“Lights”

by Dakotah Jennifer

  1. I am painfully aware of how alive I am… or am not. I am painfully aware of things ending & beginning. I am painfully aware of tiptoeing down the hall at night. There is no hall. There is no night. Those back roads are the hall. The highway is the hall. Life is the hall. I am still tiptoeing.
  2. I haven’t gotten to the point yet. I’m sorry. There’s no way to do this easily. It’s too easy. I’m sorry.
  3. Everything is red & blue now. No matter where or when, everything could be danger. Or more like, no matter where, I could be danger. Everything is red or blue or both. I swear this will make sense. I swear.
  4. Here. Maybe this will make it easier to understand: almost everyday, I see red & blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror even when there are none. It started after I was pulled over, and now, I am afraid of the odds. 1/1. 1/2. 1/4 people killed by them last year were my shade of other, and I might be on 1/4 borrowed time.
  5. It’s not like I see ghosts. I see spirits. One red car and a flash of the high beams brings a nightmare that will never jolt me awake. One blue car slowing to a stop morphs into wrongness. Into possible crime.
  6. I don’t have to commit one. I don’t have to commit a crime to be gone. We don’t have to commit a crime to be gone. And every time I think they’re coming, I start to disappear in the mirror.
  7. I haven’t yet gotten good at playing off death like a game. I haven’t yet found a way to not change everything about me in order to seem ordinary or not ordinary for my color or just normal. I haven’t yet found a way not to be afraid of myself or my skin. I haven’t yet found a way to stop being this shaking thing so people could stop worrying or not worrying about me.
  8. I confess: I am not afraid of the lights. Or the cars. I am afraid of what lies within them. I’m afraid of their fear. I’m afraid I’ve already committed the crime. Or that it doesn’t matter. I’m afraid that sound crazy. That I am crazy. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of so much more than this, but all I remember from that night is bright flashes of red & blue.

    Dakotah Jennifer is an eighteen-year-old black writer currently attending Washington University in St. Louis. She has published a chapbook, “Fog,” with Bloof Books, and has also published with Grief Diaries, Ripple Zine, and Apartment Poetry. She is the winner of Washington University’s 2018-2019 Harriet Schwenk Kluver Award.