“How does it feel to be back in America?” My friend Alex asked me in awe. I almost thought she asked what it felt like to be Black in America. In that case, I would’ve said “frustrating”. I guess I heard her wrong for a quarter of a second, though.
Alex figured that 30 days in Jamaica would’ve made me a little homesick. Which is a fair evaluation, but far from how I truly felt? In fact, I’d only been back in the states for about 48 hours and had already experienced two bouts of stress-related nausea.
I turned to her, my eyes seemingly gazing at a small, distant object outside on the quiet street.
“I feel like I just got thrown into a pool of ice cold water,” I replied to her under my breath. My hands shifted in discomfort around my small cup of English tea.
“I keep gasping for more air, but — ” I paused. She looked at me.
“..But what, Carey?” Alex said very kindly and inquisitively; hoping that maybe, just maybe, a silver-lining would come about this revelation.
“But I keep getting pushed back into the cold water,” I spoke up this time, raising my brown eyes to meet her blue ones. She was stunned.
“And the further down I’m pushed, the more I struggle. And the worse I feel,” I concluded.
I looked out of the window and at the tall trees in the foreground. They were so dull and lifeless. I felt like I had something in common with them these days.
“It often feels like the walls are closing in on me,” I continued relentlessly.
“I am struggling to exist. I can’t breathe, Alex, I can’t breathe.”
She grabbed my hand while the deafening moment of silence permeated throughout the quiet café in which we were sitting.
This piece predates the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were killed by police right after the Fourth of July — America’s national celebration of independence.