In my mind, I imagine myself in his shoes, tall, stocky, angry, scared.
I imagine the officers beginning to fly at me, and the feeling of a man on my back, his arm locked around my throat, the elbow flexing, my heartbeats growing louder as he compresses the arteries in my neck.
I know the feeling of asthma from years of suffering with the condition, and I imagine the feeling of trying to draw breath with five bodies lying atop mine, the struggle to open my lungs and draw in air. I can’t. Time draws out like a knife.
I know that feeling. I know the panic that overtakes me every time asthma grips my lungs, when someone’s perfume closes my throat, sabotages my breath, and makes the world go dark. In my mind, I rush for my inhaler out of habit, familiar with this feeling, but I can’t reach it, can’t shake off the officers locking my wrists behind me. I can’t breathe.
And in my mind, I cry out, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”. The officer on my back is still choking me, his bicep flexed and twisting my neck sideways as I try, frantic now, to breathe. In my mind’s eye, I see myself from above, a felled giant covered with bodies, a mountain of flesh and dreams and fear, and I watch myself die.
I watch myself die.
And suddenly, the scene begins to shift. Officers are jumping off of me, my lungs fill with air, the elbow clamped around my throat releases me, and somehow I’m standing again. Time runs swiftly now, in reverse, as we race back to where this all began.
And as I draw breath, shallow but easy, the nightmare begins again. The officers close in, but this time they’re gentler. I end up cuffed but not flattened, still standing as I hear my Miranda rights recited, then pushed into a squad car. I’m trying to figure out why, this time, the nightmare is so much gentler.
I see my face mirrored in the window of the police car, and I figure it out. In this version, I’m wearing my armor, the same armor that protects Darren Wilson, Justin Damico, and Daniel Pantaleo, the armor Eric Garner never got to wear.
I’m protected by the color of my skin.