Kristina Tsatsakos, Contestant #11, time travels to 1931

Please, be seated

I’ve got you, under my skin

Literati

After a brief break for the holidays, we’re resuming posting the accumulating stories that are a response to the the small monument to racism I found siphoning dust from the air in an antique store in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Problem is, the caste iron plaque is not really a relic. Touching it, I could feel the heat of the forge and the ice of its intent.  One of the most difficult and simultaneously most gratifying actions of a writer is to convincingly put themselves in someone else’s shoes, or, perhaps more appropriate to our contest,in someone else’s skin.  A suggestion for those who try: pull from the pain of alienation that you have felt in your own life, (it is not unique to us!)as our author Kristina Tsatsakos has clearly done, and try through osmosis to let that be the conduit for your empathy for those humiliated, hurt, damaged, attacked for being black (or gay, or a woman, or a Muslim, transgender, etc) in an obelisk society.  My greatest hope for you, for me, for the world, is that we find we have more in common than our pain.  Here is Kristina’s (an associate editor with us) untitled entry:

 

  If he hasn’t proposed by next year, I am leaving him.

This thought comes to me suddenly and randomly as I head towards the water fountains. Almost drank from the wrong one. I need to pay more attention.

I add the passing thought to the series of tiny, soul-crushing injustices I’ve had to swallow lately and try to refocus.  I’ve been so distracted recently.  Mostly about this relationship.  But about larger things, too.

I take advantage of no one being in the hallway and lean my forehead against the cool brass plaque that’s attached to the wall. I can feel the words pressing into my flesh – Colored…White — and feel the great weight of all that is beyond my control against my dark skin.

Despite my hatred for this sign, the cool metal feels nice against my hot head. There’s a quiet discomfort building underneath my neat cotton blouse and I remove myself from the wall and head towards the bathroom.

White.

Colored.

(I don’t even have a bathroom key.)

Fortunately, someone exits and I slip in.  Lock myself in a stall. Lock the whole wide unfair world out.

I am suddenly exhausted by the weight of the accumulated poison in my veins and the stall is spinning and dark and I have lost control as the memories come flooding back.

“You can’t sit here,” says the voice, harsh, menacing and directed at him.  It’s immediately followed by other voices, vicious in their agreement and equal in their hatred.  I’m small, unable to really process what is happening but instantly, instinctively, understand what the problem is.

Someone has overstepped their bounds.  The ones that society uses to pen you in and prevent you from being complete and free. I am afraid to listen to the blows he receives for existing. Closing my eyes, I am transported.  I am a cloud above the ground, I am a robin fighting with a worm, I am the wind blowing through the trees, I am everything; I am free; I am invincible.

I am no longer able to tell the difference between past and present.Time passes as I sit and panic and shake and sweat.

“Why do they hurt you?”

“They always hurt you.”

“Why fight them?”

“It’s the only way.”

I stand up from the seat, aware; remembering.

“Every day you’re able to breathe, you have to fight for your dignity.  Not everyone will give it to you, and sometimes – most of the time – you’ll bleed, but you will always and every day be free. I promise.  And I don’t lie.”

Listening to your words echo in my head.

“People are small. The only way they can get past how insignificant they are is to make others feel even smaller.”

I am reminded of my original thought and am ashamed.  His love comforts me; enables me to believe in a better future. A year doesn’t matter.

Lots can happen in a year.

I stand, stiffen my spine and unlock the door.

*****

Please do share your own thoughts and stories with us. I don’t want to clutter up this post with any more text than needed, so just skip back to our home page and find details there. We have some work to do.

 

4 comments

  1. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    In a surreal, emotional core of personal echo triggers this story tears at my memories, yet confuses me as to the characters beyond “White” & “Coloured” due to the pronoun of “him” from an apparent female author. Overall I love the dancing of these words, the raw struggle to understand, to transform a more humane answer, but I hope the author will clarify my misunderstanding of her beautifully, powerful prose. On a personal level, it touched my own fear of potentially using the ladies room in the south such as North Carolina. A lady isn’t always seen as a lady it seems in this troubled world, but this is a great story.

  2. Katalyn Keim says:

    Wow. That story was amazing. I could feel all of the emotion, anger, and agitation that was built up inside your character. It was almost like I was the one experiencing it for myself. They way you described things was just mesmerizing. I didn’t really want your story to end. Great job.

  3. Shawna says:

    This is a very good vignette that enfolds the reader in the old memory and floods the heart and soul. Excellent expression of the moment and how it left it’s neural pathway open to trigger so explicitly. So it is with all powerful memories, and I thank you for sharing yours.

    Great stuff:)

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