The Woman on the Bridge by Grace Forrester

Editor Carrie Seitzinger, Editor's Choice, April 13th, 2017

"You shouldn’t blame yourself, for shooting me 44 times."

Grace Forrester essay on race, photo by Kwesi Abbensetts
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Here I am. I am the woman on the bridge. You can’t see me because the bridge doesn’t exist. At least not until I show you where it is, and what it really looks like. First, let me begin by telling you what I am wearing. Imagine a gown made of Egyptian linen. In the color of something liken to an elephant’s tusk with threads of 1st century Han’s sky blue silk. The train, of my gown, glides effortlessly between the lattice girders as I move back and forth on the bridge. I am breathtaking.

My skin is various shades of black, brown, and West Indian tones of red, depending on the season, and the time of day that your muddy indignant slurs slam against my patina layer. Each shade adds a reflective truth of a deeper purposeful hue. Ah, but then there are times, as the sun tips over the horizon, when my skin glistens with a cool mocha expression, and I imagine you sipping on your morning brew of odium. Those are the moments when my skin becomes emboldened with each toxic imbibed by you.

Every time you turn away from the sight of me, another rooted strand grows from my scalp into black snakes that coil and speak my true name. My hair belies a kinky madness, of a combo, of uncombed dreads, cornrows, twists, and just an overall wild mischief that defies movement from even the strongest whirlwind. My head is crowned by a kinky, nappy, black gold that screams chaos.

Listen to my heart, throbbing in sync with the fervent tempers of those who stand frozen innocently behind your white whimsical blind justice. Look as the glint of my smile forms plainly while I watch you contort yourself. Explaining to me what vegan means because a person that looks like me would never know what tofu is, or how you make sure to get my guarded attention when you speak of all things “Black.” I see your lips becoming twisted as you try to genuflect for the token ethnic’s approval. There you go trying to place my intellect in some caged checkbox of your making. I am no longer smiling, but I am bent over in a raucous laughter at the fear that encapsulates you.

Your eyes can’t move fast enough as I move through the aisle, of any store not stealing, but picking up everything and anything just to wake up the racist in you. Stand-up and show yourself. Empty your white privileged backpack. I demand you take a bow. Let me truly feel your white guilt! Just maybe it will eliminate the need for reparations; I doubt it, because….

Then there I go again, showing up at the oddest of places, in front of my doorstep. You shouldn’t blame yourself, for shooting me 44 times. After all, it was at night, and believe it, or not, I was that inconvenient truth that was darker than white. My slender ears are formed now. Every cartilage is in its right place. I can still hear the word “NIGGER,” as you bandied it around in nursery rhymes, family gatherings, in the Sunday pulpit, in political arenas, in the marketplace, in books, in songs, bedtime stories, and on my mother’s tongue. What’s a young black child to do? Hear well the echo and always remember: Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, India Fager, Rodney King, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Bette Jones, George Mann, Nuwnah Laroche, Kevin Martin, Freddie Carlos Gray….

Finally, let the dead bodies be your guide. Step on each of them, and when they no longer greet your stare. Then step on the letters in each of their names, and when that is exhausted then step on the tears of their family’s grief, and then when the ground is no longer moist by their blood that is where you will find me. Now that you know where to look, I am sure you can’t miss it. It will be the brightest and grandest bridge you will ever see. Take your time, come when you are ready; I will be waiting on the bridge.

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Header image courtesy of Kwesi Abbensetts. To view his artist feature, go here.

grace forrester, grace a forrester, essay on raceGrace A Forrester is a human-certified-no-bot organic writer. Originally from NYC, now, she is happy to call Portland, Oregon her home. Her work has been reviewed in the Village Voice and performed in NYC on stage. Since every life is infused with its own operatic tones, Grace tries tenaciously to excavate those narratives that spring from the marginalized and disenfranchised of society.

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Carrie Seitzinger

Carrie Seitzinger is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Seitzinger is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.
Learn more about her at her official site.