by Carla Peña
AFO Content Writer
You ever feel like the world is pushing you -- shoving you-- off a ledge? Off the brink of your sanity. You lean back with all the weight of your body, your mind intently focused on grounding the soles of your feet as hard as you can to the floor beneath you. Digging your heels deeper, creating more friction. The world around you, the influx of godawful news, the reality of inequity, injustice, and white supremacy, cutthroat capitalism is ever-present. Images thrown in your face, in your mind’s eye of all the ugly society has to offer. You cannot ignore it. You confront it on the daily as you travel into work when you step off at Civic Center. Shit stained sidewalks, displaced people lying on flattened cardboard on the pavement, their home. They talk to no one who is listening, swearing at invisible threats. A Tesla is parked on the street. The Twitter Building, as you call it, towers over all of this. What the fuck is remotely good about this? You keep thinking about all of this. Here we go again. Cold beads of sweat collect in the lines of your furrowed brow. You find yourself standing in the middle of a train car, surrounded by people on their morning commute. This world don’t give a damn about our people. About black and brown beauty, black and brown lives. You don’t want to fall off the ledge. Guilt, anxiety, feelings of helplessness flood your brain and your veins. You are drowning in it. You’re thinking about 3000 deaths in Puerto Rico after the hurricane hit because only the white survive and thrive. You’re thinking about the thousands of inmates in South Carolina who are bracing themselves for what’s to come because the state will not save them. It’s Katrina all over again. It’s hurricane Maria. South Carolina is New Orleans is Puerto Rico, is not white. Their lives mean nothing. You’re thinking about the countless trans women of color who have been murdered in record numbers, weeks into the start of a ‘new’ year, with ‘old’ trauma. The black man who was shot dead by a white officer for being in his own home. The separation of migrant children from their families, their mistreatment and abuse.
Then suddenly you are jolted back to the present moment by the jostling of shoulders of strangers on a train car shooting through a tunnel under the Bay. You hear a ringing in your ear that slowly fades to make way for your eardrums to grapple with the murmur of voices, and brakes screeching to the next stop. Embarcadero Station. A reprieve. The train has stopped. You feel dizzy, panicked, trapped inside your body. You want to scream. You want to say “FUCK YOU” to all of them. Rude, careless, inconsiderate, selfish bodies taking up more space than they require. You are stuck in a microcosm of all the feelings you’ve been feeling for weeks now. You are living in this particular moment with the visceral consequences of pent up emotions. You’ve been holding back. You’ve become a dam unto yourself. You want to be a river, you want to be water. You want to let go. You want to give way, give up. Cut the strings of social niceties and constructs and let out all you’re holding onto - let go. Your girlfriend grabs your wrist, whispers in your ear: “what’s wrong, baby?” You are tethered now by this anchor, your heart in another chest, your mooring post. She brings you back down. You can release. Let flow your tears but still cling to her. Still cling to your mind, to your body. You can let go without succumbing to the current that’s been stirred inside you. Let the waters wash over you. Flow past you. Deja que te bañe, que te fortalezca. Que el agua y la sal te cure. Hay que seguir luchando. Doors closing now. She devises a plan. We get off at 16th and Mission. We walk. Feel the ground underneath us, static. She has me stand on a small patch of dirt covered in mulch, a flowerbed on the sidewalk. “Connect to the earth,” she says. We go get ‘everything’ bagels with sausage and egg, like we used to in New York. I take the long way to work. I’ll try again tomorrow.