In the daylight, we held a protest.
That night, there was a riot.
Or at least that’s what the news said after, that the protest turned dark when it got dark out, that some people went rogue and smashed the giant glass window at the Starbucks on the corner, that they took a stool and smashed another window somewhere else.
And so the police were dispatched.
This is the scene that I see when I close my eyes:
The Delmar-Skinker intersection is way too bright for nine pm on a Saturday night. It looks like something is on fire, and that’s what I think is happening when I hear sirens. There are orange cones blocking off Delmar, which means we can’t drive the last few hundred feet home, which means we have to walk. So we get out of the car and turn up the sidewalk and see hell. Hell in the form of double-parked cop cars blocking off the next block, lights flashing blue and red and too fast. Hell in the form of three cops in wide-legged stances with their backs to me. Hell that sounds like deafening yells coming from the far end of the street, hell cloaked by darkness that’s hiding whatever atrocities are on the other side of the cop cars, hell that sounds like the police threatening the use of chemical weapons if the crowd doesn’t disperse.
All of this stands between me and home.
And, more specifically, the cops stand between me and home, because the next block up where they’re standing is my block, the block where I need to turn. In order to make it to my apartment I, clad in black skin, will have to approach three cops from behind in the middle of a riot in the middle of the night. I have stopped moving. I am assaulted by the thought of rubber bullets and I feel my hands go up, so that when they feel me sneaking up behind them they won’t shoot. People pass me going the opposite direction, headed away from the chaos. Good for them. I’m still stuck on the sidewalk.
But we can’t stay here, so we cross the street and go around the cops and around the corner and then we’re outside of our apartment building, and across the street from the key-card entrance there are more cops arresting teenagers in the grass. Above us are helicopters with flood lights. The whir of the helicopter blades sends me into panic mode, even though I know they aren’t there for me.
Inside, the security guard at the front desk tells us that the building is on lockdown and we’ve been advised to stay away from the windows. In my room I curl up in a ball and put on headphones to drown out the sound of the helicopters. Eventually I cry myself to sleep.
Even the aftermath has an aftermath, and I go outside the next day and see boarded-up windows—not just at Starbucks, but everywhere. I worry that there was more damage than I knew about. Worry that we had ruined the Loop and betrayed our city. Worry that the news reports were right about everything.
But no, the windows aren’t boarded up because of damage. They’re boarded because people are out in the street painting murals on them. Murals about how much we all love each other, about the importance of sticking together, about how we’re ok. We’re ok.
K.Lyons is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied Drama and Writing. She is a playwright and memoirist who attempts to use writing to simplify complex emotions and conflicts that she witnesses in herself and in the world. Her plays have been seen at Washington University, read at The Tank by the Black Box Project NYC, and workshopped at the Sewanee Writers' Conference; her nonfiction has been published here at Stirring. She is also a manuscript reader for 805 Lit + Art, a Florida-based literary magazine.
Image:UntitledDebbie CarlosStirring, vol. 5 (12), 2003