It Could Have Been Me

I’m having a lot of feelings as of late. So many feelings, that I’m not sure HOW I’ve been holding it together lately. From Breonna to George and the multitude between and since, to realizing that people I once loved tremendously REALLY don’t think my life matters. I think this is enough to stretch the emotions of ANY Black person in these States…(cause we damn sure ain’t United.) Add the fact that I’m an empath, and I’m still grieving my sister, (coming on 1 year without her) and I’m getting older…
It’s a lot. I know that people in my life see the change in me lately. For those who have, I’m sorry. An empath can carry a LOT of emotional weight, but at times it gets to be way too much. I have 3 chapters left in my sophomore novel, and I was a writing machine up until about 3 weeks ago. Crushing depression and grief has been whippin’ my ass lately. You’ll get the book though, I promise.
Anyway… I’ve been trying to figure out what to say, and at first, I just felt like I was too overwhelmed and depressed to say ANYTHING. But today, a story came to mind that I want to tell you guys. This is a story that I’ve told numerous times over the years to people who know me personally, usually in an anecdote type situation. But as it crossed my mind, it took on a new meaning in today’s climate.
This is the story about when B’s Best Friend made her jump out of a moving car….
Seriously, that’s how I’ve always told the story; cause usually it’s funny… but today… not so much.
When I was 15, after a basketball game, a few of us girls decided we wanted to go to the movies. We were in 2 cars and there were about 8 or 9 of us; only 2 of us were Black. The movies were in Cleburne, Texas. That’s where I told my momma I’d be. But we ended up at the Burleson skating rink. My best friend needed to find her cousin who owed her money, which she needed for the movies. I had a pager back then and I warned them that if my mother paged me and I DIDN’T call from the movie theater, I’d likely be grounded for life. It was promised that this would be a quick stop. So we went.
When we got there, I went in with my best friend to find her cousin. At the window the little old White lady (who I later learned owned the place with her husband) refused us entry. Not because we were Black of course, but because they didn’t allow in and out entry. My best friend tried to appeal to her, promising to pay the door charge after obtaining the money before we left the building, but she wasn’t budging. So we left.
Outside, we learned that the other car had disappeared. Apparently, one of the girls got a page and needed to find a phone. The other driver set off to find a gas station, thinking they’d be back by the time we emerged from the rink. Of course us not being allowed in kinda sped up the timetable. It was a cold night, so we all piled into the remaining car for warmth. We were sitting six deep in one of my classmate’s grandmother’s car, a long boat like Oldsmobile. (If you’re over 35, you know the rides I’m talking about. If you’re younger, Google it.)
As we sat shivering and hunched together like we were trying out for an early version of Survivor, we laughed, and talked about how silly it was that they wouldn’t let us in when we promised to pay even though we weren’t skating. I don’t remember who it was, but someone realized that the other car had been gone for an inordinate amount of time just to go to the gas station. Another girl chimed in that the driver of said car was TERRIBLE with directions and they could be lost.
Oh the days before cell phones and GPS, right?
So we decided to go to the nearest gas station to see if we could find them. We set off through the dark back roads of Burleson. We’d gone about a mile or two when we saw the other car pass us going back towards the rink.
So after a 7 point turn, we were able to reverse our direction in an attempt to catch up with them. (Why 7 point turn? Because it was a boat Oldmobile and we were on small country back roads… keep up.)
Our driver drove at a very unsafe speed to get us caught up with the other 2 girls because we were concerned that once they didn’t find us, they’d think we left them. But as we turned into the parking lot of the skating rink, we saw them heading into the rink. Of course my best friend and I had just been made privy to the whole, “No in and out, must pay” policy and we were like: “Oh Noooo!!!” (Kinda in the manner of Bruce from Family Guy)
Here is where I usually laugh… As we were skidding up to the entrance, my best friend, who was sitting in the middle of the front bench seat between me and the driver, yelled, “B! Jump out and go catch them!”
To which I replied, “But we’re still moving!” (I felt like that was a justifiable argument.)
To which my best friend repeated, “GO CATCH THEM!”
Now let me pause here… I’m not gonna go down the whole rabbit hole, but earlier in the year, I made a REALLY REALLY stupid request that my friend agreed to. This request led to her utter mortification at an Omega frat party (that our 15 year old asses had NO business being at) and ever since, when she told me to do something… I did it. Because in her words, “You owe me!”
In retrospect, I kinda did owe her. I’ll tell that story another day.
So I jumped out of the car well before we were stopped and took off running for the skating rink. I opened the entrance just as the other 2 were pushing open the 2nd door to go into the rink proper. Breathlessly I announced, “Hey! We’re not in there. We’re leaving.”
One of the girls turned quickly to the lady at the window and said, “We didn’t go inside, so we want our money back.” I assume they had a similar argument as my friend had. The woman tried to argue that they’d already paid and pointed to the “No Refund” sign on the window. However, the girl, a 90s Karen-in-the-making, wouldn’t budge. “We never stepped foot into your rink, so we want our money back now.” Begrudgingly the old woman relented and provided them with their refund, and again… We left.
Once we were outside, we found the rest of the girls standing out by the cars waiting. We were laughing at what had just transpired and I swear I muttered, “I can’t believe you made me jump out of a moving car.” Fully regrouped, we began dividing ourselves back into the two cars to head back to Cleburne and the movies.
Now here’s where it gets a bit dark with the mindset of today’s time….
As we were talking and laughing about the refund debacle, an older White man emerged from the building….carrying a baseball bat. We didn’t notice him at first, because we were 15-16 year old girls and we were trying to simultaneously explain the mix up to the other car while trying to figure out who was riding in which. It wasn’t until he was standing right next to our group yelling for us to get off his property that we took notice.
I can’t remember who initially calmed him down and assured him we were leaving, but I know it wasn’t me or my best friend, and he backed off once we started getting into cars. Because of his appearance, and the baseball bat, we kind of just got into the closest open door we were by to leave.
There was a girl with us, our starting shooting guard, who had torn her ACL earlier in the season. She came to every single game and practically helped coach from the bench, but she was on crutches for a long time. This was shortly after her ACL surgery, so she couldn’t bend her knee. Unfortunately for her, the closest door to her was the passenger rear door. Her right ACL had been torn. Therefore, she had a problem.
For those in the cheap seats, in order to get into a car, one must bend one’s knees. If a knee cannot be bent, it’s generally easier to get into the car on the injured leg side to put weight on the good leg and then you can bend the good leg to close the door. But she was on the wrong side.
So we had this old White man, glaring at us holding a bat, and everyone was in the car, except her, because she couldn’t bend her leg. I was in the rear driver’s side of my car, so I hopped back out to help her get in. Apparently, Mr. Man didn’t appreciate this action, because he began to get agitated and yell at us even more, particularly me, since I was out of the car.
As I was ignoring his demands trying to help my friend get into the car, he inched closer, raising his bat slightly. His yelling became cussing. The more he yelled, the more the other girls encouraged us to get a freaking move on so we can leave. But I was concerned about my friend’s leg, so I wasn’t going to manhandle her. As she leaned back in, and I held her injured leg up to not bang anything and allow her to slide backwards in the rear seat, his insistent yelling started to get to me. Finally I stopped, spun on him and screamed back, “HOLD THE FUCK ON! CAN’T YOU SEE SHE CAN’T BEND HER FUCKING LEG?!”
The “Gangsta” in me would like to think my 15 year old ass talking back to him was enough to make him back off. But I saw his eyes flit to my friend and it was like he hadn’t noticed at first. He backed off and we got her in and left.
That’s it… that’s the story.
Now, why did it come to mind you ask? (If you have to ask… are you NOT paying attention to… like… ANYTHING?)
Black folks carry this weight at all times, especially these days. The knowledge that if someone were to harm or kill us just because they feel like it or because we somehow invaded a White space (see sundown towns), they very likely would go unpunished, is something enough to cause anxiety in even the strongest heart.
I knew that Louisville wouldn’t indict any of those cops for the murder of Breonna Taylor, just like I believe that even though there WERE charges filed on the cops that murdered George Floyd, they will likely get off too. But then I think about how close I’ve been in the past from being just like them.
If that story had taken place in 2020 rather than 1994/95, I probably would have been hurt or worse. I was trying to help my friend, and because I wasn’t moving fast enough, that would have signed my death warrant today.
I think what’s getting to me is how so many people are justifying the lack of justice, even as far up to White House. When we say Black Lives Matter, people hear politics, and all I hear is a common sense acknowledgement. I wonder how many of the people who I used to love tremendously would blame me for my own death in this instance. Knowing exactly who I am and my heart, how many would still scream from the rooftops to protest my death would be anti-cop or anti-American?
I think, along with everything else I’m feeling, realizing the racism I experienced in the 90s, that DID scar me to an extent, is NOTHING compared to what we’re seeing today…. and it’s from people I KNOW. It’s disheartening and it’s sad.
I don’t think if this happened in 2020 I’d get justice either. I’d be a hashtag for a few months and we’d move on to the next. And that also makes me sad, especially for Breonna.
I can’t imagine how many people she may have touched in her life – but that’s not who has the megaphone.
I can’t imagine what her dreams and aspirations were – because she doesn’t get to see them through.
I’m just so very sad guys, and today it really hit me for the first time…. It could have been me.
Rest in Peace, Queen. I didn’t know you, but I won’t forget you.

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B,J, Cyprian

B,J, Cyprian

Author. Musician. Gamer. Home chef. INFP. Loveable curmudgeon.

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