Evan J Massey


My friend dropped me off at my crib when I spotted an unmarked cop car in the parking lot. Smoke grey Ford Taurus, black wheels, black bull bar, spotlight, midnight tint. I hadn't seen it before. I was like, "Undercover," nodding slightly in its direction. My friend, having no regard for the cordial secrecy, pointed. "That one?" He goes. "Shit," I said. "You `bout to get me fucked up. Watch him knock on my door now." He laughed. I didn't. Truth be told, there's nothing incriminating in my home. But you never know with cops. Once, my homie Jason, who I rapped with, told me he was driving through Richmond, VA—my hometown—with his homie Brandon riding shotgun. They'd ridden past an unmarked cop on Monument Ave. Brandon, for some reason, pointed out the window. He said, "There go a cop." When the cop saw Brandon's black finger, he swerved out, pulled them over. Probable cause. Suspicious activity. I remember the cop who'd park at the entrance of my apartment complex where I grew up. He'd be there all day, sunup to sundown. Once, he crept around the neighborhood, conducting a welfare check. I was chilling outside my nigga Sage's apartment with him, his sister, her boyfriend. The cop, with his window down, waved. Sage's sister waved back. Her boyfriend said, "Don't wave at that cracker cop." The cop slammed the brakes. Reversed. Asked the kid what he'd said. "Nothing," he answered. The cop heard him. Heard him say, "Cracker cop." Cop rushed out, patted the kid down. Arrested him. Threw him against his cruiser, tossed him in the back. Drove away. As my friend drove away, I squinted out my peep hole. Waited for that life-altering knock. Played the scene in my head of Denzel in Training Day, entering a home with a fake warrant. After seizing cash and narcotics from the house, he hands Macy Gray's character a folded-up pamphlet. Her fake nails peel open a Chinese food menu. I spied out the window. The cop hadn't moved. I was good. I felt this odd feeling that I'd escaped some shit. So I cut on YouTubeTV, tuned into Aerial America. Big Cities edition. The camera hovered over Chicago. I imagined this is God's view. Exceptional edifices ascending towards a heavenly realm. At one point, the narrator dropped the name Carl Sandburg. I perked up. Oh shit. My Pops dropped that same name recently. We'd been talking about writing. Pops is a fan of Sandburg, a poet from Chicago. While reading Sandburg's joints, he'd feel like he was walking down Chicago streets. From Sandburg's "They Will Say": "To work, broken and smothered, for bread and wages / To eat dust in their throats and die empty-headed / For a little handful of pay on a few Saturday nights." Pops, who's from Newark, NJ, and also writes poetry, embodies that similar gritty, tell-it-like-it-is voice. In one of his joints, he paints the scenes and feelings of Newark's 1967 race riots. He was only 10 when he watched his city burn. Tanks crawled up avenues on which he once played. National Guardsmen patrolled streets strapped with assault rifles. Carl Sandburg died that year, two days after the riots ceased. Two years removed from receiving an award from the NAACP for his social justice efforts during Chicago's race riots of 1919. On the TV, Chicago from the sky appeared peaceful. The narrator spoke of its architecture. How the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, was once the tallest building in the world. How its windows are washed by robots equipped with cleaning solutions, automatic squeegees, and vacuums. Other Chicago skyscrapers are still washed by human hands. I watched as two washers hard at work wipe and scrub, dangling in mid-air. Resembling the action figures I'd tie cords around and rappel outside my bedroom window. One particular day my Moms was downstairs at that sink when she screamed. A miniature Batman attempting to cast light on her beautiful face. The camera on TV floats over a triangle-shaped building. On its rooftop, figures rocking orange and white threads played basketball, futsal, and volleyball. The Metropolitan Correctional Center of Chicago. A federal prison. Designed by Harry Weese in 1976. The first detention center to incorporate floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing more natural light to splash into the cells. Its pierced facade looks as if a giant inmate shanked a hundred tiny gashes in its side. A commenter named Matt, below the article I just read, claimed he'd been there. "It is a very strange place to be," he wrote. "It offers the normal horrors of prison, but strangely it is very homie (sic). It (was) strange but when I went into my cell I was extremely comfortable." Meanwhile, R Kelly—who currently calls the prison home, facing federal charges of child pornography, human trafficking, and sex crimes—was beaten in his cell by Latin Kings gang member Jeremiah Farmer attempting to gain media attention. As I attempted to decode Farmer's face tattoos, his mugshot stared back from Google images, my phone vibrated. My friend—the one who'd dropped me off earlier—hit me up. Sent a picture of an acceptance letter for his son, from Virginia Tech's Architecture program. Ranked fourth in the nation. I sent my congratulations. Shoot for the stars, lil homie. Perhaps Aerial America might drop your name one day as a drone orbits your glorious magnum opus. Like how cutouts of airplanes would soar the skies of my childhood bedroom. Circling over my sketched cities. I'd draw planes, helicopters, spaceships, cut them out, attach strings then tape them to my ceiling. Whenever the fan spun and whenever one of the many actual planes tore over my Mom's apartment, I envisioned them actually flying, myself at the helm. On the ground, I mapped out imaginary metropolises in my sketch pads. Skyscrapers stretching into space. Super-highways sprawling across pages. Mansions mothered by emerald hills. Nothing that matched my reality. These rendered retreats provided my escape from nightly gunshots, sirens, police lights pulsing through my window shades. Eventually, Moms copped me SimCity. My ideas somewhat came to life. Bustling little simulated-societies with booming downtowns and safe, peaceful suburbs. I never activated the bank of disasters which allowed the user to terrify their own city. No zombie outbreak. No meteor showers. No fire. No riots. Never wanted to summon the cops. I couldn't witness my little world being burned and destroyed. No clue where my SimCity is now. My sketch pads are lost artifacts. Long gone. Instead, I've been scouring the internet for the sketches of Beverly Loraine Greene. Greene, a Chicago native, is believed to have been the first African-American woman registered as an architect in the United States. Despite racial struggles and discrimination in Chicago, she designed many structures around the world. Including helping the iconic Marcel Breuer design the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. It's main building is a geometrically curved, Y-shaped complex. Resembling a three-pointed star. Sadly, I haven't been able to locate Greene's sketches on the web. For now, they are lost. I'm only left to imagine her outlining at her drafting table. Studying over her shoulder as she designs that star with her hands.





The other day I googled my way down memory lane. Stumbled on the reviews of my childhood apartment complex. One unhappy reviewer wrote, "Do not rent from here! The airport is 4 miles away and the planes are LOUD! They fly right over the complex."