by Anthony Lindsay
It was three o'clock in the afternoon. The blinds that hung in front of the rooms only window were open. The afternoon sun flooded the studio apartment. It was a bright room without the sun. With the sun it beamed. The cherry wood bureau, table and chairs gleamed in the suns light. The walls and kitchen appliances were egg shell white. The chrome sink claimed as much sun as the cherry wood and bright walls. The room held the sun.
In the center of the room was a queen sized bed. The frame of the bed was anchored to a cherry wood head board. The frame held a box spring, a coil mattress and Lance Armstrong. Lance laid atop the bed which was made in military fashion. A fitted sheet, a cover sheet and a brown cotton spread covered the coil mattress. Lance Armstrong laid across the bed grinning at the ceiling.
His two hundred seventy pound, five foot ten inch frame covered a large portion of the bed. His muscular torso was covered by a white under shirt. His bottom half was covered by a pair of white sweat pants. His feet were in a pair of white high top leather gym shoes. He wore no underwear or socks.
The grin across his face was due to a dilemma he solved. The problem was his hair. He wanted it to make a statement. He wanted it to say. ' Fuck You !'. He tried braids, perms and curls. None said it quite loud enough. When he woke this morning the answer was clear, he cut it all off. He was so pleased with the image in the mirror, all he could do was grin. The bald head was what he needed to complete his plan.
Today, August fourth, he put it all together. Reform school, prison, the state mental hospital; were all training grounds for today.
Reform school taught him how to say yes. Prison taught him how to say no. The state mental hospital taught him how to grin. Today he wouldn't yes or no.Today he would say, ' Fuck You !'. Today for the first time in his life he followed his plan. Not the teacher's, the social worker's or the gang's. His. The plan began in his mind five weeks ago. It was his first session with his parole officer.
For the first time in his life he realized his life wasn't his fault; until this session he always thought his misery was due to making wrong choices. He blamed himself for his poor reading skills. He blamed himself for joining a gang. He blamed himself for stealing. He blamed himself for being crazy. Others did, why shouldn't he?
He accepted the consequences of his actions with no complaints. He accepted the labels people applied to him; dumb, thief, drug addict, habitual criminal and crazy. He was what people told him he was. He was sitting across the desk from his parole officer when a new label was applied.
"Institutionalized, that's what you've become Mr. Armstrong." He didn't know what the word meant, but he knew it was bad.He asked the young Black female parole officer, who institutionalized him? She told him the system. He asked who's system?
"The white man's."
The light went on in his mind that day and stayed on. The white man. The white man's society. The white man's rules. He was a Black man. it wasn't his fault. He was in the wrong society. He was the wrong color for this society. If it was a Black society, the white man would be given a poor education. The white man would be dumb, crazy, a habitual criminal and institutionalized.
White society cheated him. White society owed him. It wasn't his fault. How was he suppose to play by their rules? They were white rules. He was Black. No one explained the rules until he broke them. It wasn't fair. They cheated him and they owed him. They owed him for all the good things they kept away from him, a good education and a good job. They owed him for the life he didn't have. He was Black in a white society, it wasn't his fault, but today, he would make it right.
Lance Armstrong rose from the neatly made bed still grinning. He walked over to the cherry wood bureau and opened the top drawer. The drawer held one butcher's knife, a steak knife and a roll of invisible tape. He pulled up his white undershirt and placed both knives behind the elastic waistband of his white sweat pants. He pulled his undershirt down, concealing the knife handles. He held the tape in his hand. Still grinning, he turned and left the bright apartment. Once on the street, he walked erect and deliberate. The grin was plastered on his face. It would be the first one. The first one that made eye contact. The first one that said something to him. The first one he heard. The first one he smelled. It would be the first one.
White little blond haired boy, with blue eyes; Bingo!
The work was harder than Lance expected. The kill was easy enough, but the work; the work was much harder. Concentration pushed the grin from his face. It was messy, delicate work. Most definitely not to be done in an alley, but an alley was all he had. The trick was to find pieces big enough to wrap. Lance cursed himself for not bringing a pair of scissors, but how was he to know? He'd never done it before. White men knew how to do it, but they knew most things, it's their society.
The work took longer than Lance expected, but once finished, the grin returned to his face. Every part of his exposed skin was right now. Everywhere he looked, it was right. His arms were right, his fingers were right, his head was right, he was right.
No more misery. Everything would be right, because he was right. He walked from the alley with confidence and pride. Life was going to be better now. No one would dare call him dumb or crazy. With just one look, everyone would know he was right.
Now he could say 'Fuck You !', without looking away. He could say 'Fuck You!', the way white men said it. He could say Fuck You Nigger !' and stare a Black man straight in the eye. After all he was right now. He was part of society. No more Black man in the wrong society. He was in the right society. No more unexplained rules. He walked from that alley reborn. He was right and white as any white man. Sure he needed tape to hold the right skin on, but he would fix that. Now since he was white, he knew he should have used crazy glue.