Waking up in the belly of the beast

"I can't breathe..." Eric Garner

She awakes with a jolt as the wretched stench pulls her from slumber. Unaware of her surroundings, she realizes the warmth of her blanket is actually something damp and slimy
And alive...

She regrets falling asleep

MORNING. Pasadena, California; November 8, 2016

I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling. Today is the day we made history. I anticipated this; the magnitude of the decision we would make. For months I contemplated whether or not our headlines would read "Our First Female President" or...

I shutter at the thought of reading any headlines now.

Instead, I close my eyes, bury my face in my pillow and recite the only prayer I knew appropriate. 

"FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK!"

In about an hours time I would need to arrive fully dressed and in my right mind to serve in worship at a seminary I attended that sat at the heart of Evangelicalism. Reports indicated that roughly 81% or Evangelicals were Trumps supporters. I re-read the poem I was set to recite. It was not good enough. I knew I would have to say more. 

She tries to stand but staggers, not yet used to the pulsating ground beneath her. Leaning on a wall for support, something catches her eye. A closer glaze reveals faces etched into the walls; some in great detail, others appear to be washed out, each with their eyes closed and smiles plastered onto their lips.
She hesitates but reaches to touch a face. Her retraction is immediate, as eyes blink open and meet her gaze.

I arrive to many with open arms, smiles, and "good mornings," but through brief eye contact and lingered embraces I realize that they are struggling too. We rehearse our songs, laugh a bit, grab coffee, and prepare for worship. Soon, the room begins to fill. Some enter slightly uncomfortable, others more visibly so. They all begin to swirl around me. "81%" I think. I close my eyes.

"Can you hear me?" she attempts to speak, but has no voice. Waving her arms to get the face's attention she falls, losing her balance. She looks back up at the face, smile still plastered, who blinks before closing its eyes.
Wanting to scream, she beats her fists on the soft ground, but absorbing the sound the ground releases acids that cover her hand as her fist is pulled into its surface. Trying to pull away unsuccessfully, she winces as the acid begins to travel up her arm, pulling her further in. 

Soon it is my turn to speak. I step up to the podium.

Elbow deep, with acid traveling up to her shoulder,
she suddenly feels something hard in her other hand.

"I was gong to read a different poem this morning but I in light of our current circumstance I've decided to change it up a bit." 

She realizes it is a sword.

"I wanted to write something new, but I do not know how to articulate what it means to be an African American female in spaces that are in some way responsible for the reality we find ourselves in this morning." Eighty-one percent.

She begins slicing away at the flesh that is trying to consume her, releasing her arm.
She looks around for a way out.

The room feels eerily silent. "I know some of you won't agree with me, but we cannot allow our community and institutions shuck the responsibility while benefiting from the privilege of influencing the Evangelical church for the past 70 years." 

Seeing no opening, she begins to cut through the wall. Simultaneously, all of the faces open their eyes. Darting back and forth, she cannot read if the eyes mean a threat or a plea for help. She keeps cutting. 

I read my poem and take my seat, heart still racing. Eighty-one percent. How many of them were classmates? Professors? Pastors who received the same education? How was I to separate the goodness of my experience from the darkness that paraded itself in prime-time? I didn't have answers to those questions, but I knew I could not be silent. I could never be silent. 

After awhile she managed to cut through, making a small hole. Prying the hole open with her hands she sticks her head through and takes a deep breath of fresh air. 

And then she kept cutting.