said, leave me ALONE!”
He roared as he shoved his bully backwards. It took him a minute to process what he’d done, as he looked at his trembling hands, astonished.
“Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe everyone would just be happier if I wasn’t around.”
His train of thought was interrupted by a punch to his stomach. Like a house of cards on a windy day, he crumpled to the ground. He felt an older boy’s leg weigh down on his back before making its way to his neck. Begging for them to stop, he felt tears flow from his eyes as he remembered last night’s dream. He started gasping for breath, his hands desperately trying to free himself from his bully’s torture. He started losing vision as his mind could only focus on the bitter irony of history repeating itself. His arms went slack as his body numbed. What was the point of fighting back anyway?
And at that moment, he let go; of life, of the hope that things would change. He was done.
A pair of blue converse sneakers was the last thing he saw; laughter the last thing he heard.
Author: Nandini Patil
Editor: Zoyah Virani