July 13, 2013
Saturday afternoon: in the driveway between buildings they blow up
balloons—yellow, red, blue—for a 3-year-old’s party.
The intermittent pops startle me like random gunfire—remind me
of birthdays brown boys will no longer celebrate.
The DJ, having set up the speakers, begins to play—the music, a rapid fire
of bass thump, commandeers the apartment. We have no choice but leave.
An art show: canvases colored with boxes and lines—a grid of red
on a backdrop of yellow. We speak of the abstract with wine in our mouths.
Meanwhile, in an antechamber, six are sequestered. They speak of mali-
cious intent, blood, evidence, testimony—murder versus manslaughter.
We arrive home to a throng of brown bodies, hands clutching red cups,
and music: its insistent treble stabbing the ears.
Inside, we slam all windows, but the music still blares as my niece shoots
people on the video game—its sounds are too realistic to bear.
Instead, the news, a verdict is in: not guilty. And everything is a blur
of sound, my heart beating so fast I put a hand to my chest.
I watch the TV screen: a collage of abstractions—spotlights, microphones,
smiles, handwritten signs. I stare, as if it were a painting—
a smear of twisted faces smothered in gesso and oil, a grid of red
on a backdrop of yellow—to make sense of.
The party continues. The 3-year-old probably in bed dreaming of melted
ice cream, and I am tired of partying.
There is a police station a half block away and I want it to burn. Instead,
only the smoke of weed, the meaningless music droning on,
the popping of balloons. Sunday morning, the birds are angry—their
chirping a noisy chant: NO NO NO NO. Outside, the rubbery flesh
of balloons color the driveway like splotches of paint. In an instant,
those still lives of heave and breath—gone in a pop.