And I dare you to tell me otherwise
It is almost never, ever just about the cake. There is always something else. And in the current air of things — there is certainly something else. During a time when making a quick run to the store can be a death sentence, worshiping inside the temple of God could be your last prayer to the entity, children are slaughtered before the end of a schoolday on-site, and Black women are violently attacked for refusing to not take up space, it is damn well not just about the cake.
I am exhausted — running on fumes. I often feel like there is nothing in me left worth sharing — worth contributing to this world, and I know I am not the only one.
There are grim reminders everywhere — we have one life — just this one life, and while we are out here trying to live it, someone else is figuring out a way to take it from us. All of us. So when the craving hit me completely out of nowhere like a wrecking ball slated to crush into its next assignment, I pushed my weary body up from the chair, threw on a t-shirt, some pants, socks, and slides, and drove to the nearest Harris Teeter. I was taking a chance — betting big, and the stakes were high. The stakes are always high.
I searched for the one thing I tend not to allow myself to have, waltzed over to the self-checkout lane, paid the tab, and walked hurriedly out of the store, and swiftly to my car. I made it inside and back outside, unscathed — alive — but still fearful.
It could have been me, it could have been you.
This is my thought process of late. Oh, please don’t get me wrong, I have lived with this line of thinking for years, but after the recent deaths of my cousin, my aunt, a writer friend, and a few other people who were near and dear to me years prior, I hate feeling like I’m rocking the boat — testing the waters. I don’t want to live in fear. I shouldn’t have to live in fear. But you take a global pandemic, mass shootings, an infant formula shortage, the harassment and outright killing of people of color, and finally, you have a goddamn scaredy-cat in your midst, and that scaredy-cat is me.
When I think about the tragedies that make up this nation’s current events, I am overwhelmed with sadness. It could have been me, it could have been you. Although I count my blessings daily, it angers me that so many people will never again hug, kiss, and be with their loved ones because of the mindless and heartless acts of those who lack something they need or want or just want to take.
When did we become so incredibly selfish? Can anyone remember? It dates so far back. I am sure I’d get the timing wrong, but help me out — throw me a damn bone. When?!
I will forever have this thought in the back of my mind whenever I venture out to any store within a 10 mi radius of me. I will forever be reminded of children so violently taken away from their families when my little cousins and nieces and nephews leave home in the morning. I will shudder just a little if ever I set one foot back into my church. I will force myself to bite my tongue instead of rebutting when a privileged angry, White man feels the need to flaunt his arrogance and ego at the gas station.
I am surrounded by things that scare the hell out of me, yet I am obligated to move forward — to continue as if none of these things ever occurred. So yeah, you damn right, I bought the slice of cake.
My dog is old, going blind and deaf, and clings to me like a second skin.
For fourteen years, I have had a fur baby who has been more than the beauty of a noon sky to me, and she is moving through this aging phase of life in a way that is breaking me down. I don’t have the words. There are none that can properly describe watching her deteriorate right before my eyes. Perhaps you’ve read about Jernee, perhaps not. There is only so much I can share in an essay without going over the word limit most people care to read, so I won’t waste your time with any of the fat — we’ll just get straight to the meat of the situation.
Jernee has cataracts, she is losing her hearing, and has a cystic tumor on her back right paw that the vet feels he should not remove because it requires putting her to sleep, skin grafting post removal, and a ton of other off-the-wall things that would cost me both my arms and legs and she may not even wake up from it all afterward. Yet, if you saw this sweet baby, you would not know much of what I detailed unless you spent more than a few moments with her.
I have had to think about the inevitability of her death — it is imminent and in the near future. Many of our lives could be described this way, but I have spent much of mine caring for, loving, and being with her. I envision scraping my limbs up from the floor and removing anything remotely close to my living self from the dumps I will probably meet once it takes place. Death comes for us all — it has to come for her, too.
She is still eating — still enjoys a little exercise — still likes to be cuddled and kissed, but all in small doses. If we go overboard with any of these things, her breathing becomes labored and she will sleep for the entire day. Since I have been working from home for the past 19 months, separation anxiety is an understatement.
She bites her paws or attempts to harm herself if I am not within earshot or directly in her line of view. I’ve begun placing an e-collar around her neck and putting her in her crate if I need to run a quick errand or spend some time away from her enjoying someone — anyone else. It hurts like hell, but I am protecting her from her, and how do you explain this to a senior dog who just wants you to stay put and never leave her?
Well, you don’t. You can’t. It’s just life, and it’s the part of life no one ever mentions to you when you look for a companion to keep you sane enough to stay alive.
So you see, that’s why I bought that slice of cake.
We have been through enough, and there could be more on the way.
Even though we’ve waded through the murkiness of the rough waters, we’ve placed ourselves on lockdown and in quarantine, we’ve worked when we should’ve rested, and we’ve fought for our voices to be heard, there could be more of the same on the way. No one can know. We can all sit back and pretend we’ve been through the worst of it, but the state of America will only fester and become an even crueler and more aggravating boil on our collective asses if something drastic and onboard with positive change does not occur soon.
I have met my fill of deaths. I have cried rings around my eyes and lost my voice. I send text messages to friends and family as check-ins. I stop by my cousin’s place to make sure she and the little ones are okay. I call the elderly in my family to hear their labored breaths on the other end tell me, “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.” I live in 15-minute increments because 24 hours is too long to pray for continual life.
I have been eating home-cooked meals catered to me and my loved ones, drinking more water, exercising (walking holes in the soles of my shoes because of the frustration welling up within me), and I have lost 12 pounds. I’ve done all of this and I intend to do more. However, will America let me live? Will you see my name pop up in your feed this time next year? Will you even be around at that time? We don’t know. We can’t know.
Because your local grocery store could be your memorial site. The nearest gas station might be the place you land a black eye and multiple bruises. Church on a Sunday morning with family and friends may end up being a crime scene. And you may count 19 dead children and 2 teachers in your sleep.