Flag Day

Waking up this morning I made some coffee, tuned the kitchen radio to NPR, and began assembling the pink and green Indian fabric to sew as binding onto the quilt.

“Live from NPR news…in southern California hundreds have turned out to protest in the name of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree near City Hall in Palm Dale on Wednesday.”

No. No. No. This is not ok. I know none of this is ok or has been ok – I feel it – but this is what tears me right now. The image of a black man hanging from a tree, just yesterday.

I hear the words “suicide,” “lynching,” “no autopsy,” “hate crime.” It is unknown whether it is a suicide or a murder.

The news goes on to talk about an autonomous neighborhood in Seattle that the police evacuated, the shooting of another black man in Atlanta, the budget cuts to universities due to the corona virus, and the Oregon governor presenting a virtual graduation speech. I thought her words would inspire, but she called to graduates about the change that needs to happen in the world. As if they are our only hope now, and all this is their inheritance.

I go out to a park, but everything is too busy. There is a car with an out-of-state license driving too close to me, and I feel angry. He passes me, disobeying a traffic law.

I pull over into the nearest parking lot, a Mexican restaurant, and cry. I’m so mad. I’m so mad. Where did this thinking and feeling start today?

With that image this morning. That image of grief and hate, and a life gone, hanging from a tree.

Collecting myself, I unexpectedly turn off into Barnes & Noble to get a journal. I stand in the aisles, feeling lost. Not know what to get, what not to get, to leave, to stay.

I take a book, and a journal, and stand in line.

The woman in front of me in line walks to the cashier. She has on a mask, and a soft southern accent with a stiff and frail and aging body.

“Do you have plans for the rest of the day?” the cashier asks, a new book resting between the two women.

“I worked the early shift, so I am going to get some food and go home… and read.”

Somehow – somehow – witnessing this interaction helps. It is Simple. Real. Kind. Human.

I walk into the grocery store next, waiting behind a mother and son so as not to get too close, and notice the groups of flowers next to me. Big, gorgeous, pink roses – $15 for a dozen.

Before cashing out, I return for a bundle.

The cashier is a young man with tattoos, a handkerchief hanging below his nose, and a tired voice.

“How are you today?” he asks.

“Hanging in there,” I said (only now, as I write this, do I see that word). “How are you doing?”

“About the same.”

He bags the items, the pink roses go in last. I yank one, hoping it gives easily from the banded bunch, and it does.

I hold the big, pink, aromatic rose to him.

“Here you go,” I say. “Thank you for your work.”

I feel an out-breath or a smile or surprise behind his mask, and everything lightens again – for a moment.

And these moments add up, right? That’s where change actually happens – in a moment.

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