Courage: I Remember, I Say Her Name

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CN: dystopia; appalling labor practices; ableism; transmisogynoir; I don’t know if there’s a specific word for anti-genderqueer/nonbinary transphobia; Islamophobia; racism of several flavors; domestic violence; appalling environmental practices; medical malpractice; suicide; anti-Semitism; assorted flavors of murder, explicitly including extrajudicial execution; do tell me if I missed an important note

 

“Courage: I Remember, I Say Her Name”
Alex Conall

We’re all desperate, these days.

Quota for a day’s work at this job is one hundred forty. If you can average one completed request every five minutes, you clear quota with a bit of breathing room. I can do this, but it’s murder on my hands, and I can’t afford to buy the fancy ergonomic keyboard that’s supposed to help. But it could be worse—my sister Charissa works at a warehouse up north. She’s a picker: she runs items from bins in the warehouse to the people who pack the orders. I can’t remember what her daily quota is, but Charissa says it’s physically impossible to meet it with a mere twelve hours of work.

Someone died on the clock, at that warehouse last week. Had an asthma attack in the middle of one of the aisles. When they looked up her medical info—apparently she hadn’t been able to pay the bill from the last time she’d been treated for an asthma attack, and that was that. Hermes guide and guard her son.

Her name was Carmen Herrera Ortega. I remember. I say her name.

A friend of mine was murdered two months ago. Nobody knows who by, or why, though some of us can guess. The cops—well, no one wants them sniffing around anyway. But no one else is authorized to investigate this sort of thing, and the only possible way they could care less about her is if she had actually been doing anything immoral with her life. She was saving up to get bottom surgery. She told me to pray to Asklepios for her, that she could scrape together enough and more, just in case—it is illegal, after all. The money’s gone.

Her name was Latonya Miller. I remember. I say her name.

The beekeeper—we all used to get our honey from her stand. A customer heard her praying, one day; he wouldn’t have known otherwise, because she scorched scarlet in summer sun and she never dared cover her head in public, and officially her name was Theresa Newell. I can’t bring myself to offer prayers to her god, but Demeter protect her bees.

Her name was Thurayya Nejem. I remember. I say her name.

I used to pay my upstairs neighbor to do my laundry. A lot of us did; they couldn’t have paid their share of rent otherwise, not when they were only working forty hours a week at the megamart. What with their having been fired once for confusing a client about their gender, and with how the megamart schedules its part-timers—can’t make the noon-to-eight shift Monday at the megamart because your other job scheduled you eight to four that day? must not want the megamart job! bye!—how could they have found a second place to hire them? Even with their doing our laundry, it wasn’t enough. Nothing’s ever enough. And it gets cold around here, in winter without a roof overhead, and though I prayed to Hera that the winds not strip them of warmth and breath, I didn’t—then—dare…

Their name was Vijaya Sharma. I remember. I say their name.

She made beautiful things out of broken things, this girl—Mary—I knew from the homeschooling collective my mother ran until the day she died for people like us who couldn’t afford formal schooling. Kintsugi. But the way I hear it, the supplies Mary needed for repairing anything to be more beautiful than before it broke are costly, and she wasn’t selling her pieces fast enough to pay for what she needed for the next ones: who could afford to buy from her, at prices that properly valued her work? And the way I hear it, she didn’t meekly admit her wrongdoing in taking up this art to begin with, even after a corporation sued her for daring to repair their products without paying them for the privilege. May Hephaistos break their every product, their reputation, their profits. One day, her husband broke her.

Her name was Fujimoto Mariko. I remember. I say her name.

She played up her exotic—that is, Cherokee—origins, because people pay more for authentic Native dreamcatchers and beadwork than for knockoffs. I didn’t have the money, the day we met. She spoke of the Iroquois Great Law, of anticipating the impact of your actions on the seventh generation into the future. She was hugging a tree the day she died. The tree was in some corporation’s way. She was an eco-terrorist, they said. Artemis strike down every person who, knowing money doesn’t grow on trees, condemns then those trees.

Her name was Katherine Walela Walker. I remember. I say her name.

She lived in the next building, and her daughter played with mine. Little Radomiła kept that household running, truth be told, because some days the weight of the world on Miła’s mother pressed too hard on her, pinned her to the bed, and someone had to make sure there was food for the two of them. I know the feeling: three atmospheres above, one of air, one of fear, one of despair. She drowned, breathing despair. Dionysos guard us all.

Her name was Natasza Górski. I remember. I say her name.

She was knitting a baby blanket, the last time I saw the woman who used to play flute in a busking act I often passed when walking to work. What woman—what white woman, I should perhaps say—wouldn’t enthusiastically prepare for the birth of her child, should she find herself expecting one? I don’t know what went wrong. I don’t know if the fetus wasn’t going to survive anyway, or if her health meant she wasn’t, or if she was simply too scared of trying to raise a child in this bright America. I don’t even know how she died—could the surgeon keep her instruments sterile when working illegally? or was it her own hand that ended her? Apollon save all those like her.

Her name was Danielle Brennan. I remember. I say her name.

She worked with me, three tiny cubicles away from mine. She spoke loudly, when she spoke at all, and she painted, in those precious minutes when she wasn’t working or sleeping or doing other needful things. I think that’s why. She meant it, when she quoted that line about not being obligated to complete the work but not being permitted to set it aside. I can’t bring myself to pray to her god, but I thank Zeus for her devotion to her god and to his commandments. I think someone couldn’t bear the sight or sound of her trying to repair the world.

Her name was Rachel Fleischer. I remember. I say her name.

My own baby, my beautiful little girl. Brown children aren’t permitted to misbehave. Failing to promptly comply with a police officer’s command is misbehavior. Failing to hear and understand a command is failure to promptly comply. She wasn’t holding a knife, though they said she was. She wasn’t a danger to anyone, though she said she was. She was just loud. She was just a nuisance to the next-door neighbors. Athena bring my vengeance down upon them swift and strong as lightning.

Her name was Arete Prescott. I remember. I say her name.

I didn’t bring Vijaya or Natasza into my home. I didn’t plant a tree with Katherine. I didn’t buy from Mariko. I didn’t give to Latonya. I didn’t, because I couldn’t risk Arete.

I no longer need to worry about risking Arete. And it is arete, virtue, the pursuit of excellence, that drives me now. It is andreia, courage, that gives me strength to carry out this plan. I will speak for Rachel and Danielle. I will speak for Thurayya and Carmen. I will speak for Arete.

Alone I have no chance. I will fail and I will die.

But they will see me die on a hundred million screens. They will hear my voice proclaiming liberation. And if my gods are with me—may Aphrodite Battle-Ally and Ares Brazen-Shield stand beside me and may Poseidon Earth-Shaker stand ready to shake this society to the ground—before they see me die, they will see the White House burn. It was built by chattel-enslaved peoples. It will be rebuilt by wage-enslaved peoples—for who is free when selling their labor at eight dollars the hour, sixty hours each week, when rent is a thousand a month and still cockroaches scurry across the floor? If the master’s tools will not tear down the master’s house, someone must pour the gasoline and light a match.

It is unlikely that I will succeed in killing America’s king. Though I dare, at last, to hope.

Charissa will understand. One day, she may even—if she resists long enough, if she survives to see the day when freedom truly rings from sea to shining sea—forgive me.

My name is Andrea Prescott. Who will remember? Who will say my name?

 

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