a springtime view out the window

The silver pole peeks out from my neighbor’s roof, still, in the late-spring sunlight. Midnight blue wrapped thrice around it, deflated and confused. Looking at the stars, I feel sad, as if I will suffocate under their weight. Below, the red and white stripes float lazily in the breeze, mirroring the newly-arrived leaves on the tree opposite the porch. The confident stripes feel oppressive, indifferent, terrifyingly unfeeling. I can only see the very top of the flag, and the very bottom, but just the outline of it gives me the heebie jeebies.

To our neighbor, though, does the flag feel different? He is a Vietnam war vet, a Black man, a retired Kodak man, a king of the streets (his words, not mine), a loyal husband to his wife since 1976. When he bought the house, he erected the flag pole himself, carefully placed the United States’ flag on it, let it wave in the wind for all to see. The proud silver rod is the figurehead at the prow of his porch.

According to the Royal Museums Greenwich, a ship’s figurehead embodies “the spirit of the vessel, offering the crew protection from harsh seas and safeguarding their homeward journey.” Protection. Safeguarding. Spirit. Home. These words form such a stark contrast to the words that brew in my chest: Scared. Unsafe. Chaotic. Defeated.

Is it our age that separates our very different reactions to the flag? Is it our communities? Is it the time we were born? What is it that makes him want to raise that flag proudly and call it home? What is it that makes me want to wrap it up tightly, put it in a box, and never see it again?


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