July 25, 2021
Eyes were always upon her like hands, hands were hungry like mouths and mouths that meant destruction. To Thomasina, white men's words were like mucus pulled from the bowels and spat in her face. Their women were no different, their smiles were gates that hid venomous snakes. On any given day the question was not whether Thomasina would be violated but by whom and to what degree? Violations, as they call them now, do not describe living hell, the omnipresence of violence and the inevitability of pain, lingering close like a covetous shadow. She could close her eyes, her legs, and her mouth it didn't matter, defenses were to be penetrated. There were no rules according to black skin, she was made to be violated. Hers was a world of phalluses, shaped like eyes that pressed against her nakedness, eyes that hungered to use hands, hands that probed her on the auction block, in front of men that entered without invitation.
William's invitation came from Thomasina's master. Her femaleness was not human, it was capital and William was a tool used to maximize the output of her womanly machinery. He was forced on her and she was impregnated. She may as well have been a hen laying an egg because no sooner than he was born, Henry was taken away. She was not mother, wife or woman, only an abused natural resource. She was the earth, toiled, terrorized and taken for granted—and she still had to care.
Her master could not understand that rape could not satisfy her. He blamed her for his shortcomings which translated into more violence. She divorced her own body to assuage his ego, to survive, to one day see Henry again. She comforted her mistress who blamed her for the master's lascivious behavior. She suckled their children while caring for the little black babies that were condemned to live life under the whip. She soothed the damage soul of her man who could not look at himself or at her the same. She assured him, he was as much a man as was master. She thought of Henry.
Henry grew to be a tall young buck, a breeder like his father. Master Carrington called him his most valuable nigger. Henry carried himself as if he had value, he traveled to many plantations and had bred with many a white man's captive woman. Master Carrington often boasted that, "There wasn't a wench that could ride a stallion like ole Hank." The white men would gather with their libations and watch as Henry executed their violence. The enslaved women often screamed and they pretended as if she was in ecstasy.
"Thataboy, Henry," Master Carrington said like a proud father.
It had been a long time since Henry or his wife Ophelia had been beaten. Still, he could not keep Ophelia satisfied with their life on the Carrington plantation. She begged Henry to run away. "Miss Sarah, the way she looks at me. The way she looks at you."
"Now, don't be jealous, woman," said Henry.
"Jealous?" she spat. "Afraid, is what I am. Ain't you tired of disgracing these women, disgracing yourself?"
"If I'm a disgrace, how's it Master Carrington call me his most valuable nigger?"
"Don't be a fool Henry. You still a slave."
Ophelia was watching from behind the big house when Miss Sarah called out to Henry. "Henry." She was standing in the threshold of the sidedoor, holding the screen open, her cherub of a face covered in innocence.
"Yes Miss Sarah." Henry answered, his eyes sure not to meet her face.
She was seventeen, he was twenty five. "You sacred or something boy?"
Henry looked toward the back of the house where he knew Ophelia would be tending to the Carrington children. Sarah followed his eyes Ophelia smiled at her and quickly looked away.
"No ma'am, Miss Sarah."
"Come here then, silly."
"I was wondering if you could help me with something."
"Yes ma'am, anything Miss Sarah."
"Of course Miss Sarah."
"I would like you to teach me." she whispered loudly.
"Teach?" Henry smiled and shuffled his feet. "I'on't know much."
"They say you know his to please a woman."
Henry's stomach filled with the emptiness of fear. He didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. He wanted to disappear.
"Let me see it." Sarah said glancing to see if Ophelia was still watching, Ophelia was gone.
What? Henry peeked at her, his head still bowed.
"Go ahead, let me see it."
Henry's body stiffened as he tried to retract his member.
"If you don't do it, I'm gonna be angry."
No matter how hard he tried he could not vanish or run away. "No disrespect Miss Sarah."
"My daddy wouldn't like you disobeying me, now would he?"
"No, no ma'am." Henry pleaded as he looked into her eyes.
"You dare look at me like that boy?"
"Liar! Yes you did!"
Morgan Jenkins was the first overseer to dismount, "What's going on here?"
"This nigger," she pointed at Henry. "He showed me his, his."
"You stay right there." Jenkins ordered.
Henry stammered. "I s-sware, I ain't."
"You calling Miss Sarah a liar?"
"What is it Morgan?" asked Thomas Bell.
"Ol' Henry here tried to manhandle little Miss Sarah."
Thomas reached for his whip.
"Daddy!" Sarah yelled as Master Carrington rounded the corner. "I was so afraid." she sobbed as she ran into his embrace.
Thomas and Morgan relayed the graphic account of the assault. Morgan explained how Henry had exposed himself to Sarah and attempted to hide his shame when Morgan happened upon the scene. The men seized Henry and bound him with cord. "We will have a picnic in a day's time," announced Master Carrington.
The next day Eldridge Carrington hanged and burned Henry, left him dangling in the hot Alabama breeze.
In the aftermath, Ophelia and her sister stood beneath his body, "Look what they did to my beautiful man." Ophelia said.
"Curse the Caren-tins and their bloodline." said Ophelia's sister.
"Curse their lying tongues." they said.
"Curse the Caren."
Julian was standing at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Atwood Street. It was the afternoon and traffic was buzzing. The smell of fast food and exhaust permeated his senses as the sun beat down upon him. He had about a half an hour to burn but he didn't want to take the chance of leaving his spot and missing the bus. He leaned against the pole and decided to scroll through his iPhone when a silver luxury sedan pulled in front of him and illegally parked, blocking the crosswalk. The drivers side door flung open and a petite olive skinned woman emerged with her face fixed to the phone she held in front of her.
Julian called out to her as she approached him, "Ma'am." He waved at her, to no avail. As she passed him Julian reached out and tapped her shoulder. "Miss?"
"Excuse me." She stopped as if he had contaminated her with his brownness. "Don't you ever put your hands on me." She said with fire brimming in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," Julian said astonished.. "I was just saying, you can't park there. A bus stops here at—"
"I don't need you to tell me where I can park. Are you the parking authority? No. So don't you ever put your fucking hands on me."
As the woman grew louder a crowd of supporters grew for the damsel and spectators for the damned. Julian thought to cut his losses and get out of there before the situation got out of hand. He turned away from the woman and waited for the light to cross the street.
"Are you okay miss?" asked a middle aged white guy with graying temples and beard.
"I'm minding my business when this brute just put his hands on me."
Two younger men heard the woman as they passed and were instantly displeased with Julian. One of them tapped Julian's shoulder. "Hey."
Julian turned to face the men, "What's up?"
"You disrespected this nice lady?" said the pale man with the red beard.
"Apologize," his friend insisted.
Nice meant white. "I already did." Julian said.
The graying man interjected, "You! Get out of here."
A police car pulled alongside the silver sedan, the officer in the passenger seat noticed it was parked illegally. Julian had never been so glad to see the police, he thought that the woman would surely get what was coming to her. However, the woman also saw them, "Officer! Officer!" she jumped up and down waving her hands.
The cops pulled over and hurried to the woman "Ma'am. What seems to be the problem?"
"My name is Emily Carrington. I'm a tax paying and law-abiding citizen."
"Says the woman who parked illegally," remarked Julian.
"I was walking along the street when that Black man over there assaulted me."
"Damn." Julian didn't mean to respond out loud but she had put enough emphasis on the word black to make it sound like dog shit.
"Excuse me, sir." One of the officers said to Julian.
"I didn't assault her, I tapped her on the shoulder." Julian pointed her car, "She's parked illegally."
The younger and slimmer of the two police officers seemed to remember the large silver sedan parks illegally. "Miss, is this your car?"
"I'm telling you about being assaulted and you're asking about my car?" Her eyes were wide and wild, "I need to speak with a superior."
"Now there's no need for that said the heavier officer whose balding head had begun to develop a thin film of sweat. It was getting hotter.
A bright flash streaked across the afternoon sky and thunder rolled with not a cloud in sight. The traffic slowed to a crawl and then stopped. Julian felt his body stiffen. He looked at Emily Carrington and was filled with memories that were not his own but familiar. Memories of places he had never been, people he had never known, and pain he had never felt. Bodies were frozen in place. Time had stopped. Emily's mouth dropped open, the whites of her eyes blackened.
"Sir, put your hands behind your back." said the younger cop.
"What am I doing here." Julian asked no one in particular.
"We're hoping that you'll cooperate." said the officer.
"No, what am I doing in this body?
"Sir, put your hands—"
"No, I didn't do anything." Julian said backing away from the officer.
"Sir," the officer put away his handcuffs and went to place his hand on his taser when.
"No!" Julian pushed the officer to the ground and darted into traffic. A box truck nearly struck him as he stumbled onto the sidewalk. He looked back and saw the older officer aiming his weapon while speaking into the radio attached to his shoulder. Julian ran. He was Emily and Emily had no idea what to do. She couldn't help but notice how fast she was running. She ducked into a small boutique to catch her breath.
The cashier was slender brunette with pointed shoulders. Emily flashed a smile, the cashier glared at Julian. Julian positioned himself so that he could pretend to browse and look out the boutique's window.
"Can I help you, sir?" asked the cashier. Her tone seemed funny to Emily, like intolerance.
"I'm okay," said Julian. "I'm just looking."
"What are you looking for?" the woman had come from behind the counter and was only feet away from Julian.
Julian snapped, "I just told you that I don't need any help. Jesus Christ."
"You know what sir? I think its time for you to leave."
"Wait. Wait, I'm sorry. Listen, I need help." Julian pleaded.
"I can't help you."
"My name is Emily Carrington. I am a white woman trapped in this Black man's body."
The cashier cocked her head, "I'm sorry sweetie I can't help you with your identity crisis."
"Identity crisis?" Julian snarled. "Who the hell are you?"
"Look, Rupaul, you better leave before I call the police."
The cashier removed a phone from the pocket of her romper and began to dial. Julian was frozen in disbelief, "Hello? Yes this is Amber Smith a transgender—"
Julian exits the boutique and surveys his surroundings. Nervous, he walks in the direction that will take him away from the initial crime scene. As he walks he feels the familiar weight of a phone in his pocket. He retrieves it and searches it for an idea. As he scrolls he comes across a photo of himself and his daughter. He digs into his front pocket and finds cash. "Who the hell carries cash anymore?" Emily asks. He decides to duck into the CVS and purchase a bottle of water.
It is cool in the store. The cashiers don't seem to mind Julian's presence. One of the cashiers is a young guy with blonde curls and green eyes, he nods in Julian's direction and smiles. Julian returns his nonverbal salute with one of his own, a nervous smirk. He finds the coolers, grabs a bottle of water and takes it to the counter. The blonde boy smiles at him. "Sup?"
"Hello." Julian responds.
"Good. Good," says the blonde boy whose name tag read Brody.
"Brody, do you know me?"
"Of course, you're Julian."
"I'm not Julian. I'm Emily."
"Woah shit, man. I told you."
"What?" asked Emily.
"Wait." Brody held up a hand, "Are you like, transitioning?"
Emily reached across the counter and grabbed him by the shirt, "I'm trapped in this fucking body."
"Bro, I told you that strain of weed was potent."
"Yeah, man. The Freaky Friday weed, it's like an out of body experience."
"Exactly!" Emily yelped. People stared, surprised by the sound that came from her throat, "Sorry," she said. "I knew there had to be an explanation."
"Yeah!" Brody jumped and slapped the counter, "That is some good shit."
"Brody." The girl at the register next to Brody shushed him.
"My bad Bree."
"Listen," Emily begged. "My name is Emily Carrington. I live at 749 East Salinger Lane."
"Dude, if you're really trapped in Julian's body, don't go home. You'll get yourself killed."
"What am I supposed to do?"
"Just chill," said Brody. "Let it wear off."
Julian paid for the water and left in a daze. Emily felt like she was walking in a dream. She grabbed between her legs and felt the reality of her predicament. She pushed through then glass doors with Julian's hands and thought, "I am black." As she exited the store, two men heavy waisted men with barreled chests were waiting. The two white men were dressed alike, in jeans and black and yellow shirts that read, "Mike and Melvin's: No one can beat our meat."
Emily's words came form Julian's mouth, "Let me guess, you're Mike and Melvin?"
"You guessed right buddy," said Mike as he punched the inside of his palm.
"So, is this a hate crime, vigilante justice, or what? I'm kind of new to this being black thing."
"Don't worry," said Melvin. "We teach well."
Mike moved swiftly to Julian's left and landed a blow squad on his jaw. Julian stumbled and feebly lifted his fist to defend himself. Melvin lunged forward. Emily closed Julian's eyes and swung a haymaker that smashed against Melvin's neck. She knew that she didn't throw the punch correctly but she felt her strength. Mike punched Julian in the navel. Emily thought she would lose her bowels but Julian's body recovered quickly. Mike seized her collar, "Is this him Amanda?"
Amanda, the clerk from the boutique emerged from the for of another storefront. "That's him."
Mike slung Julian to the ground and pounced on him. Melvin had recovered and joined in on restraining Julian. Mike straddled Julian and began to wail away on his face. Emily tasted copper and soon after faded into blackness.
"Hey." An officer kicked at Julian's foot.
Emily opened Julian's eyes and felt herself horizontal. Julian's right eye was closed. "I was assaulted."
"Stand up please," another officer ordered.
Julian pulled himself to his feet and stumbled.
"Are you drunk sir?"
"I was assaulted."
Julian looked around, "Mike and Melvin."
The cops laughed. "We've got reports of a fella causing trouble."
Emily insisted, "I was assaulted."
"What's your name?" asked the officer.
"Okay," the cop said frustrated. "Hands behind your back, we'll figure this out at the station."
"But I didn't do anything."
"That's what they all say."
The cops cuffed Julian and stuffed him into the back of their squad car. Emily felt cramped, her limbs were too long for the cramped space. 'How did I get here?' she asked herself. "What am I being arrested for?" The cops ignored her, which to her was more insulting than being arrested. "Excuse me, I know my rights," she said.
The cop in the passenger seat turned and spewed his words through clenched teeth. "How about you shut the fuck up before I come back there and shut you up?"
Julian's mouth slammed shut which gave the cop a satisfied grin. The car coasted through an intersection where no one looked upon Emily's captivity as out of place. Emily had never felt trapped, she had never been in a place where she wasn't able to retreat to safety. She thought about the incident that caused her misery. She was literally walking in a Black man's shoes.
The car skidded to a stop, forcing Emily's face to hit the plexiglas that separated her from the front seat.
"What the fuck?" said the driver as he stared into the backseat through the rearview mirror.
"Jesus Christ," the other said as he followed his partner's gaze.
Emily looked out the back window. There was nothing but traffic. Something was going on. While looking out the window she caught a glimpse of her reflection. It was her reflection. She turned and found the rearview mirror and saw herself. Her lips was swollen. Her eyes were black. The right side of her face was bruised.
"Lady," said the passenger, "What happened to the Black guy?"
Emily shook her head in disbelief, "He got away."