A Letter to the Police

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story describing the choice of a teenage boy to abandon his home and prosperous future to find his racial roots and self identity.

Submitted: June 13, 2012

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Submitted: June 13, 2012

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To the Police,

It’s so fucking cold here.

I wouldn’t ordinarily go to these lengths—who actually writes to express anything anymore?—but I’m surely gone by now and this was the most effective way I could think to communicate with you. I think I’ve hit the right level of suffering, finally. I can only assume that there’s a certain level (known only to those who pass it) that qualifies someone to do what I’ve done. It’s like Food Stamps, except only the poor people who have tons of kids get that now. People like me and my mom—we’re apparently rich enough to buy food, even when milk costs more per gallon than gas and my mother spends half our money on pot and beer—we don’t qualify anymore. Not that you can do anything about that now, my dear law-enforcement officer.

I don’t go in for the metaphors and shit, even if what you’re reading doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When I said it was cold, I meant it. Right now, in my house, our big heater is telling me that it’s currently 42 degrees in the living room (what an inefficient heater). I have a smaller heater in my room, so it’s a little warmer though. It’s horrible in the mornings. Getting out of bed is not easy when you have to get a jacket or risk hypothermia. Changing clothes is not fun. Maybe that’s why I can’t understand people who sleep naked.

Anyway, my name is Sean. Pleased to meet you. I’m sure the above paragraphs are probably confusing you into thinking that I’m just going to complain about my terrible life—and it’s pretty fucking terrible at times, let me tell you—but I’m not here for that. Hopefully you realize that there are larger problems at hand. Hell, I don’t even know why I’m here. Wherever here is. Really though, “here” is at 315B N. Mayor St, Mountain Home, Missouri, 64782. That’s my physical location (we can go Harry Potter if you like: Sean Suli, The Third Warmest Room In The House, housenumberstreetcitystatezipcode etc.), but physicality isn’t always as important as we might think. And by we, I mean everyone except those who are really free if you know what I mean (God, I swear I’m not a hippie. All will be explained).

What’s more important is your mental location, the position of your personality. And in that regard, I’m more lost than the Great Asshole, Christopher Columbus, who couldn’t even recognize two continents as he was raping, torturing, and enslaving their inhabitants. How does someone exist in split worlds, with so much more of themselves in the world that they don’t want to be in? I don’t have one foot in each place; I have 1.75 feet in the white world and .25 of a foot in the Indian world. Some days, like when I’m daydreaming about escaping to college or listening to indie music, I’m 100% white, as Caucasian as the Supreme Court (we all know Clarence Thomas is white inside) or Luxembourg. Other days, when I dream about getting drunk and driving out to some swimming hole, just letting it all out and having fun for once in my life, I feel Indian. God knows why. It makes me think that there was a reason for the bans on interracial marriage in the first place.

I don’t really mean that. Don’t hate me. You know, I wasn’t always like this. This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone anything, even if I’m only talking to Microsoft Word 2003, and thence to you. Once upon a time, I was the wonder boy of Mountain Home, population 353, destined for great things. I never talked back to my teachers, I aced every test, and I even went to the state geography competition and placed 8th. I can still name the capitals of most of the world’s nations, and every so often I let myself dream of growing up in Astana or La Paz, and then I realize that Missouri is probably safer.

I think that Indian is just the little box that I check. Maybe this is just the root of all my problems; the fact that I have no idea who I am. My mother was Missouri born and bred, white as snow, and even though she left home at 17, pregnant and married, she has a lot more of my uptight grandparents in her than she is willing to admit. My father on the other hand is as red as the hills of Georgia, and has been known to bust out the Cherokee when he’s wasted out of his mind. I never could understand a word he said, and Lord knows he wouldn’t teach me.

Ah my dear law enforcement officer, have patience! I do have answers for you.

I don’t remember much of my life with him other than the fact that he took me and my sister to the pool every Wednesday without fail. I remember him conjuring a really old car out of nowhere one week, because my mom took our normal car to work everyday, and then he was gone, when I was about 10. I’ve been assured that he was Horrible and a Complete Asshole and that I was a Poor Child because of what I had to live through with him. I couldn’t say if that’s true, but he seemed nice enough the last time I visited him. I was 15 then, and I’m 18 now. For all I know, the man could be dead (taking half of me with him, that bastard) and I’d never know. My mom wouldn’t even speak his name.

Only Mom knows what he did to get kicked out of the house besides be a lazy drunk, and she won’t be telling that to you anytime soon. But he’s holding the key to half of myself and I hate him, perhaps illogically, for that.

You see, I’ve been white my whole life. Heading down to Oklahoma for summer, Christmas and Thanksgiving (Ha! The irony! Here little Indians, let’s celebrate the Pilgrims and their treacherous land-grabbing ways!), I never fit in well with my cousins. In the nice civilized white world of Mountain Home (we are, I swear, the only “colored” people in town. Wikipedia says that the town is 99.99% Caucasian and .01% Native American—how nice to be recognized), you don’t get beat up for explaining conditions on Mars to your fellow 7-year-olds. You get put in the gifted program and exposed to a “resource enrichment model,” whatever that means. In Marble City, Oklahoma (87% Native American), you get your arm broken by your cousin when he pushes you down the gully for being weird. Your sister, condemning you to pussy status for eternity, then shuts your cousin’s foot in the door, and everyone then enjoys a trip to the Indian Health Service. Two different worlds.

I was used to that. I never thought of questioning my lot in life, and then after my 15th year of existence, it just stopped. By that point, we had escalated to actual fist-fights, me and Ty. Ty is my cousin, the great football star, born two days after me. The last time I was down there, he told Granny that he was taking me to their school dance, and really did take me there, for all of 15 minutes. Then I ended up at some trailer with 20 drunk-ass Indian teenagers. I probably would have ended up as wasted as them, but the police (your brethren!) somehow found out and busted the party. As I ran, I saw this kid, older than me and Ty, get beat up by a sadistic Indian cop with a look of utter hatred on his face. I think Ty was jealous when I left, not that he would ever admit it. He’s getting ready to join the Army. He cut a deal with the police after his last DWI that he would head to boot camp instead of jail. In an odd sense, I miss him.

I know it seems like I’m rambling pointlessly, but I swear this all has meaning. You know, I would probably have graduated as valedictorian. I’ve never had a B in my entire life, and I have four shoe boxes full of begging letters from college hiding in my closet. I feel vindicated when I hold up my Ivy League shoe box, knowing that any one of them would offer me a full ride scholarship. Hell, not only am I the shining star of my school but I’m an under-represented minority  to boot! I am the ultimate minority. White people all around the nation feel guilty that they repressed my people and stole our land. So they get all schizophrenic about it and give us college scholarships while sterilizing our women. They revere our “spirituality” while ignoring our poverty. The strange thing is, I almost understand this. If it ever becomes clear to me, my dear law-enforcement officer, I’ll know that my tan skin is a lie.

I feel different now. I used to hate Oklahoma, to wonder why I couldn’t be like everyone else. This person that I used to be reveled in his intelligence. He was secure in his position as the school’s quiet smart kid. To this boy, “Indian” was the color of his skin. “Indian” was his father’s drunkenness, his uncle’s suicide, his sister’s insanity. I don’t know what happened to him, but he’s long gone.

I could chronicle the physical events between that boy and me. My mother lost her “secure” job as a factory secretary, was forced to menial service jobs, a fast-food counter here, a convenience store cash register there. We lost our home, one of the only nice houses in Mountain Home. My younger sister, unlucky inheritor of the family crazy gene, ran off and married a welder who doesn’t realize that his job could get outsourced at any minute. They’re “in love,” but I have trouble believing this when she comes home with curiously fist-shaped bruises on her upper arms. (By the way, I haven’t called her yet. Break the news gently if you would.) Our utilities disappeared faster than house-guests in an Agatha Christie novel. This week, the water is out; we’re 2 weeks late with the bill, like our neighbors in this miserable apartment building, but the mayor (herself! I felt so honored) came and turned off our water. Racism is dead and gone though, right? Right?!

Strangely though, I only did better and better as life got worse and worse. The first time the power went out, I wrote a Spanish paper by flashlight and received 20 points extra credit for having studied the proper forms of some verbs before it was taught in class. While my mom started drinking and bringing random men home, I went to the state Debate competition. It was a graph, with living conditions on one axis, heading downward, and my personal promise on the other, rising like the moon.

I don’t feel like him anymore. Being the smart Indian living off the Nation is like winning the lottery without buying the ticket. Only now I feel guilty about not buying the damn ticket. Or maybe it isn’t guilt. Whatever the hell it is, I’ve been frantically reading everything ever written about Indians, trying to figure out who I am. I could categorically list for you the major characteristics of every pre-Columbian cultural area between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego. I stole my mom’s debit card to buy books online. I convinced a friend to take me to the university library in Kansas City; I had a list of books to investigate. All this has done is carve a bigger hole in my soul. It’s taunting a fat kid with cookbook after cookbook and then stealing the food out of his kitchen. Oh hell, I think that was a metaphor. See? I’m lying to you already.

I guess I’d better get to the point. Last night, I saw Mom coughing up blood. She assured me that it was nothing, but I didn’t believe her for a second. I told her that she had to go to the hospital, but she laughed it off and told me that she had to go to work at midnight and didn’t have time to go to the hospital. I swear, there was nothing I could do short of call an ambulance and tie her to the bed. I almost wish I had done that now. Instead I went off to my friend’s house and reveled in his Wii and his Internet and his food and warmth and water and everything. When I came back (at about 1 A.M., for your investigational purposes), she was as dead as a doornail. I can only assume it was some sort of virus. Maybe she was even cursed (blessed?) with a little exoticism and you, my dear law-enforcement officer, are looking at the first Missourian victim of the bird flu. Who knows what happened?

Anyway, the purpose of the life story detailed above was to explain to you who I am and why I left. I love my mother, and losing her is the most horrible thing I have yet lived through. But, in a strange twisted sense, it’s also her last gift to me. I can’t go through with the life that my college counselor and my white family have planned for me. I just can’t. I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life, with few exceptions, as a white boy. I just can’t do that any longer. The hole in my soul I spoke of earlier is a gaping wound that needs to be fixed. Now that she’s gone, I have the freedom to escape. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Right now, you might think that I killed her. I probably have motive and everything, and I’m sure many a criminal has been extraordinarily creative in explaining away his crimes. This letter isn’t fiction, my dear law-enforcement officer, but you will probably not believe that. In case you haven’t divined it from the content of this letter, I left (with the car and the debit card; hopefully you’ve noticed they’re gone) for the Cherokee Nation at approximately 4 A.M. Saturday morning, after a few hours of mourning and writing this letter. If you’re white—and this being Mountain Home, I have no doubt that you are—you may not understand why I’m giving up a valedictorianship, a college education, and a “promising” future for poverty, repression and alcoholism. I don’t think I can explain it to you, but know that, deep down, I need to convince myself that I’m who my government card says I am—an Indian.

With that, I wish you a pleasant investigation,

Sean Suli

P.S. Marble City, OK doesn’t really exist; I merely used it as a place name. You probably won’t find me—we Indians have extensive experience in hiding from the government—but I’ll come in when I’m ready. It may take some time, but I’ll be there.


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