BLACK OUT by DeeMaria 24Jul2020
The morning came as it always does. I awoke with the sudden urge to call my daughter. “Hey Mom!” she said, as I heard her moving about. “Hey! Just wanted to say that.” I said moving around myself. She giggled and we hung up.
Work is going to be the same I thought. May as well enjoy it. I put on my fun clothes – jeans, sandals and those footy things that make folks look at my feet. That’s when I giggled again. “This world!” I said out loud and snorted.
My street is always quiet and empty. It was the same but was not. Something felt different. But what? I walked to the bus stop and met up with my two constant Caucasian travelers. “Hello little one!” This was a pet name given to me with affectionate sarcasm. It’s cool. I respond with a smile. The bus arrived on time and that was a surprise since there was a different driver. Our usual jolly, round, Black guy must have taken a day off. No one noticed. I looked at my two travelers to overhear any comments. Amazing! No comments? There goes my morning idle chit chat.
I reached my stop to connect with the train. While going over the usual plans for the day, I walked into a bit of chaos. There were lines of people pouring out the door! This poor little white girl did not know how to work the coffee machine and the people were so upset with her! Adding insult to injury, the train ticket line was crazy, and the trains were running from delay to totally being cancelled.
I heard somebody saying that some “folks” did not show up to work. I knew what “folks” they were referring to by their tone of voice. So, what are they going to do? Make us come to work? Maybe today they just plain did not want to. Off I went feeling empowered.
The ride on the train was, in a word, different. I never overheard such fear before in each whispered conversation. It was not the usual vibe of hatred or the blatant invisible feeling I get from the other travelers. They were all looking, no, staring. It was something other.
I should call my daughter. “Heyyy Mom!” She sounded like my daughter who would brace herself for the punchline. If my child is okay, then I am okay. Still, I could not help but notice this wide-eyed look coming from the blue, green, and gray eyes. Fear.
I arrived at work slightly behind my normal time. No one noticed so I didn’t care. I turned on my computer and right away there was a meeting. Several folks did not come to work today. When I got to the meeting room everyone had this scared, mad, what-the-hell look on their faces. A slight look of relief appeared on some of the faces and then I was offered a seat. “Uh, no thank you.” I always stand near the door when I’m outnumbered.
The big boss started talking as soon as he entered the room. I zoned out immediately. They only talk about money and how much of it ain’t mine. “People are disappearing...” Huh, what? What people? Everyone turned to look at me and asked, “Have you noticed anything?” “Well, I said, the lines were longer at the coffee shop.” No laughter. Everyone’s face showed fear again. Okay, now I’m uncomfortable. Slowly I eased closer to the door. It was time to exit.
Panic set in immediately with my coworkers. They were shouting all at once, bombarding me with questions and orders – “Where are you going?” “You can’t leave!” “Where is your family?” “Are they gone?”, “You have to say with us!”
“First, I am not a prisoner. I can leave whenever I want. Second, my family is fine!” Then the fear was spoken. Each one had a story about somebody Black they did not see. What? One said, “This morning the young Black lady I see every morning with her small children was not there!” Another had said, “The Black man that lives next door walked over to his car and disappeared!” They were nervous and sweating. “Stop watching TV horror shows! Can I go?” I shouted. “You don’t understand!” someone yelled.
I saw tears, sorrow, and fear on all the faces in the meeting room. “I’m leaving now!” “Stop her! If she leaves, we won’t know where they went or how to get them back!” Three of my co-workers grabbed me. They told me that I could not leave. Then there was something said about having leverage and how their complicated lives mattered.
I was restrained from leaving. I was escorted to the cafeteria and the ladies’ room. As I was being escorted to my cubicle, I overheard a radio broadcaster saying, “Keep one for your existence!” For whose existence? So, I screamed, “Attention everyone! You cannot keep one for your existence! Can you hold onto smoke?”
The last thing I heard was the news guy saying that the world was experiencing a massive Black out. African Americans were... I could not hear anything more over the screaming, the sense of pure panic in the room. As a puff of smoke rose and went through the air vent in the ceiling, I felt free and at ease. Like the end of a movie everything faded to black.
“Hey Mom!” my daughter said. “Hey. I realized something just now”. My daughter went on to ask a weird question. “Did you see any white people today? They all took a day off at my job.” I thought for a minute. “Maybe they’re on vacation.” My daughter said half laughing, half serious, “I mean, why didn’t I get an e-mail or something? I don’t like doing my job and Amber's’ job too.”
There was no email. There was no time to make an announcement. Perhaps the people we did not see any more needed a vacation. Perhaps they needed a long-distance vacation.