Texas Freeze Over—February 16, 2021 On that freezing eve in a winter storm, where nothing was the norm, eighteen-year-old Rodney Reese was walking home down a Plano street. He’d finished his shift at Walmart, groceries in hand, still had a good ways to go, slipping and stumbling in ice and snow, still had a good ways to go, when they showed up and slowed. He heard the shout, saw the colors of the car, felt a shiver run over his memory wars: remembered what happened to George Floyd in Minnesota, Eric Garner in New York, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Daniel Prude in New York. Did the cops remember the truth as they told him to stop? That they’d been sent to make a wellness check? Not to be a pain in the friggin’ neck? That the state was now a disaster zone of ice and snow, bodies freezing in homes? Did they remember that he was a man? That warnings were given by the weathermen? That warnings were shouted by the BLM? They asked him to stop; he sweated and labored on. If only he could get home or where someone could see what was going on. He peered resolute through the snow, through the dark, and he prayed. “Where you going, son?” “I’m going home.” “Why you walkin’ in the road?” “Sidewalk’s icy, man.” “Where you goin’? You need a ride.” “I’m goin’ home. Don’t touch me!” The cops get out, come close. “Why don’t you stop? We want to talk.” “Don’t touch me, man!” They grab his arms, cuff him. “This is an investigation!” So though it makes no sense to anyone with a few cells of gray, they charged him for walking home—charged him with being a pedestrian in a roadway. He spent the night in jail, managed to keep his heart from fail, managed to keep from other travail. Next day the police chief let him go, said they should ‘a’ taken him home, didn’t know what was in those cops minds, was it race? The chief couldn’t say. Rodney, when asked later why he didn’t want to stop for the cops, said, “I seen all this stuff with George Floyd. It hurts, man.” People Are Looking They just keep killing black men— these self-appointed vigilantes and cops—killing men jogging down the street like Ahmaud Arbery or men coming out of a shop like George Floyd and the BLM started marching and the Trump response sent an Armageddon of armored cops and henchmen to attack people who were not armored who were protesting the murders of black men. A Star Wars attack on regular people, and the protesters march wearing Covid masks, march those streets, through smoke and tear gas, and the robotic cops bear down bear down brutalize and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces because I seem to have missed something. 1968 I am seven. I walk into a church in East Austin with my mother, brother, sister. Moselle who cleans our house and takes care of us kids invited us to her daughter’s wedding. And when we walk in and walk down the aisle and sit down, my heart begins to thud because people are looking, then not looking, at us. We are the only white people there. 1988 I am 27. I walk into a church for the wedding of Sara. She is a friend, a co-worker, a fellow accountant at the State Auditor’s Office. And when I walk in and walk down the aisle and sit down, my heart begins to thud because something is similar, something is wrong, people are looking, then people are not looking, at us. We are the only white people there. 2020 And my mind races to find the puzzle pieces as a despot’s robot army marches on people who are protesting the murders of men— murders because of the color of their skin. An obscene scene of spleen sent by a President who is more mean than man, sending a smokescreen to make a show that is the only way he knows. And my heart thuds and my mind races to find the puzzle pieces: 1968, 1988, 2020, and I look back and ask Sara, where were the other people from the office? Why did none of them come to your wedding? During workdays, we all worked together. During lunches, we ate out together. During out-of-town audits, we travelled together. My God, Sara, I remember back then I heard one or two excuses busy, kids . . . but most had no kids— most of our co-workers were single, and white. Oh, Sara, how blind have I been?
Bio for Laura Grevel
Laura Grevel is an immigrant, poet, fiction writer and blogger. Originally from Texas, she has lived in Europe for 21 years. Her work is eclectic, tackling the immigrant experience, narratives, politics, nature, and character sketches. Her latest collaborative YouTube video is called “Girl Walking Across Europe” by Poets For Refugees.