by Alaina Triantafilledes
He didn’t have it easy growing up. But it was alright. He was a Cuney Homes kid, born and raised. Everyone wanted him to get out, to go places, and maybe he did eventually, but he loved The Bricks all the same. He was an athlete. Football and basketball. He was huge, everyone called him “Big Friendly.” He went to South Florida State College for basketball and then Texas A&M University. And eventually He went home. He was looking for a job in construction.
Things got hard after that. He didn’t have a home. He got into drugs. Selling them, taking them, you know. He stole things, too. He pointed a gun at someone. Five years in prison did him good. He found God. When he got out, he met this guy at a rap concert- he liked to rap. The guy was a pastor, and he ended up helping him in the ministry. Little basketball tournaments, ministry barbecues, grocery deliveries, stuff like that. He liked to talk to the boys, ask them about school and their families.
Cuney was home, it was comfortable, but he had kids and he wanted a fresh start. He got a job as a security guard at a homeless shelter in Minneapolis. His coworkers were the best part. He liked to walk them home, make sure they were safe. They thought his dancing was funny.
Then he was training as a truck driver and working at a club as a bouncer. He wanted to go back to Houston and visit the neighborhood. He did that a lot. But then the pandemic happened and he was out of work. He didn’t know how to feed his kids, how to live. He needed a cigarette.
So he bought cigarettes. Then the police were there. His face was on the pavement, his wrists were behind his back, his knee was on his neck. Spots in his vision, pressure on his throat. They were gonna kill him, he knew it. He thought of his kids, his life, that damn twenty dollar bill. His lungs felt empty. His heart felt weak. He felt helpless.
Then he felt nothing.
His name was George Floyd.
She wanted to be a nurse.
She was an EMT and she loved taking care of people. The inevitable burden of college debt made her nervous, but she wanted a nursing degree so badly. She wanted to help.
She had a boyfriend, Kenneth. They wanted a family.
They were asleep in her bed, but were awoken by a loud noise. Was someone trying to get in the house? Was it her ex-boyfriend? Kenneth grabbed his gun and they explored with caution. The front door burst open and Kenneth shot into the dark. That was the first shot of many.
She was on the floor. She felt hot, too hot, and the air was too thin, and was she breathing? No, she couldn’t breathe. It was too loud, too dark. She gasped, choked, and reached for her boyfriend. But he wasn’t there. Nothing was there.
Her name was Breonna Taylor.
She’s a mother, working two jobs because she wants her kids to have a bigger yard to play in. He’s a father, teaching his boys how to keep their heads down and their blood inside their body. They were kids, fumbling their way through a world that assumed that they were criminals.
You get followed in stores, watched by police, scrutinized on the bus. When you get pulled over, your body braces itself. You watch the names of your brothers and sisters fill the headlines and listen to people tell you racism doesn’t exist anymore. The president of your country does not stand with you. You shout and you shout and you shout and nobody listens. Nobody listens.
Let me tell your stories walking, because we have heard enough of mine.
Alaina is a fledgling writer in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is currently exploring different types of writing (rhetorical, academic, creative…), but she intends to take advantage of the upcoming Creative Writing major as soon as it is available. She adores stories of all kinds and would love to share her own someday.