I remember tasting the library floor before blood filled my mouth, and thinking, so this is what floor wax tastes like. I’ve smelled it before, and felt its stickiness on my shoes, but tasting it was different. It pulled me away from the throb on the back of my head, the ache spreading across my face, cool against the blood pooling beneath me. I try to push myself up enough to take in the moment, and the pain makes me grit my teeth, and I realize the left side of my mouth is filled with jagged, gruesome stumps.
Another student, a white one, steps between us, and says they aren’t going to hit me again. I try to push myself up, reach out to him, to tell him, “Don’t,” and maybe I do, but the words are mumbles, only yelled. He falls hard, landing on the back of his head. I think of pumpkins, soft, days after Halloween, but it isn’t like that. There’s a fissure in his head, and his hair slicks away from it, with a red almost black ooze bubbling out of his skull.
“Get up.” My muscles jump in anticipation of a kick or a shock or a blow. “Get up.” My body shakes, but not from a taser, and it won’t stop. The room becomes blurry and I blink away tears I don’t remember shedding. One of them looms over me. “Get.” I feel his breath, and the salt-sweet smell of cologne and sweat. “Up.” The electricity kicks its way through my muscles, starting a spasm that starts in my guts and travels into my fingers and toes, making them curl and harden into claws before I go limp again. My heart tries to shove itself out of my rib cage, and my lungs refuse to fill. I force in hollow breaths as my heartrate slows, and I try to ignore the sound of soft flesh givng way against something hard.
I get my palms on the ground, and ignore my slick blood as I push. My arms quake, no longer strong enough or sure enough to hold me up. But I push anyway, until my elbows lock, and my feet kick worthlessly behind me. And I collapse, and smash my face, numb enough now from shock. He gets closer to me, so close his voice nestles in my head like an earwig. “Get the fuck up, sandnigger.” So close and so quiet and so personal that no one else hears it over the hate they throw at each other.
One girl stupidly asks an officer for his badge number, and he breaks her jaw, takes the camera from her hand, and breaks it against her shoulder. Someone helps her stumble away, whimpering, and two angrier students take her place.
Through the haze I recognize different uniforms. I can’t be sure which ones are campus cops, and which are from the city, but neither seems to be stopping, or even slowing down. They grab and smash any cameras or phones they see in people’s hands, apparently having learning the lesson of King and Tabatabainejad.
Over the yelling I can hear several students on the phone with 911, being told that the police are already here, and their loud protests don’t seem be winning the dispatchers over. The call ends, and the student stares dumbly at me, and the white student, and our blood pooling together on the floor. Who can you call when the police are the ones out of control?