Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Prompt: Suzanne Roberts: Traffic Light

Traffic Light


We were all piled in my Toyota Tercel hatchback: three friends in the back and three of us in the front, one on top of the handbrake, straddling the gearshift. Everyone had a beer in hand. This was freedom – f&#$ the seatbelts, f&#$ the open container laws, f&#$ that we might crush this car with so much weight. The windows were wide open, warm humid night pouring in, radio music seeping out.
            We came to a red traffic light on North Avenue and a Chicago Police car pulled into the left turn lane. The passenger side policeman’s elbow out the window almost brushed mine. He turned and nodded to me and I nodded back… casually. Seconds passed like minutes and I knew what is coming. When the light turns green, he will turn back into my lane and follow me, pulling me over along the curb I can see from here. And have me on how many counts?
            But, no, he went left and I went forward. This should have felt good – the adrenaline and escape, but it has just felt wrong for years now. By the age of fourteen, I wanted more from the world than its being based so embarrassingly obviously on looks; that night, above all others, my young, whiteness was thrown into relief.
            I’m not looking for pity. How many countless other times has this fact saved me or put me first?
            I always cursed not looking Latino (“Yeah, sure your dad is from Chile”) until the day I entered the United States through Miami with Ignacio and our daughter Clara and we were sent to the detention hall to wait while they questioned him. An hour later and he still couldn’t get even one of those Latino-US Citizen Immigration Officials to respond to him with a word of Spanish or any other less complicit expression of solidarity or brotherhood for an innocent Latino.
            Donald Trump hates almost everyone. He is like a nerve stripped of its body, stripped of its protective casing, whipping around, reacting all the time. A nerve does not create, it reacts. His hate is attractive, “Oh, you’re angry? Terrific, let’s hate. See how good it feels? Hate your next door neighbors and the ones who’ve gone before and will come after. Hate the ones who don’t follow the rules, but let’s change the rules. I hereby solemnly swear to keep the fires of controversy and confusion burning so bright over the next four years that you’ll be able to hate and hate without ever having to feel the stark, lifeless void that follows.”