Slap on the Wrist
Intermittent showers. That’s what the forecasters had called the periods of rain we would experience that day. I was excited. It had been about a month since I had last seen him, and I was looking forward to our time together, even if we had to spend most of it at a wedding. But he wasn’t here yet, and he hadn’t called, and he was not answering his phone.
This wasn’t like him. He was very thoughtful of me. He knew I would worry. “What’s going on?” I questioned God as I looked back and forth at my clock radio and my silent phone.
I was in the wedding party, and I couldn’t be late. I reluctantly began putting on my dress, wondering what sort of accident might have befallen him. I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong, and the longer I waited, the more anxious I became.
I heard a car pull up, and I leaped from my bed to look out the window. It was him. A simultaneous flood of relief and frustration hit me. I hiked up the dress and ran to meet him.
There was something in his eyes that startled me. “What happened?” I asked. “We’re supposed to be in Indiana in a few minutes. Why are you so late?”
I could tell that this line of questioning annoyed him as he gently, but nonetheless firmly, pushed me aside as he carried in his suitcase and garment bag. I trailed closely behind him in silence as he ascended the steps and walked down the hall to my bedroom. He casually threw his suitcase on the bed.
“Excuse me,” he said sharply as I stood blocking his path to the closet.
Stepping aside, I retorted, “What the hell did I do to you? What’s wrong with you?”
He let out a defeated sigh and shook his head in disbelief, leaving me to wonder if he’d only come out of some noble sense of obligation due to a previously accepted invite.
“You don’t have to go to the wedding if you don’t want to. You could have just said you didn’t want to go!”
Hanging up his bag forcefully in the closet, he turned around, grabbed my hand firmly, and led me to the bed. Sitting down, he let go of me, and dropped his head into his hands.
“My wrists hurt,” he said. “I got pulled over, and when the cop came to the window, he said that he smelled marijuana. And before you start, I was NOT smoking and I was NOT speeding because I know how much you wanted me to go to this wedding with you.” He looked up at me with his you-know-when-I’m-lying-and-I-swear-I’m-not-lying face.
“He made me get out the car so he could search it, but when I got out and he realized how big I am, he jumped back and grabbed his gun. He said, ‘I gotta put the handcuffs on you for my protection.’ They were so small, Babe,” he said, rubbing his wrists softly. “I told him they were too small and that they were hurting me, but he insisted that he couldn’t take them off ‘for his protection.’ I begged him to loosen them, but he said he couldn’t.”
I sat down next to him, taking his wrists in my hands. “He made me sit on the curb in the rain while he went through my car. He opened up my suit for the wedding in the rain. He went through my suitcase. He even unhooked my sound system and left it all out in the rain while he continued to search my car. I really thought he was going to plant something. My wrists really hurt.”
I brought his hands up toward my face and carefully kissed the areas rubbed raw and red. “I’m so sorry, Sweetie.”
“I told him I was going to Chicago to escort you to a wedding. I told him there was nothing in my car, but he wouldn’t listen. When my license was clean and he couldn’t find anything, and I’m soaking wet and so is all my shit, he tells me, I’m ‘free to go.'”
This incident from over 15 years ago floods back to memory as my husband lays across my legs. I’m rubbing his face the way he likes, and I can feel him sink comfortably into my lap.
“You know,” he starts, “they were protesting on Western when I went to get the food.” I know by his cadence that he’s not really looking for a response. “I never saw so many white folks with Black Lives Matter shirts and signs. It was remarkable, Babe. I mean, I didn’t see any black people. I never saw so many white folks…” He doesn’t finish the thought, but I get it.
“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”
Frederick Douglass “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”