By John Murillo III
Everything is out of order, nothing is constitutive to the order of chaos; the mind, the electric order of chaos, and the manifestations of the imagination—for example, memory—participate in illusory ordering for the sake of the grander illusion of wholeness, pureness, sanity, selfhood. Accuracy might not ever be a farce, if achievable, but certainty is beyond the scope of sight, beyond the reach of thought, behind the wall of sleep. We blacks speak in and as symptom and dream, for we (must) sleep in our staying woke. We are psychically shattered in non-orientable, supernumerary fashion. The imagination seeks to fix the unfixable, mend what is psychically, politically, and ontologically shattered at the level of mental, social and metaphysical atoms. The imagination—for example, memory—travels the Mobius band without the possibility of redress, perhaps trailing more fragments, returning to the beginning again with less. The order of chaos. Everything in this nowhere is out of order.
—Something I Think I remember Saying One Time Before
Static shadow of a ghost sits next to Darol on the edge of a planter in front of Arclight on Sunset while sunset stretches and sprawls three living shadows’ shadows over each other like they’re sharing the grave as he blackthinks out loud.
“…I mean, I know they’re here to see him die, and I’m like, ‘am I here for the same thing?’”
The shadow sitting between us wraps its arms around him. Nick to the right of me, texting Amber Rose to make sure we made it inside in time because the closing of the doors to the 8:35 showing means no entry, no matter how shadowy we shadows are, must feel its presence. It leans in closer, intent.
“I think that’s true, or at least in part. I mean, if it is, it’s for different reasons.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right about that—different reasons. But that question: What are we here to watch?”
Globule sentiment “Unn Unnnn ssssssseeehh ttLLL LLL LLLLLed” as globe Rendered sedimentary Hard to swallow The something ghost of the Nothing We know, no— Anticipating feeling Nothing Not notfeelinganything, but Feeling Nothing Knowing only something of it but never all No: impossible to know the O of impossibility Thinkingbeing Nothing D E E [P] Inside in the middle at the core Hard to swallow haunting haunted nothing Hard – not easy – uneasy Uneasy, spelled out in mixed letters from centuries ago And centuries out in front Shattering time and space and everything, the world, The globe within Glass tablet cracked We’re on our way there We’re waiting outside We’re waiting inside Then Every(No)thing Goes Dark
Jacob Latimore walks into a Baltimore living room to find his mother, Jennifer Hudson, distraught on the beige leather couch couched in shadow and asks, “What’s wrong?” Hudson’s glossy eyes meet his and disheartened black flesh produces an eviction notice, bold red letters juxtaposed with the subtle colors of the shaded tabletop Christmas tree peering out meekly from behind a large flat-screen television screen that blurs its angled reflection. The bold red of the presents beneath it providing an infinitesimal parallel to the eviction presented as distorted gift on a holiday captured by the static and shadow of a blurred and ornamented fake Christmas tree. “We gettin’ evicted?”
From the broken being built into the possibility of the beginning of the end—of “home,” of “family”—“and we need not pretend that even the quotation marks do not matter”—a blackvoice emerges singing “Silent Night” as both mother and son appear in separate but linked spacetimes in shadow and sorrow, in the shadow of sorrow, in the sorrow of shadow. Jacob will be spending the holidays with his grandparents, and his voice joins the bittersweet hymnal—disjunction in the break of a shattered holiday and the (reminder of the) denial of possibilities—home, family—the call for a retreat into the elder home, a retreat to the ones who know and lived the truth longer, who cannot heal, but teach how to deal with the feeling. He departs on a bus; we depart with him, mother knows the need of the departure, and looks on with the bittersweet look of a shadow. Forrest Whitaker, blackgrandpa, driving, Harlem, a new song, blackened “Hush Little Baby”,” “Hush child it’ll be alright.”
Mom, in the pained beauty only her blackvoice can sing: “This ain’t livin’…I got a mouth to feed/But I can’t make these ends meet.”
Fade to black, fade in to blackson: “What kind of parents are you?”
“We’re the brokenhearted kind,” followed by the tired smile across Whitaker’s face.
A blackmother’s voice singing, beauty in the shadow of pain, a blackgrandmother’s distant look of knowing sorrow casting a shadow over the large Christmas tree se(nt) off-center in the background, and shots separating us from Latimore during his mugshot, in his jail cell with Tyrese Gibson’s arm around him—the caged solidarity of black (distended masculinity’d) men occupying the whole of the frame—a reflection in a curved jailhouse lens warping Latimore’s image as he enters the spatial temporal rend, the phase shift, of the carceral system, an agent of the antiblack state ushering him into his cell…
“Is anyone out there/Does anyone care?”
A lost, pensive blackson in the dark of night beneath the electric luminescence of Time Square; a choir’s jubilation pouring over the congregation shown in full view, panorama of the holy dark united in the auburn light of faith and hymn, sad and soulful; blacks moving through bars, moving beyond the edge of the cage, and Mary J. Blige, glorious platinum angel, stands in the between betwixt illumination and darkness, a black moon spreading its wings to enamor the watching shadows standing united in the shadow of awe—darker now, “Hush now, it’ll be alright/I’ll get you through this silent night.”
Somewhere near here, we hear laughter from some. My eyes widen, twin spheres of amaterasu, black flame, cast toward the shadows with whom this shadow came bound.
Academy Award Winner, Forrest Whitaker Removing his robes to reveal his suit in the middle of a smiling congregation Academy Award Nominee, Angela Bassett Dancing to the overlain song in the front row of the choir Tyrese Gibson Beanie pulled low in the snowfall on a city street, distant look Jacob Latimore Beanie worn high in the daylight bustle of a crosswalk, searching Mary J. Blige Platinum fro crowning a gaze cast across her nose’s bridge, approving, applauding, Nasir Jones Head falls to rest on the bus seat as eyes focus on the whole of outside-the-window, and Academy Award Winner, Jennifer Hudson Eyes set on an unseen destination in the arrival to an unknown somewhere, police cruiser driving off A congregation, a singing mother, a son ready to yell into the night, a platinum angel, and a congregation again—all shadows fading to black. Black Nativity.
“What was that about? What were they laughing at?!”
Three pairs of eyes and the silent night of a hushed answer.
Tom Hanks observantly notices fast approaching vessels on a radar and dramatically informs his crew that despite their resistance and in lieu of the lack of assistance from a nondescript agency in a conventional Hollywood computer room set a band of Senegalese pirates that speak broken English from frail frames boards the MV Maersk Alabama to hijack and ransom it.
Many murmurs, but no one laughs at the joke dwelling in the shadow of Captain Phillips.
Based on a true story, the dark truth made spectral.
no one and Noone knows it’s a story about a ghost ship riding the ripples of other ships with shadows and zombies for cargo
No one’s laughing, now, the thought manifesting in furrowed brow and strained eyes.
White letters on green space transition into the production of a quadruple sigh from four shadows in seats in a line, odorless black smoke enshrouding frustrated disgust, all enshrouded in the darkness so no one sees—and Noone sees—as the scene unfolds, and we continue to fold.
A slave clad in a suit sits across from another slave, Whitaker, in another suit, and asks, “Are you political, Mr. Gaines?”
“Good. Because we have no tolerance for politics at the White House,” and the Big House emerges into view, breaking out of and bleeding into the excess outside the frame, illuminated in a placeless orange glow from below.
“I’m Cecil Gaines.” The doorman turns, interested. “I’m the new butler.”
Inspired by a True story. Oprah Winfrey and the family show pride in her husband’s direct invitation to the (Big) White House. From Lee Daniels The Academy Award nominated Director of Precious
As we travel through time and space to a young, tattered Cecil, listening to his father in flesh weathered by the lashes of an ongoing elsewhen in the expanse of the plantation’s elsewhere telling him not to anger the (white) man, just before the gunshot rings out, and Cecil’s eyes tell death’s story. Cecil, draped in the soiled garb of a field slave, but much larger, years later, kneels beside an old white woman in a rocking chair on a big white plantation house’s porch as she takes his chin between her thumb and index fingers, benevolently setting him “free” (“and we need not pretend that even the quotation marks do not matter”). In the dark of night, in the bleak shade of “freedom,” Cecil breaks into a home and begins to devour a white cake. Echoic.
“You done broke our window, and you done stole our food, and now you askin’ for a job?”
“I know how to serve,” Cecil pleads.
He ages in two brief clips.
And became A part of history John F. Kennedy, “That new white boy” Smooth Before a line of black butlers Slaves in suits in the Big White House Martin Luther King Affirming the importance of the Butler/slave Foundational “I know your son’s a Freedom Rider” Son on bus attacked by K K K White hoods and flames, destruction all ways Hosesdogsburning crosses Always JFK to Cecil “You know I never Understood What you all went through. You’ve changed my heart” Nixon “There’s this whole Black Power Movement going on. I gave them The green light to GUT Those sons of bitches” Black leather black guns black power black son Fire and gunshots Weathered eyes travel a phone line like “You know what they gon’ do to you? They gon’ Kill you” Conflict at the dinner table Butler/slave to revolutionary/slave “Get the hell out of my house” “Oh I’m sorry Mr. Butler I Didn’t mean to insult your He-ro!” Cecil ages in clips again Presidential shifts again The slave endures across time and space And white faces Back to dinner Mother to son, cast out “Everything you are Everything you have Is because of that Butler” Disembodied white hands Obfuscate the background black flesh in black suit The blur of an unknown applause A call The Butler
Pangs produce black smoke in black sighs in the dark in a quadruple cloud filled with pangs of pain supernumerary to even we four shadows that produced their particular and generalized infinity. No one sees, and no one laughs.
The inspirational violin score like a poisonous miasma infecting everything.
Globule sentiment “Unn Unnnn ssssssseeehh ttLLL LLL LLLLLed” as globe Rendered sedimentary… The something ghost of the Nothing Anticipating feeling Nothing Feeling Nothing No: impossible to know the O of impossibility Thinkingbeing Nothing D E E [P] at the core Uneasy, spelled out in mixed letters from centuries ago And centuries out in front Shattering time and space and everything, the world, The globe within Glass tablet cracked We’re waiting inside Anticipating Every(NO)thing In the dark
Tinnitus aptly describes the sound of the dark to the shadow, and it is all I hear, or remember hearing, or both—and this both is the indeterminate between, the “and/or”—when the dark gets darker, and the palpable haunting of the fifth shadow, the one that sat with and embraced us when Darol posed the question—welcomed its company, acknowledged its presence—the one that followed us into the theater, that follows all everywhere. The second sight of shadows is the brutal and sole prerequisite to being able to recognize its perpetual haunting. We five sit in and as the theater, tuned to the frequency of our haunted haunting.
Sophina and her boyfriend, Oscar, talk in her bedroom about New Year’s resolutions, invoking a future of eating healthier using Oprah’s timescale for developing new habits (30 days) and not having to sell trees anymore; a floating, shaky futurity emergent in the words of disembodied voices from the black frame’s void, speaking ‘possibility’—or trying to—from out of nowhere.
The cold embrace of the dark The ringing tinnitus behind the station To where we arrive Why did we come? The sick lurch Of pain Beneath the blanket of doom on the horizon
A grainy video from a cellphone camera filming the grainy-video filming of other cellphone cameras matches the scattered sonic sand of so many distorted voices—distorted by the scene before them, the scene of that scene before us, the scene of the technological ubiquity and ease of the scene of the scene of people filming the scene, and the fundamentally layered scene of the gratuitous destruction of a black life, which is the originary scene of the arbitrary visitation of nugatory and catastrophic death and destruction just casually played out again on yet another body. They bring his friend from outside the frame, and another friend, seated next to him stands up in protest as the cops continue to display only a fraction of their authoritative force before them, and as this friend protesting the treatment of the second friend is handcuffed and violently mistreated, he stands up, only to suffer the same violation by the law asserting itself via his open pathologization, in a scene of layered scenes in the grain of a static embodying the infinity of both distance and proximity we shadows inhabit relative to him. Everywhere is become Fruitvale Station; Fruitvale Station is become “Everywhere” par excellence. The site of the repeated visitation, the return. We see with the second sight the shadows caressing his lifeless form, as the dark sets in around him in the sonic blackness of a gunshot and the silence it clears out around it. And so my ears ring, and shadow number five, big “S” Shadow, tightens its hand on mine. Shadow, the familiar of the familiar. A dagger slides deeper into my chest, and the day begins; this is filmic sunrise.
They fight like couples fight. Oscar attempting to atone for the large, but perhaps payable, debt of infidelity, and Sophina trying to articulate and overcome the somatic invocation of the memory of that infidelity, and Oscar vowing to change, again, this time the voice embodied—black bodied—for the sake of a ‘forever’ that exceeds and shatters the capacity of the promise it hides. Because we know what we will see, what rocks back and forth in and as the dark beyond the spacetime of the frame, between “‘here’ and ‘now’” and “credits,” the specter of doom looming, with smiling eyes and sad lips. Tatiana runs in; reconciliation interrupted and the puff off the blunt stunted. A family behind the black wall of sleep, speaking softly in symptoms and dreams; disturbed sleep, haunted sleep, sleep in the shadow of the wall between the dark side and the life outside the labyrinth; this deep sleep before the last day. A text to Mom reads: “Happy Birthday!!!!!” The anticipatory pang of the pain that is always and everywhere to and over and in and about and before and after and around the film shoves its dagger deeper, hugs us closer. We five, and the promise of a celebration that feels as if it might only enhance the loss, or the never having had, sitting in a row.
And from Oscar’s off-center centrality radii splay outward like black flesh strewn across the pale sheen of tiles, blurred by the grains of technological and synaptic static. Sophina hops out of the car to get to her shift, and asks Oscar to reaffirm his half-made promise, made in the before or the around of the spacetime of the film, floating somewhere in the spaghettifying gravitational stream of this day, or at least its—the—end, that ghost, this shadow’s black hole form. Plans to see New Year’s Eve’s fireworks ‘out’ in San Francisco dance around everything, and the labyrinthine wall between celebration/futurity/possibility and mourning/doom/death extends its shadow.
Tatiana wants extra fruit snacks for the day, and daddy Oscar sneaks her what she wanted outside mommy Sophina’s scrutiny. Oscar’s mother mother, the mother who remains mother in the before-after beyond of the film, welcomes her into the daycare center, gives this Oscar, Oscar’s shadow, a hug. Perhaps the dark that cuts across her face before, or during, her smile, in that infinitesimal moment, outside my scrutiny, emerge now, imaginary, confabulatory. The mind and its synaptic generation of that which completes the void, fills the empty because it knows the whole with the whole must at least make sense, and that making sense remains subject to modification relative to horizontal, vertical, and planar distance from the truth, or, at least, the truth indicated by the ends, by the end, the dark that rests its palms on mine as they send fingers finging across keys, the end of the movie. Did I see it? What did I see? Why did I (come to) see it? Always back to the question. And our old new friend, visiting, with a hug.
The white girl next to me reeks of alcohol. Amaterasu eyes squint, aimed at the screen. Black rage, repressed; the shadow of a minotaur behind the wall, hoping to shatter the light, become (one with) the dark. Black fire. Liquor’s flammable. I wish she would stop. I want to make her stop, but I’ve been trained to be non-confrontational, sometimes to a detriment. So the ceaseless burn of black fire remains within the shine of dark pupils.
Oscar calls his sister at home. She works in a kitchen in what looks like a fast-food joint. Their mother’s birthday on the horizon, she must miss it—another shift, overtime, New Year’s Eve—so she wants him to get a birthday card, but not one with the smiling white people on it. I fondly remember Rachel Jeantel saying “creepy ass cracka” on the stand, the small victory; and then, on the other side, the infinite defeats printed on the fatal, corrosive surface of a Mobius band, chain links still hot from the forge, the size of the multiverse, if size measures it. In motion, the camera situates us as passenger(s), as friend(s) in tow, as shadows to his shadows, a third order of shadow for we who know and see the dark, and he sets out, and the shadows elongate, and we hear (what might have been) his music in his car, and the phone rings. Mom, again.
Why won’t she stop drinking?
Lobsters for dinner, Oscar’s got it covered. Shadows elongate into a grocery store beneath the sonic bang and pound of hip hop played through the speakers. He turns it up.
At a grocery store, he shadow-fists (daps) his buddy behind the counter, revealing his certainty that he would, and his desperate need to, get his job back. The disembodied hope to escape the life of selling trees materializes onto the scene, a shadow of the fourth order, between the first two, darkening. Oscar plays shadow to a clueless white woman seeking to fry fish, and another shadow of the same order as the fugitive futurity, future fugitivity, the shadow embodying that betrayal in Sophina’s sensitive flesh and wounded mind, her body and face contorted in worry, sorrow, anger, distrust, of fluctuating levels familiar to those too familiar with the underside of infidelity. The two coplanar shadows fight between we situated as shadows to the filmic shadow, and we situated as shadows to everything always. Grandma on the line to instruct the lost white woman, guide her in the ways of the fish fry. Generosity and a smile, haunted by infidelity and possibility; the grocer refuses to hire Oscar, his position’s been filled. The generosity itself becomes casualty to the brawl between the shadows, and all three atomize in the shadow’s, the end’s, gravitational maw. Don’t forget the lobsters.
The white girl reeking of liquor stumbles over my legs wordlessly, and I’m all silent black flame again. Blackfire eyes trail her, other blackfire eyes waiting for her to burn beneath the gaze of eyes borne from the world-rending tragic, the dark consuming her on her way out. Faded to the excess of a memory occupied by silver and moving shadows.
A lie, home, and a deal; more trees to be sold, the shadowy figure of ‘more of the same,’ of the ceaseless same, the fatal same coiled Mobius, caught in the slightly slower rate the letters of the text message appear, or the way the words had come out, to set up the repetition in and of the sale and the same. An Asian man asserting his masculinity, via some off-screen developmental imitation of stereotypical black masculinity—which is its owns shadow, of yet another order, trailing the film—wants weed and Oscar’s willing to meet up to make some much needed cash.
A phone call with mom Event as smile A (stray?) dog mercilessly hit by a car Event as blood and tears Which one’s on his shirt? As he sits by the sea The drowned and drowning memory What did I say about memory? Of prison Echoing the first flashback I forgot to include it, I don’t know where It goes or When It happened And a mother bearing witness No longer wanting to bear witness to the shadow of shadow son That black eye from that white man Still ringing the tinnitus In a steady gaze So much weed scattered into the time and space of waves “Mom, just give me a hug, mom Just one hug mom, Come on, mom, I’m sorry mom, Don’t—just one more hug Mom! Mom!— get the fuck off me!— Mom!” Like a shadow guiding his hands
The Asian man, disappointed but understanding, takes a free dime bag and a few puffs and leaves Oscar to his day, so close to sunset. The dark begins its descent.
She’s back again, and my hands tremble, but I don’t know if it’s horror or rage or both, or solely invoked by or aimed at her, or everything, and the only reason I notice she’s back again is because she’s asking for more alcohol, and I smell and hear it being poured like, miasmatic, a film on my tongue and in my nostrils. It’s flammable, right?
He picks up Sophina; plans carved out for the night despite Oscar wanting to chill at home. So much pushing to be out, to return to the scene of the murder that has yet to happen, the place we were when it happened the first time and every time the grainy footage played on our computer or phone or tablet screens, the returning to the yet to come beginning, which is nothing but nothing other than the end, again, walking the Mobius shackles. They return to retrieve Tatiana from the daycare center, and there’s mother mother again. So many orders of shadows—losing my grip, losing count—order of chaos black electric—what did I say about memory?
They’re running now, racing, coming right at us. I remember this as silence, as quiet, and it compels me to recall the silence in and around the film before this moment, in the moment’s that felt full with the sound of black life, the sound on the stage with the jazz quartet playing on despite the microphones going out, inextricably tied to its own inaudibility to those without the second sight, and second hearing, of shadows, to black death—that silence, how it bled into so many scenes, but was masked by a synaptic refusal to attend to its spectral presence behind, and sometimes in front of, but always around, everything. Silently running in slow motion, in my mind or on the screen, in memory’s screen in my mind, on the silver screen subject to memory—but perhaps this is remembered wrong. Maybe they’re laughing, and it’s at full speed. Maybe I slow it down and silence it so that I may fill its sonic basin with words with only optional or imaginary sound, to elongate the feeling of life, doubled, in this moment. I don’t know. The dagger’s so long and in me so deep my eyes widen at its continued journey to the singularity spinning in my chest, and at the feeling of the shadow’s chest against my back. Hidden from Sophina’s mother, Oscar confesses his pain and exhaustion, manifest in his desire for and promise to change the course of his existence’s vector, to reroute toward the forever he, in the film’s opening, invoked. Still another shadow; or, ‘still, another shadow;’ or, “Another shadow. Still;” or and and all. They’re on their way to the party.
Kanye West’s “Family Business” plays out onscreen coded for and through the figures of Oscar and his family. Music contrasts the (imagined) silence of life played out before and manifests in a question I had and lost since then, one that probably circled back to Darol’s original question—the question—and the orange glow on black and brown flesh creates a small and tight warmth that seems infinite, expanding too rapidly for the finite confines of the apartment. Love. Haunted by doom. Hidden and countered by love. Haunted by doom. Mobius, Mobius, Mobius. While washing dishes, mom suggests that Oscar take the train out to San Francisco to celebrate, so he and his friends can drink and be merry without, or with more flexible, restraint. Haunted by doom. And the refrain gets louder, the dagger gets deeper, the shadow leans in closer, speaking, “Mobius” into my ear. Once Tatiana rests with her six cousins, Oscar and Sophina hug and greet friends in the BART station, and it’s all jokes and smiles, and it’s all hopeful for fireworks and drink and dance. The roar of the train departing the station and the slow, stationary, panning shot that follows its outbound path are jarring. My body shudders. I realize how cold the theater is.
Delays on the crowded train; the time for the countdown comes. It feels as if a ruse. Counting down to the non-end of the end of the year prior to the end we know is only so far from the hilt.
And I flashback 10 9 8 to them running from the daycare center 7 6 to the sex shared by he and Sophina hours before 5 to the dog he tried to save, the blood on his shirt 4 3 to the family, all 2 1 to him crying out for an embrace "Happy New Year!” to him facedown on tile, splayed like the events of his day and the atoms of his metaphysical existence And everyone’s dancing The now before the later that was always There and then
They plow through masses of people in New Year’s regalia in the ecstasy of celebration. Life at its apex, possibility felt at its highest, hope and joy, all in the dark of night, fireworks rocketing and exploding and dissipating against the constant darkness of the universe. Futurity at its grandest invocation, the forever given a name, “marriage,” during a chance encounter with a man whose wife had to use the bathroom like Sophina and her friend did. Forever stops just past 2 AM.
Fruitvale stop approaching, the drum of our hearts like so many stampeding hooves approaching from out of nowhere, out of the dark, the Shadow, the end, what we knew, the beginning, where we’d been before, Mobius. Oscar goes to look for a seat, but that face appears again. The white face that created the dark; it braces us all, the dagger in almost at the hilt, snagged on something. The fight, the train stops, they pour off, the cops approach, some get away, they’re accosted and made to sit against the wall of the station, the violent white man hiding among the crowd crammed onto the train, the rest having spilled out onto the platform to film and watch. And all the reevaluation, and denial and “shouldn’t have”s.
He shouldn’t have tried To find a seat She shouldn’t have let him She shouldn’t have told him To take the train He They should have kept going should have driven should have stayed in No, no, no They shouldn’t be doing that to him he shouldn’t stand up for his friends he should sit down because his friends and he know what the cops can do because they never stopped doing it were made to do it extermination why why why why doesn’t he stop Why Is his knee on his head Amaterasu eyes flare in helplessness A knee on my head A dagger in my heart Let Sophina back in Let her go to him Let them back in let them back in BANG And this is that silence, the silence, the only and always silence, and this is it. And his disbelief is simple and plain and clear through the blood spilling from his mouth In his eyes widened in pain and shock and fear and loss In words, in a whispered refrain “You shot me… You shot me… Why’d you shoot me?” Saline lava rolls down my cheeks and the dagger’s at the hilt and I hear the shadows near my shedding oceans The flood is longer than 40 days and 40 nights I’m drowning A legion of shadows only shadows see huddles around his body Dripping with ocean water and blood And tears Mourning As they/we always do
In the hospital waiting room, they gather. I recall my grandmother enduring cancer treatment, the days my brothers and I spent with my mother in the hospital waiting rooms eating terrible food and anticipating—so, enduring the slow burn, the running in slow motion, of—terrible news. The silent tears in the sterile, fluorescent togetherness, and, haunted, I know my second-sight, second-sense, only glimpses, gleans, but a fraction. The prayer—always a prayer—always hands held and knees bent and eyes clenched and bodies hunched in submission and always a private space for calm and hope, for collective meditation. Black trinities, blacks split in triple, blacks split in triplicate infinity—flesh, body, soul—a ring of collections of atoms shaped like, distended into, Mobius shackles, the splayed shadows of a black named Oscar in the off-centered center, phase shifted across time and space, through and around all realms of the (re)telling.
He’s on a breathing machine. He is silent, but for its mechanical respiration. His eyes are shut. Mine are held open by the hands of the ever watching and ever showing dark, spilling an ocean that (had) drowned so many, and that drowns me, and that might drown the world, and it is so hot.
The waiting room is gripped hands and hearts fraying at the seams. The camera removes and includes us from the shot in uneven intervals, showing the frame full of bodies, minds, souls, hoping, loving, fearing. A friend, a son, a partner, a father clings to what we know are the haunted final breaths of a black “man” whose doom looms over everything. The dagger’s in past the hilt; shadow twists it now, and I don’t feel anything other than the flaming frigid ocean of time and space and dark spilling from my body, mind, soul.
A flashback, his eyes closed. they’re running again. in the golden fall of the sun past the horizon. Tatiana. Oscar. slow like the stretch and pull of black taffy shadows during sunset. this is filmic sunset. I can’t stop crying it is so hot and the chill of an ocean spilling from me and EVERYWHERE makes creates an icy hot paradox across three planes of infinity shattered triple
The doctors remove the equipment and the silence rocks back and forth in and as the dark. And the silence is so strong the dagger plows through me, around the world, out of the galaxy, through another reality, through all other realities, and back to the hilt being twisted in to tripled singularity of a thrice shattered heart. They return to the waiting room. They rise and ask the trembling question. Ours repeats in my mind.
What did we come here to see?
Is this it?
“Is he ok?” asked in their eyes. But he’s (still) gone. Silver can’t revitalize even the (twice, first by the world’s shatter centuries ago, and second by the way of the film) zombified shadow. Can’t fix the broken mics. Can’t escape the pull of the black hole, no matter the fugitivity and, of, the futurity embodied in so many now and long shattered promises and resolutions. He’s still gone. Still and gone. Ocean keeps flooding. I can’t swim, so I sink to the bottom of my seat. I’ve drowned before, but not like this. One with the dark.
The shadow bares its teeth and Almost out of nowhere I want to run Because I’ve run out Of nowhere To run in, or from And the tears devour me in drown So I drift in to the deep maw Like black flesh/mind/soul spaghettified On the cosmic fork Of the shadow’s supermassive black hole Mouth
Oscar’s mother walks in the silent pallor of the hospital hallway to see the corpse shadow or her this shadow of her shadow son. So many orders in the grand order of dark and chaos, a funerary procession with so many arms wrapped around her, she is singular in her pain, but not alone. A sheet covering his body peels back and the faded phase shifted form of Oscar’s shadow’s shadow sleeping—behind the impenetrable wall of sleep. Her body lurches that lurch. That absolute and familiar lurch to those who knows the look of being pulled deeper into that between betwixt ‘irreparable, immeasurable loss’ and ‘never having had.’ That lurch. The tectonic shift. She just wants to hug him. She just wants to hug him. All she wants is to hug him. And that shadow, the shadow of her refusal to hug him in prison, hugs her. That lurch.
And I lurch forward in my seat. And I shake and shudder, mouth cupped. The shadow inhabits my shadow frame, and I am possessed by, and one with, the dark that drowned and devoured me. And the dark is so dark; the silence, so silent.
In a shower with Tatiana, the frame awash in the mechanical rain of deep pain drawn from the bottom of that ocean—and we see, or glimpse, how this water cycle works, or might—Sophina faces her daughter, eyes cast downward.
Silence and the shower’s rain. What is the blue black face of the rain? Pitter patter We’re all adrift The shadows sink in the drift down drown of the moment The others float on the surface of broken and breaking empathy Like 50 shades of Rankin “Where’s daddy?” And it’s all spiraling the black hole drain.
Her head and eyes know, and a shadow—if I remember it right—what did I think I remembered saying about memory?—cuts across her form, just before everything, in and outside the frame, fades to black.
Time stopped, there. Or I realized time always stopped. Or looped. Mobius shackle that the shadows walk, and the path becomes clear. Haunted by infinite orders of shadows, as shadows haunting infinite orders of shadows, haunted by and haunting in the dark, across time and space, haunted by and haunting the film that is haunted, and so many loops and shackles and it’s the same molten link, folded over into physical impossibility, and that supermassive black hole reveals itself to be both within and without, central and phase shifted—bleeding—off-center. Where and will the beginning and end arrive and be arrived at again? What did we come to see?
Time frozen, and the frozen shattered, by the applause—What are they clapping at?—and the white voice stealing what was already stolen again, exhuming the corpse and severing its hands like Leopold, to show us what we’ve seen so many times before: broken shadows and black talking points—all we are, especially to them.
A white woman, impassioned by the film, but having taken the lights as cue for a planned performance, stands and shouts about words she cannot ever possibly know the meaning of: “revolution;” “brown;” “black;” “Death” (with a capital “D”). She speaks black names of the dead and murdered—no, slaughtered, like cattle—no, put down or stricken like stray dogs—no, removed or broken, like a child’s worn toys—no…
“What brown? Those names aren’t ‘brown,’ they’re black. What’re you talking about? Sit the fuck down with that shit.” Darol’s amaterasu eyes spill black flames out into the auditorium, but the white voice, and the applause, and the chanting, and the performance on the graves of the black men they invoked, the ones they tried to paint brown, and the ones they didn’t think to say, and the black womyn they didn’t imagine were important—they dance and kick up the dirt and hold the severed limbs. We the new slaves, they the Leopolds, and they don’t see the blood on the leaves, though they devour the strange fruit.
We are all tears and seated quiet when Ryan Coogler enters, and the audience erupts in applause. Our mourning is different. Our mourning drowns the drowned as we, our shared shadow presence, and thoughts are drowned out by the clap-clap-clap that only sounds like the pitter-patter of the shower’s mechanical raindrops.
He answers staged questions for his own reasons, or for the reasons staged by the moderator who, until she said, “This is so stressful” in her best pained-white-girl voice, proves more infuriating than the liquor-reeking white girl next to me. Unintentionally, and in a garden of hedges and pointless qualifications, the black to Coogler’s right spoke the phrase that circled back to confirm the haunting we participate in and remain subject to: “the specter of death that haunts the film.”
I wanted to ask what Cooogler made of the applause and the acclaim, what that marked for him, what that meant to him, if he wanted it.
But all we had was a quiet ride away from the theater, the silence that lurches and makes us lurch and churn. And all I want is a hug, from my mother, from them, from Chinyere thousands of miles away. All I want is a hug before I try to walk the Mobius shackle again, because the pain feels, and feeling feels better than the nothing of standing still, still at the nexus of beginning and, and as, end.
Nick’s car, all dark, lingers a bit while I wait for my brother to open the door and wipe the ocean and blood from my eyes. I can’t see them in the dark of the car in the dark of the street, so I can’t tell if they are watching me, or unable to move, deciding whether or not to move Mobius again, to keep moving, to return home. It’s too dark.
I hear them drive off as I walk in, and I cry in my room before I emerge into the dim light of the living room. Speaking tinnitus, because I only remember the ringing voice of the shadow, and not the words I manufactured with my own.
My body lurches as the Navigator stops at the signal when the phone rings in the middle of a movie suggestion my cousin’s making, and Chinyere’s voice asks the question.
“So he was found not guilty?”
“Huh?” It hits. Broken step one of grief, manifest in confusion. “Wait. What?”
“I just heard an ad for 20/20, and it said something about ‘the controversial verdict…not guilty.’”
“Hold on, let me check.”
“When did they? Today? Right now?”
“Yeah…‘Zimmerman acquitted in Trayvon Martin killing.’ Wow.”
“Wow. I just…”
Everything drops bombs and I become the locus of a sickening pain enwrapt in muffling tinnitus. My body lurches. And the Navigator keeps moving.
Almost out of nowhere I want to run Because I’ve run out Of nowhere To run in, or from Mobius.
John Murillo III is a PhD student in the English department at Brown University, and a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, with bachelor’s degrees in Cognitive Science and English. His research interests are broad, and include extensive engagements with and within: Black Studies–particularly Afro-Pessimism–Narrative Theory; Theoretical Physics; Astrophysics; Cosmology; and Neuroscience. He is currently at work on a novel, Dark Matter, and on a graphic novel of the same name. Find him on Facebook.