Your necessary air is restricted. You take short breaths. You wait for relief. One day, it hurt so bad you took a viability assessment. Will you live?
There’s a gatdamn boot on your neck. One day, it will come off, you reason. You wait. One day, you’ll take a long, deep breath. Until then, short, quick breaths are gold. Just survive.
It’s been so long, this boot made its home. You’ve readjusted. You will live, boot-in-neck. You will live. Boot-in-neck living is your new normal, rather, your only normal. You take the quick, fear-laced breaths because you have to.
You grab the boot. You dig your finger nails in, you dig elbows into the ground, aided by leverage, you push. You push hard. There’s one glorious second. A single moment exists frozen in time and you breathe. You BREATHE! The air flows in with a gush, your lungs expand, the relief mighty. The boot responds accordingly. It turns right then left, grinding down harder in angry fear: SHUT THE HELL UP!
You are not silenced. You’ve breathed out life made possible by grit and raw courage.
The boot pushes. Your throat constricts uncomfortably, dreadfully into your esophagus. You have less air now than before but what was your option?
Would you lay still wasting limited breath on defeated tears? No. You push the boot for good reason.
You need one moment in time to breathe deeply. You grasp hold of humanity and reason. You dig manicured nails in. Your seemingly insignificant act of boot pushing communicates, I AM HERE dammit! Your strength in leverage articulates: WORTH! STRENGTH! There is dignity in my hands! You push up on the boot because longer breath gives way to healing tears and even those don’t come for free.
Not for you.
You glance to your right, and to your left. You see rows upon rows of others lying under the boot. In sporadic bursts, elbows dig, grunts and sweat deliver pushes and heaves for a moments worth of sweet relief all around you. Boots grind, anger stomps the life out of some, but for those among you who survive, you keep pushing, grunting, digging, fighting, dying. Just as you’ve always done, strong black woman.
Just as you’ve always done.
You’ve mastered suffocation while you live. The boot isn’t merely your new normal. The only thing new was The Moment of Realization: I have a boot on my neck?!
You acknowledge reality. You meet eye-to-eye with the one next to you, you clasp dirty-finger nails and sweaty hands and you push.
Just as you’ve always done.
Just as you always will.
I wrote this last summer. Perhaps prophetically. Sadly, it fits perfectly with what DaJerria went through. I will say her name. We should #SayHerName & remember, remember, remember that each precious black life has a name and a face.