Suggested Listening: Tonight, Tonight - Smashing Pumpkins; Original Sin - INXS; All will Be OK - REM
When he first met her, he couldn't even see her. A year later, she was all he saw, and he could not be happier.
She was built to work hard and live a meager lifestyle as a builder of America, there to live for the white man and build what they needed. They were serving the punishment for a murder committed at the dawn of time, for walking in on parents who hadn't lived for thousands of years. But she was his equal, and at times she was better than him, and she could sense that he needed her to go on.
Blonde, it was all he knew, all he saw. He told that it was all that existed. White skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, blue denim, tight shirt, goofy grin. He was attracted to many, but loved none of them; he felt something empty about them. Even the smart girls, the ones with the short skirts, glasses and books would just melt and giggle at him whenever they were together, and by the end of the date they would be no different than anyone else. He couldn't understand it but that was life in his Kentucky home. He found a girl who he went out with all the time, but he couldn't say he loved her. She loved him, wouldn't stop talking about him, but she was so vacant, lost in him, and he just couldn't understand it.
She was in the ghetto, but dreamed of wealth. Instead of watching Channel 4 she would sneak away to Channel 10 and listen to the dreams of faith bringing wealth and glory to those willing to work and devote more of their lives to Jesus. She would be soothed by this, but whenever she stepped outside she could barely understand the feelings.
"Yo! Ya know, I can't wait to get a man who can turn out the highest output at that factory!" said her best friend, who was in her short skirt, hoop earrings, giant and gaudy silver cross around her neck, her hair straight.
Bree looked at her and smiled. She looked the same as her friends, had the same straight hair, denim skirts, gaudy necklaces, hoop earrings and overglossed lips. "Yo, like I'm gonna get outta here one day! I'm gonna get a man who'll make a life for me instead of buying these cheap skirts and having all the men come back all sweaty at 5 from making clothes for the rich. I wanna *wear* those clothes."
Her friends would just stare and laugh, and when Bree came home and turned on the television she would laugh at herself and dream of a man who could be strong and build America. That was the wealth of the American Negro, to build with pride what kept America moving. Like most blacks she looked in awe at the highway, their great accomplishment. Like most blacks, if she saw someone throw litter on the roadway she would run over and pick it up, often garnering laughs from the whites in the cars. This was their pride, their joy, their only purpose in life, to make what kept the whites alive.
To the 2020 Channel 4 black, no white could live without them. They packaged their food, bottled their water, built their cars, paved their roads, built their homes, and clothed their bodies. They were the lifeblood of America, and poverty was a small price to pay for a job so vital to America.
"Bree, they say we are separate but equal but I wanna you to know that that isn't the real truth," her mother said one day when she was caught fantasizing about white men and a better life. "You are separate but better. Without us the white man would be dead and gone. They couldn't kill the terrorists without guns that we forged, they couldn't get to work without a car that your father built by hand from the rubber to the wings on the hood. No, baby girl, you aren't equal, you feed the white man, you are their mother and protector. Yeah, sometimes they forget, but yet they still come back and buy our food, buy our cars, and drive on our roads. Remember that we are the brothers and sisters of Cain and the children of Ham, and therefore we must live modestly as penance to God for our sins. We are born sinners, so we must isolate ourselves lest we go back to a life of sin, but don't you let no one say you are equal or inferior."
Bree agreed, but still couldn't understand, then 5:00 came and like ants the men marched home from the factories, job sites, and utility plants. Their shaved heads, sleeveless shirts and tight muscles sent her friends into a sensual haze while they waited for their men to return. The girls were only 17 but most men left school early and go off to work in the factories to learn their craft and get a head start on their livelihood. The men broke from the pack and into the arms of their mates who instinctively massaged their muscles, sore from a long day's work. She saw her Jamal walk out of the crowd and flung herself at him, rubbing his aching arms. "There has got to be a better way, yo!" she said and Jamal looked at her.
"You're right. I'm gonna take the college test at work, see if I can become a foreman," Jamal said.
Some blacks did attend college to learn, but only 35%, almost all of them women to run the infrastructure and work the low-paying jobs that traditionally required women lest white women not breed. Britney also needed her plants led and she didn't want white men wasting their time bossing around useless blacks, so she educated a few of the black men in engineering and construction management. That way her plants would be self-sufficient and supervised while her whites could just reap the rewards without thought. Since the older blacks who were at one time educated were getting older, she grudgingly offered scholarships to a select number of black men. The black men went to the special black colleges founded by blacks for blacks centuries before Britney, while the black women went to the public colleges to become meter maids, flight attendants, ushers, telemarketers (they actually never sold anything, just called in during dinner with some contradiction to annoy whites to further build hate against blacks and deviants), inventory counters, and manage the warehouses. Of course then there were athletes who actually didn't attend class but did make an impression on the field or the court. No black athlete had ever actually earned a degree from any college since 2008.
So when Jamal passed his test and earned a scholarship to Grambling, she was more excited for herself; as Jamal's mate, she would also be admitted, and she could earn herself a better life. To celebrate, Bree and Jamal saved up to go to the Reds game, but he had to work a late shift that day so she went alone. That was when it hit her, or more accurately, he bumped into her. A white man; she had seen them before, and her heart filled with rage. He was everything her mother warned her about, pawing at her breasts and not seeing her as human. Then she heard his sincerity, and everything melted around her. A white man who had compassion for HER? By definition, by the Bible, she was his servant and he was showing compassion. She didn't know what to say. She had an extra seat and she gave it to him, the least she could give him.
And then she felt something that she had never felt before, not even with Jamal, a warmth, a happiness, right up her arm like a drug, relaxing her, and making her feel wanted and proud. Her girlfriends described it to her when describing their mates but she could never get it from anyone she met before, not even Jamal, and she never knew why. She found out his name, Chris, and she was elated. Never did a black person in her neighborhood learn the name of a white person unless they were on TV.
He saw something different, someone who appreciated him not just as a blanket or someone to drool over but as another person, someone he could talk to, confide in without everything becoming high school gossip the next day. He was glad to be with her even though he could sense that something was wrong. He could hear the heckling and the slurs but he couldn't care any less. For the first time he felt something and it was love.
And so he decided not to go to Kentucky with his attachment and Bree took the test and earned a scholarship to Cincinnati to learn to become a warehouse manager. So they met at Cincinnati, in secret at first; with the blacks and whites being separated they felt guilt about being together. They heard all the terms about interracial love, the black women telling Bree that he only wanted her for sex, calling him a candy that would only melt when he was in her mouth, not in her hands. Chris' friends called him an organ grinder with nothing but a pet monkey who would run around and take everyone's money, including his.
"I know she looks good but all niggers know how to do is fuck and steal! Quit this and get yourself a blonde!" said his father.
Bree's mother was just as sharp-tongued. "I didn't raise you 18 years for you to lie down and be some white man's ho! They want nothing but to make a slave out of you if you let them! Whatever happened to Jamal? You should quit that school and go to Louisiana and join him and become a woman, not a goddamn ho!"
They tried to go back to their own races and be happy with the lives God set out for them. Bree kept her hair straight and her skirt short, and fawned over the basketball team's freshman star. Chris donned the preppy jacket and ran off with a cheerleader. But the connection was not there, and every time they passed each other, or even spied each other from afar, the look in their eyes would grow hazy with their love for each other, almost looking like a cry for help. They were so accustomed to the whispers that they couldn't even hear them consciously, but they could sense that the normalcy was leading them to depression, not the happiness that everything around them was saying they were going toward.
It was late one night in the middle of winter, winter break looming, the two of them alone in a hallway. Chris spied Bree and ran to her, no longer able to stand what was steering them to what they both knew was making them miserable.
"I never forgot you, Bree! I... I don't care what they say, I can't feel anything with anyone else. I... I... love you."
Bree looked at him, sensing the years of racism melting away and that she was the one for him. She felt it too; she was uncomfortable in her clothes, with her pulled hair, her poverty, her lack of self-worth. She felt alive in his arms and he felt happy, for once free of the repeating tape in his head. They talked for hours, holding hands and gazing at each other like they had known each other for their entire lives. By the end she was asleep in his arms, Chris stroking her hair, both smiling at the future they had anywhere but here.
The rumors spread that they were together, but they didn't care. They flaunted their love despite the threats, despite the slurs, despite Bree getting shot at by Chris' desperate mother to try to teach Chris a lesson. Chris' mother wasn't even questioned and that's when they realized there was more to it than just hatred.
"It's all the same," Bree sobbed into Chris' arms, "when will it stop?"
Chris confided in Bree that indeed there was something more than just hatred, but a hatred brought through the entire society, and norms that they broke that were unbreakable.
They looked at each other in pride, and then kissed each other as if their lives depended on their love.
For the next few months their love grew stronger even as the hate grew even more rapidly. No one would speak to them or even look at them. Chris struggled to do anything, even be served in restaurants. And finally the breaking point: someone threw a bag of garbage into the street and made racial slurs when Bree bent over to pick it up.
"Hey nigger-lover, you gonna help your pet monkey pick it up? Or you gonna fuck her up the ass right in front of us and give us a show?" They honked their horns in hilarity and finally he knew what Bree meant when she said her friends called white men honkys sometimes.
Chris picked up the garbage and threw it back at them. The whites lunged their car at Bree and he pulled her out of the way. They ran like the wind, back to Bree's dorm room which was empty for the weekend. There, Chris held Bree as she cried seemingly forever in confusion and frustration over race relations in this world.
"I am not a white man," Chris said, reassuring her. "Not like them. I love you, and I will always love you."
Bree laughed. She knew what he meant and she kissed him for saying it, but then she got up somewhat coldly, as if a switch flipped in her head, and started packing her things. Chris was confused but she wouldn't speak to him, she was so wrapped up in packing her things. He left heartbroken and she called for him. "We need to leave, that's all. If you love me, you'll leave with me. I've heard of a place for us. If you truly aren't white like they are, trust your black woman!"
Chris came back later in the day and gave her his answer in the form of a broken television, wrapped up like the most romantic gift he ever gave her. She ran up to him and kissed him.
"My things are in the car. It's a long drive to New York, and I think it's better that we go at night when they are asleep." Chris said.
"Or watching TV! It seems that it rules the world more than the president. Everything I see, everything I've worn, everything I've thought, I've gotten from the TV, and it scares me, Chris. You're the only thing I've loved for real. Everything else I've seen, it seems to be almost a lie now that you're here. Now it all seems in focus. I mean, my friends don't even seem to speak the same language. It's like I'm a different person. It's scary, that's why I was so in fear when I packed my things," Bree replied, shaking as Chris tried to comfort her.
"It can't be that bad. I'll be here for you, I'll never become a TV screen. I love you because you *are* different! I saw everything the same since I was 16, and I never understood. Be it the Channel 8 girl in all black, or the nerd on Channel 9, or the bleach blonde girl on channel 2, it was all the same, they'd all react the same once I reached out to them and it scared me. You... you are someone else, someone beautiful, and I can't see myself with anyone else, no matter how much the TV says I should be in someone else's arms."
Bree smiled, and she suddenly started undoing her top, feeling the need to get rid of this world once and for all. "It still doesn't feel right. It's like I have to leave everything behind, leave the sameness behind. Come on, let's show them that we aren't one of them. Here's a sweatsuit I picked up at the bookstore. I got one of my own."
She continued and took off her skirt and Chris stood dumbfounded at Bree's beauty as she stood in front of him in her underwear. She saw this and threw his sweatsuit at him. "Well, so much for everybody and everything telling me that you don't really find me attractive and just want me as a cheap whore. Now, are you gonna be a candy or are you gonna get changed and get out of here?"
Chris blushed slightly, but he finally understood what she meant. They needed each other and they needed to leave the comfort of the herd that they were being chained to once and for all so they could live life together in peace. He smiled as he took off his clothes with her. They both stared at each other for a while, wearing nothing but matching smiles, laughing as some of the sterotypes that were implanted in their brains for years evaporated with every passing moment.
"Ha! They damned us to poverty for something like that?! Please! Talk about a trumped-up sentence, I feel silly for ever believing that crap," Bree exclaimed.
Chris blushed, quickly threw on a pair of sweatpants, and smiled. "Well, if you're going to get like that... I'm supposed to fall instantly into your arms over those?" Chris replied with a laugh at Bree's smallish breasts.
"HEY! At least I don't stuff them with bags of sea water like your girls, or rub bleach in my hair cuz it makes us look pretty. We know about that, trust me. I knew the girls who filled the bags at the chemical plant!" Bree grinned as she slipped on her sweatshirt.
They kissed, and then laughed. "You know, we looked at each other naked and weren't on our honeymoon. Isn't that worse than all the other thoughts we had? But we'll have time for more later. We gotta fly!" Bree said with a grin.
Chris laughed as they walked out the door, but first he picked up Bree's bra and top and dropped it behind him in the hall as they closed the door for good.
"Gotta make 'em think something happened and I don't think we have time to dump cow blood all over the place," Chris said. They both laughed and headed out to Chris' car to drive off toward a new life. At the first gas station they found, they pulled over and Bree took the oil out of her hair, making it curly. Chris smiled even more, happy for the beauty he was with, happy for freedom. As they crossed the bridge to freedom, they looked at each other and he pulled over just past the border. The crosses hanging around their necks were the last sign of their divide, the world they escaped. He took his first and threw it over the bridge, then Bree took her oversized cross and tossed it right after. As they both kissed in the night, twined together in a quiet embrace, lovers finally free to love, their chains to Britney fell into the river to be dissolved forever.
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