On November 7th, 2016, a fog of static electricity settled over me. I don’t remember many people who didn’t feel the fog, honestly. My family in Michigan, friends on the west and east coast, my friend next door in our quiet neighborhood in Fountain, Colorado. All of us. It coated our skin and settled in our lungs, so light that some of us felt crazy for feeling it. Plenty of people told us we were. I wondered if I was.
My dad took me out to our favorite Korean place for lunch to console me. A part of me hated that I needed it—the same part of me that wondered if I was imagining the fog. I had to be. How else could I explain away the fact that it felt as though that fog has melted into me and I—a queer person out in the world with their black father—glowed for all to see?
Yet it stayed.
In hindsight, I realize my father was used to such static. If anything, he was used to worse, being born in black in 1951 and later serving in Vietnam. I, his sheltered pasty white-looking child, was shell-shocked. For him, it was just another Wednesday. These things happen, he said. These things happen and then we move on.
He also said nobody was taking him back to a cotton field. He said it as he taught me how to handle a gun.
I was wrong at the time to think he meant that “moving on” meant “going back to the way things were.” Maybe it was too quiet of a concept for me to grasp at the time. Maybe I was too busy: I went to work like I had before, went to boot camp as I had originally planned, asked my wife to marry me like I wanted (though maybe not the way she wanted, given the rain). Still, that static clung. I, like everyone else, just got used to carrying it. Every time it built a little bit more, we adjusted again, even without knowing it.
On January 6th, 2021, the static collapsed and lightning struck.
I’ve run out of other ways to explain what happened. We got struck by lightning made by years (arguably decades or centuries) of building static. We were laying in the ER while doctors and nurses—some with the right training, many without it—assessed our burns. Very few agreed on the degree of them. Some don’t even think they’re burns at all. There was a guy in the waiting room in a tinfoil hat and a lab coat, claiming to be a doctor and yelling about how lightning is a ploy by lizard people to steal our skin so we need to get up off that operating table and go buy guns.
I wish I had more jokes than that up my sleeve right now. I originally planned on writing something lighthearted and amusing to distract everyone from, well, everything, but like so many others, I didn’t have it in me right now. Instead, I have an invitation that my father gave me when I didn’t realize I needed it:
Be gentle with yourself, precious soul. There will be time very soon to demand that justice roll down like the thunder that follows lightning. In the meantime, shelter yourself and your loved ones from the storm. We will need to listen to those who have withstood the fog and the static far longer than us, but let yourself listen to the rain as well. We all now have spiritual skeletons with fractures as fine as leaf veins and the smoke from the burn of impact coating our lungs. Those things must heal for us to truly move on, and that is okay.
Because moving on isn’t going back to what was but adapting to what is, and “what is” looks like a storm long-time coming. So, heal and learn to live in the rain. I’ll even dance with you if you need because none of us are dry.
Or, if you want, we can go get Korean food instead.
Finnely King-Scoular (’14) is stationed at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA, where he lives with his wife, Rosalind (’13). His writing, including the Faerie Court Chronicles series from NineStar Press, focuses on contemporary fantasy with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ representation.