Lately I’ve been a bit pensive. I keep thinking about how large this universe is and how small I feel in comparison. How everything we all care about seems so trivial. Even about if there is such a thing as “good” and “bad”. I think for me it lies in shades of grey.
Two weeks ago I got a headache. This headache would not go away and lasted for a week. I consequently ended up in the E.R. twice, in my regular physician’s office and seeing a neurologist. For those of you who may not remember I happen to have a cyst in my brain that was discovered last year. Since I had never had a headache like this before that was non-responsive to medicine I was thinking the worst. I was sure my cyst was growing and something really bad was about to happen to me. When all the doctors looked at me (and they did a CT scan and other tests) it turned out there was nothing wrong with me. No cyst growing larger or metastasizing cancer to my brain. No aneurysm or meningitis. I simply had a really bad migraine.
I recount this story because to me I truly feel that everyday I walk out my door could be my last. Every moment I live could be my last. Cancer stole that carefree feeling of immortality that most of us walk with. I’m not afraid of dying but I have noticed that I have become more reserved in the risks I take. I’m home before dark and carry mace. I won’t visit friends in bad neighborhoods or go out to parties. I’m suspicious of everyone I encounter if I do get stuck out late. I’ve cleaned up the way I eat because I’m afraid that what I’m eating will cause cancer. I don’t talk on my cell phone for long periods of time or carry it on my person because I’m afraid of the radiation it emits.
There is this breathless sort of feeling I have on most days. It feels like I’m running on a schedule and I’m always in danger of being late. I’m just right there. Even though my bills are paid I always feel like I don’t have enough money. I constantly think about what I own I can sell to get enough of a cushion to feel comfortable enough to relax. I feel like I’m running on borrowed time and there is so much I have to get done.
I watch nature shows about polar bears eating seals and I’m not sure who to root for – the polar bear mama with two cubs to feed or the baby seal who may be their prey. In one scene the polar bear tries to catch the baby seal and it successfully flees. In the next the polar bear and her two cubs are starving. I don’t want the cubs to starve but I also don’t want the baby seal to get eaten. There is this constant give and take cycle – someone/thing dies so that another can live. Shades of grey…
I just finished seeing the movie Fruitvale Station. In some ways it hits home for me. I used to live not far from Fruitvale Station in a bad neighborhood that was predominantly black when I was 20. Fruitvale station was my station. It was the one I got on and off to go to work each day. I learned to be a little more street smart there. It was the start of cultivating a tough exterior so people didn’t fuck with me. Especially as a young, white female. When I lived there I had been chased by pitbulls and had men try to solicit me as I walked home. I learned to build a wall.
Prior to seeing Fruitvale Station I studied up on the Oscar Grant case. I learned that Oscar grant had been a felon. He had a 4 year old daughter. He dealt drugs. He ran errands for his mother. I watched the video of him being shot and agreed that the cops were being too rough. The tension runs high in the video. People on BART are talking shit to the cops. The people being detained (Oscar Grant and his friends) are also talking shit to the cops at 2:00AM in the morning after a fight. Everyone had been drinking. I don’t believe a cop would mistake a taser gun for a handgun. But I also don’t think it’s wise to talk shit to a cop at 2:00 in the morning when they have guns and you’re a young black man. I wonder would things have gone differently had Oscar just sat down and complied with the officers. Would he be alive today? Or do some things happen for a reason. In the greater scheme of things did he die to bring awareness to police brutality? Who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy? The drug dealer who sells to your addicted son to feed his daughter or the cop who shoots him? Again, I feel shades of grey.
I feel like this is the grey world I live in and for me I can’t take sides. It depends on your perspective of course who you side with. The polar bear or the seal. The young black felon father or the cop who shoots him under pressure. What would Oscar Grant have done with his life had he lived? Would he have changed the world or gone back to San Quentin? Every person that dies is someones daughter, son, father or mother. We all do “good” and “bad” things. It just depends on what you look at.