Last weeks post Vicarious Trauma – Revisited, invited me to remember a suppressed memory. The memory was filed in a box that is seldom reached for. There aren’t many files in this box. It’s in a room that is locked shut. Big thick padlocks and chain.
Labelled: Confusion and Pain Lie here.
I remember an evening shift at McDonalds. Full of the usual fare. Me in the back room. Working my 7.5. Supporting the close down. Collapsing the boxes, re stocking shelves, getting changed and leaving Cathedral Square – Peterborough to make my 4 mile cycle ride home. Mum was alive then, 90/91. We all still live in New Werrington. I have either had a full week at College and am on a late shift mid week or am on an evening shift on a Saturday night. No main dramas. Some late night revellers asking for extra chips or a free burger.
The ride home was uneventful until the rain came. I am midway home. I have no lights on my bike. I am cycling reasonably fast. Traffic on the roads – light – mostly heading in to the city centre. I have crossed the dual carriageway over the footbridge leaving Dogsthorpe into Paston ridings. I am thinking of how the nights events were funny and silly. I have a hamburger hum about me. The grease fat seems to cloak me even though I didn’t fry food that night.
I round the last bend before the slight downward hill from Gunthorpe into Werrington. I pass a police cruiser lazily heading away from Werrington. Reaching the footpath that takes me to the water linkway and on to my home, I chance a glance behind me and notice the police car ominously turn and head in my direction.
I don’t stop to think. It is cold. It is wet out. I want to be home. The police car picks up pace and blue lights begin swooping. The police car mounts the curb awkwardly and speeds across the grassy verge. I note the headlamps sweep in my direction. If I can just pedal hard I can make the distance to the bollards before they can catch me.
I don’t want to speak with anyone, especially to these officers. Not then or ever.
The police car revs and I sense them close the distance between me and them, in a short space of time. They drive over long grass. Not using the footpath. Attempting to short cut. I am not stopping. Neither are they!
If I can just get to the wooden posts infront of the bridge before they ram me off the bike I’ll be free. The car skids to a halt infront of the bollards. I sail through. I imagine I hear one of the officer’s curse. I am away. I have made it!
My trusty bike has aided my escape.
I am elated and bewildered. They could not be chasing me to tell me about lights on my bike. What if I had fallen? What then?
What if they had caught me?
I had no reason to stop.
The police had no good reason to chase.
But chase they did.
And flee I went.
Much like a dog after it’s chew toy, ball, stick thing. Thrown aloft. Thrown far and fast. Dog’s chase out of instinct.
It is possible the police chased me for much the same reason. Sighting a Black boy on a bike at a time when most young people were heading in to the city centre not away from it. The picture to them may have appeared wrong, strange, suspicious? There may well have been cause to chase and make enquiries.
From the moment they turned, the chase was on!
And this race, I was not under the circumstances – about to lose!
The panic. The fear and confusion were unlike much else I had met before. There was the Stephen chase: aged 7. I’ll come to that experience later. The exhilaration of getting away this time was amazing.
I had been fortunate. Unlike so many others, sisters, brothers both here and there…
Watching films like ‘Just Mercy’, ‘Fruitvale Station’, ‘Do The Right Thing’ ‘If ‘Beale Steet Could Talk’ all have Black Men in unjustly familiar situations. These films appear to be in the abstract, distant, objective.
Not for me! As an empath, I am sensitized to feel each blow, every hate filled undignified look as though I suffered it. With these films I am often incensed and saddened. Their characters depict men pitted against circumstances beyond their control. That potentially either lead to their deaths or serving unjustified sentences.
Mark Duggan, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland – happen to bring the trauma of death and unlawful killing viscerally primed.