Quentin Lucas realizes he may die one day at the hands of the police, so he wrote what would be his final words now.
It’s not just that this is an old story …
Trayvon Martin. The Sandy Hook massacre. The Troy Davis execution. For years, I’ve written about violence from numerous angles. Pulling a pen from a coffee cup, like it was the sword in the stone, and writing about the anxiety that uses my blood cells like white water rafts has, with luck, expressed both hope and frustration.
But when I look back on those essays, once original and heartfelt images of a dented soul, painted into existence with an acrid vocabulary — all I see now is a template.
The violence I’ve written about has remained, like a fungus with roots deep enough to coil around the Earth’s core. The gash that would be left in the side of our world if we were to uproot this brutality, like a bullet hole the size of the moon, would ooze lava the way Jordan Davis dripped blood. Maybe this is just whom we really are.
Too many of those essays about violence can still read like they’re hot off the presses merely by switching the names. Look at the words, let your eyes blur a little, and watch the letters in Trayvon Martin shed excess skin and read Walter Scott, downward dog into Sarah Lee Circle Bear, and then origami-fold until it becomes Rekia Boyd. And the name of the latest police brutality victim matters not only because his or her death has slapped a fresh bruise into lady justice’s face, but because my sadness over that death is why I’m here again — needling another tattoo about another death into my computer screen.
… it’s that this is an old horror story.
But, in the moment, naming the latest victim only adds to the perversion because really it’s just a matter of updating the template.
Because we all know that a new name is just around the corner.
I’d like to become less affected by these aggressions. Not indifferent to them, nor callous, but thick-skinned enough to feel confident that I can survive these stories when they crash into my bones. But the irony in my desire to survive reminds me of, possibly, the only thing left to be said, a slender, venomous truth, like a baby rattlesnake, that I should probably stitch into existence now before I find myself coughing up blood and thinking, “I should have done that crazy thing I wanted to do when there was still time.”
To the cop(s) who killed me,
All I want to say is this …
I badly want to be the smart ass and open this letter with “Nice aim.”
And though the people who knew me best wouldn’t be surprised by that retort to my own death, I’m writing this for them as well and think they’d probably appreciate a little sensitivity.
So, first, this is weird. Statistically, I’m fairly certain that I was more likely to sustain some other misfortune than death-by-cop, even while black in America — and, incidentally, one-eighth Blackfoot Indian which I guess makes this incident prime real estate for a “two birds with one stone” joke.
But, personally, I couldn’t pretend anymore that this wasn’t possible. I didn’t start to feel the boys in blue crowding in on me, so to speak. But, at some point, in light of deaths like Jonathan A. Ferrell’s and other harmless people just looking to be people, I started asking, “What makes me so sure this can’t happen to me?”
And, in a way, thinking that this couldn’t happen felt like handcuffing myself with a pair of absurdities:
- Thinking that morals, youth, or charm would somehow protect me where they failed to protect others, and …
- Overlooking the reality that believing that I’m safe if I just “be good” is how I silently blame the victims.
Sometimes I also drive while black. Honestly, I’m no less dangerous than John Crawford III walking around Wal-Mart. And, really, if I was Eric Garner, I’d have wanted to be left alone too. So, why not me?
But still, writing this is uncomfortable and even feels wrong, like I’m unnecessarily dragging a possibility just a few inches closer to inevitability. I kind of want to stop. But I keep thinking about my friends who posted messages on Facebook after Sandra Bland, saying that if they ever died in police custody, never believe that it was a suicide. So, in respect to postmortem correspondence, I’m actually a little late to the party.
I suppose the question I want to ask is why did you kill me? Really though, not what did you put in your police report about why you killed me. But that looks like an answer that will have to remain between you and your god. So, instead, I’ll just share this obvious and uncomfortable truth before I shuffle on:
Fuck you. Fuck you and the elements of society that enabled you.
Maybe it’s anger. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe my affinity for polite conversation bled away long before my life did.
But I want my parting words to echo a sound as vile and abominable as a murderous gunshot from a “hero.”
So, again: Fuck you.
… and this.
And to everyone else:
I never fully understood life, what it was and what it was about. But, for the most part, I enjoyed it, and the time we shared — even if it was as scant as a Facebook like. And I hope our time together meant something to you as well.
Still, with that said, yes, I am pissed that writing this note ever seemed remotely necessary to me.
But after the umpteenth story about someone else’s voice being taken away by a person who swore to serve and protect it, I got scared one night. And I felt like I had to, at least, brush up against those things we always want to — but somehow can’t — say before it’s too late.
Morbid as hell, I know. And probably solipsistic too. But if I’m dead, do I really care? My only regret is that I didn’t open with “Nice aim.”
P.S. This time, the victim’s name was Samuel DuBose.
Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr