after the memorial service

Last night,
they memorialized her dead grandpa,
and her aunt lost her shit,
and they all had a few.
Now her dad sat in his reclining chair,
and she curled up on their couch.
He told her the moment
that made him decide
he was liberal.

One night as peaceful as this, right after she’d moved back home eight years before, she sat in her aunt’s car outside the home in which she was renting one room. She asked her aunt how she was doing.

Her life in that moment was desolate – heartbroken, unemployed. But the look on her aunt’s face scared her more than her own poverty. And it continued to worry her in the years to come.

Now, near midnight after her grandpa’s memorial, her dad told her he had been driving through Oakland in the early 90s with his boss in their company car. They waited at a stop light near a group of high school kids, all black, getting out of school.

Looking at those kids, her dad experienced a flash of pure empathy.

He told his boss that if he was one of those kids, he’d fling himself on their Taurus and pretend to be hurt, for the insurance claim.

Her dad didn’t realize that to fuck with the system, you have to know it. Falsifying insurance claims is the crime of someone who has something to insure.

He could have given those kids a few tips. But conning the system was not in his heart. Instead he just voted for Democrats for the next 25 years.

They sat up late that night, talking, because they were punchy. Her aunt had lost her shit, all over them, and it was messy.

For her, discovering that white liberalism had been a myth all along, ineffective at best and life-destroying at worst, had coincided with discovering that the life she had built for herself since moving back home, since being driven around by her aunt, meant nothing to her.

Their midnight musings ended with Bill Clinton, the white liberal president who enacted Three Strikes You’re Out and the institutionalized incarceration of black Americans.

It had sounded so sensible at the time. They hadn’t known, from the comfort of suburbia, that there was no such thing as an informed voter.

There were only pawns.

They kept coming back to Crosby, Stills & Nash, Almost cut my hair… happened just the other day.

Her dad said the song was about realizing you were no longer part of the system. But I didn’t, he said. And I wonder why?

She forgot to ask him, because it had been a very long day, why he was thinking about his place in the system.

He wished her good night, and went upstairs.

She turned off the light, pulled the covers up, and just like she had on her aunt’s couch eight years before, she went to sleep.

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