Seeing Red

June 14, 2011
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The hotheaded wind of nowhere New Mexico bulldozes my shirt against my skin. The sun, like an infant, reaches out greedily to caress and bite everything in reach. Like a bad parent, I've hidden myself away in the shade of a back alley near a greasy bar.

Richard, as righteous and diligent in pursuit as a child-services agent, has caged me in my little hidey-hole. His eyes are full of envy, lust, shame and something I can't label but certainly fear. I've escaped the sun but not the heat.

Mother cloud hides little sun's eyes so her child need not witness the upcoming violence. I, too, know that Richard's here to start a fight. A last stand for us both.

This is about Katy, the girl who in my mother's words "looks like an angel and dances like sin". Katy is perfect, flawless. She's also black. For all the work that Martin Luther King Junior has done, America's grandest canyon had not been bridged. Five decades of peace could not dream to erase centuries of war.

Richard is the local Alpha Male. The hometown demigod. The Second Coming of Jesus. The current King of the black community, he had counted Katy as his crown jewel. But I'm his Judas. I'm the white, middle class kid that has stolen his girl, his Katy Magdalene. He, however, won't turn the other cheek.

But I know that I'm getting ahead of myself. Racism and class war was a part of it, but the shot heard round the town would be fired by Cupid's whim. Stupid, stupid young love. He's jealous because I know Katy, unlike him.

I alone know that her dream doesn't involve striding down the carmine carpets of Hollywood. I alone know that her real dreams are given flesh and form by ink and graphite. I alone have seen her art. And Richard knows this, he hates this, in the same ignorant but intuitive way that a child knows and hates it when his elders keep secrets from him.

As he fires his first punch, the red-hot lump of frustration in his throat allows no more than a primal rumble to escape his lips. It is, however, the siren that warns of the bone-breaking barrage that is to come.

Five fists later, I'm seeing red. My red, my blood, painting a homicidal Rorschach test on the bleached-bone sidewalk. I don't fire back.

The sickeningly honest part of my mind knows that this is no act of moral strength or grace. I don't return fire because I want to demonize him. I want him to be the Nazi Germany to my Poland. I want that pig to fall off his pedestal. I want to see the guilt in Katy's eyes when she sees my skin bruised as black as Richard's. Guilt, because she shouldn't have allowed Richard to stitch his soul to her. Guilt, because I'm taking these punches for her. Because of her.

Baby sun manages to wrestle out of mother cloud's hold, and with her light, the truth dawns on Richard that now his cross is mine to bear. He's martyred me, and his fans, his legions, will not save him now. I've conquered Rome in a day.

The poisonous hand of fear smacks Richard, sends him running. I stay down on the bloody pavement, laying on my crimson laurels. My mind, its appetite only whetted by the adrenaline, eagerly gluts itself on the sweetmeats of victory. But their flavor is marred by the generous sprinkling of shame. I'm no Holy Spirit. I'm simply a corrupt priest selling myself an indulgence.

I begin to walk home, confused. My inner child, as greedy as the infant sun, demands the dessert of Katy's guilt, but my sobered mind denies those urges. I feel flawed. I feel far, far too human for a champion who has stolen the name of God.

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