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Wednesday, July 08, 2020


by Jen Schneider

From San Francisco to South Carolina, a spate of shootings claimed the lives of people celebrating or just taking a drive over the Fourth of July weekend. Chicago saw one of its bloodiest holiday weekends in memory, with 17 killed and 70 wounded by gunfire. The incidents come amid fears the coronavirus pandemic, protests against racism, rising gun sales and an election year could make for a particularly deadly summer. —AP, July 6, 2020.

“Baby, I think I’m in trouble”
“It’s going to be okay.” 

The words fluttered off pale, water-starved lips that puckered and pursed at a rate quicker than my brain neurons could process what had just happened and what was about to occur. Beeps and blips punctured the air. My heart first guided, then pulled, and ultimately produced speech. Mine.

“It’s going to be okay,” I repeated. In case he didn’t hear it the first time.

Uttered in a place and a time where there was no room for reason, and no chance to undo what was already done, I spoke. Again.

“You’re alright.”

As I heard myself utter letter after letter and form a string of syllables meant to carry but only served to tangle. The sounds of my own voice echoed in the broken chamber of my mind.

Ten, nine, eight. My breath paused and his became more labored.

One final squeeze—hard, then harder, harder still. His. Then nothing.

Formerly intertwined fingers fell limp. My own muscles turned to stone as tears fell.

I continue to whisper—It’s going to be okay.

As reality took on new life. Repetition does not—will not—cannot
turn a lie into truth.

Nothing is going to be okay.

Thick arms clothed in heavy blue cotton touched, then grasped, my shoulders.
“M’am. Let’s go. Step back.”

I resisted. Turning right, then left. Right again. Only nothing was right. The sheer lacey fabric of my skirt tore as my knee shifted and my body gave way to the organized resistance. The skirt was a gift. He bought it for me on a whim, after he caught my gaze settle on the window mannequin. So different from my usual taste. Far beyond our usual budget. His eyes twinkled as I unwrapped the red satin bow, lifted the cardboard box top, and fingered the pink and purple tissue paper. Finally, finding the skirt.

I know not why I chose today to pull the skirt of my closet hanger that day. The weatherman forecasted falling temps. The skirt called to me, nonetheless.

He was pleased. All those years and I could still make him smile without even trying.

“Looking good, girl.” he stated and then let out a long, low whistle. “Let’s get out of here.”

We took the apartment steps by two and ventured downtown.
Walking. Talking. Laughing. Until the pop.
Pop. Pop. Pop. Silence.
Hustle. Bustle. Quick. Tape
wrapped wounds as
blood continued to spray.
“Baby?” Silence.

What then does one do
when the world stops
beating yet the sun
continues to rise?

Sheer cotton fabric
soaks tears
of love and loss.

I close my eyes
and see the world
only as I wish
it to be.

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.