I’m born in a gap of unreality. It’s April 30th ‘92 and my mother, lulled by visions of inferno on an overhead T.V. the night prior, awakes to a daughter and feigns surprise. Maybe, then, I’m born in a lie created by the contrast of her knowing to my father’s unknowing. Perhaps gender is the real lie.
I’m raised in a concept born from war. It’s 1947 and, at the hands of Levitt & Sons, houses sprout on the grassy outskirts of New York City. The American Suburb, The American Family, The American Dream. This symbiotic trio is toxic:
“The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.”
Roughly ten and a half miles northwest of Levittown – a twenty-minute drive, give or take, says Google Maps – is my childhood home.
I’m shown a picture of Emmett Till’s open casket in an 8th grade elective history class. It’s 2006 and I wonder how this history can possibly be elective. I wonder if my parents have seen this yet. I learn the word “gerrymander” and am told that’s how we live.
“How else can one of the best performing public schools in New York be right down the street from one of the worst?” the teacher rhetorically ask/informs.
I look out the window, single-story, as they all are, onto the manicured grounds. Out at the back of the centerpiece placard that, on the front, dons the school name and motto, “Seek the Truth.” Out past the fences and gates safekeeping it all, to a cluster of students smoking cigarettes, teenagers swaying in boredom, seeking reprieve.
It’s my half-birthday – the day before Halloween – senior year. I’m walking down one of the few sunlit hallways in my high school overlooking the Craig Grumet Soccer Field next to the Brandon Lustig Baseball Field, both respectively memorialized after two students who died in car accidents four years apart. I pass my middle school boyfriend’s younger brother dressed as Flavor Flav, the oversized clock necklace a giveaway. He’s in blackface, but I don’t know that’s what it’s called yet. I only know the feeling of seeing him, of my spine disintegrating, the debris rising up to my throat in a lump I can’t swallow. I know that soon after, Dr. Feeney, the new principal, confronts him and demands he Wash it off or leave, and that he does, in fact, choose to wash it off, only to spend the rest of that Friday complaining how It’s so unfair! with the majority of the school’s majority white students in agreement, asking, repeatedly, What’s the big deal?
I grow in a culture of egoism. A week after my Woodstock themed Senior Party held in the high school’s cafeteria converted into a Peace & Love caricature, and also a week after a classic suburban house party where I’m sexually assaulted – but I don’t know that’s what it’s called yet – I go to my first of many Sublime (with Rome) concerts at Jones Beach. My two best friends and I pregame with fruit punch 4Lokos in the parking and shoot a litany of duck faced photos on my baby pink digital camera.
In the amphitheater, I look out over the Atlantic, the sky and tides merging in the pink-orange light to blue-purple hues, and, gradually, to night. I hear for the first time “April 29, 1992” and think of my mother in a hospital bed, awaiting the arrival of a daughter, of a child who will eventually forfeit the role of daughter to be whole, but nobody can name that yet. I imagine my mother awaiting wholeness while watching these sung scenes on the news.
But if you look at the street, it wasn’t about Rodney King
And this fucked up situation, and these fucked up police
It’s about coming up and staying on top
And screaming, “187 on a motherfuckin’ cop”
It’s not in the paper, it’s on the wall…
When I’m dropped off home later that night, I inform/ask her, “The Rodney King Riots were the day before I was born,” and she says, “Oh, you’re right!” blowing steam off a mug of mint tea and disappearing upstairs.
 Lambert, Bruce. “At 50, Levittown Contends With Its Legacy of Bias.” The New York Times 28 Dec. 1997: A23. Web. 9 Sept. 2019.
Annette Covrigaru is a gay, bigender American-Israeli writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. They were awarded a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices Nonfiction Fellowship in 2014, a Home School Hudson 2019 Poetry Residency, and earned an M.A. in Holocaust Studies from the University of Haifa. Their nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Entropy, Hobart, Cosmonauts Avenue, and FIVE:2:ONE, among others, and are collected at http://www.annettecovrigaru.com. Annette’s debut chapbook, Reality, In Bloom, is forthcoming in 2020 with Ursus Americanus Press.