Chelsea Armstrong

Get Up, Stand Up

“Enough is enough,” I say and score the stilts off Kijiji. Free to a good home, but that’s not where I trek. 

Crouching through the grocery store door, I’m greeted by a Pac-Man pattern of bald spots and a cloud of germy saliva. COVID is bad news for Black bodies, but it can’t infect mine 3.5 metres up. Discrimination, though, that virus always finds a host. 

As usual, the security guard assumes the role of my shadow. “Hey, you can’t wear those in here.” 

“The sign says no rollerblades. Nothing about stilts. Plus, I’m wearing my mask. Sanitizing my hands, see? Not one rule broken.” 

Blink, blink, sigh. “Other shoppers are getting spooked.” 

“Which ones?” 

“I can’t point them out. That would be rude.” 

The potential replies to his statement are incalculable, but there’s time to share a few. I could apologize for my scary stature. Agree to dismantle this tower of terror. Challenge his definition of rude. Wobble toward a more skin-tolerant market. Instead, I shift from one hot-potato foot to the other: it’s the secret to staying upright.

“What are you trying to prove?” he says. “You think those protests make you special? They don’t. All lives matter.”

I stiffen and uh oh. With poles parked in a produce puddle, stillness is enemy number one. Gravity number two. Cleanup in aisle clown. I swear that sounds over the PA system. Not loud enough to mask my skin clapping the linoleum—that accidental applause promises to haunt the next infinity of errand runs.

Now sprawled on the cold floor, I admit my efforts to remain safe and statuesque have failed. Once the security guard’s eye turns from this defeat, I’ll unstrap. Buy my rice and beans. Leave a shrunken soul.

Until then, I rest. And you, my colourful comrade, you’re up. Strap these stilts on, and rise above it all, if only for a grocery trip. They’ll offer some social distance. But not as much as you need.

Chelsea Armstrong is a lover of words and other weird things. She writes fiction and non-fiction in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her work has been published by Dark Moon Books and self-published online.

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