Samantha Guzman

If I Weren’t Black…


Samantha is a native New Yorker of Afro-Caribbean/Latinx descent who works as a graphic designer by day and a passionate fiction writer by subway commute, lunch, and night. Her published writings––“Visibly Invisible” (Black and Well Magazine), “Graduation Day” (, “Fighting for Life” (, and “Yzabella (Alternating Current Press)––captures the raw and unique experiences of Black and Latinx people through a fictional and sometimes fantastical lens. She has a Bachelor’s in Communication Design from CUNY and an MA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When Samantha is not creating, you can find her binge-watching sci-fi/fantasies, teen dramas, or any comic-book based shows.

Twitter: @sammygeewrites


The elevator doors ding and open. My breath hitches and blood chills. A petite white girl stands on the other side. Her brown eyes expand as they meet mine then quickly scan all six feet, 225 pounds of me. She pauses before stepping in and moving to the far right of the small impersonal box. If I weren’t black, she would have just walked in with ease.

The doors close and we descend. In the cut of my eye, she clutches her yoga mat tight (as if anyone would want her damn mat) and stands rigid. My skin heats under my cotton button-down, but it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable I am; her comfort is all that matters. It’s the difference between me walking out my apartment building alive or getting subdued by overzealous building security and taking my last breath.

Fuck that! In this sick, twisted society, she is more of a threat to me than I am to her. It’s exhausting having to be uneasy all the time.

I force a guttural cough from my throat loud enough to rattle her. She sounds a mousey shriek, and she throws a hand to her chest. My cheeks swell with amusement. It takes everything in me not to explode in laughter. I clear my throat to relieve the urge.

Stiffly, she turns and looks at me. An awkward and phony smile pulls at her lips.

“My dad warned me it’s a high pollen day,” I say. “Some of my students might have to sit out of recess.”

I watch as each of my words erase the negative idea she had painted in her mind. A smile manifests on her ruddy face. Her shoulders slump, and snug grip relaxes. To her, I went from threatening thug or on-call dealer to a harmless black man who likes to ride his bike, call his parents twice a day, and teach middle schoolers math.

The elevator stops and doors open. I hold my hand out for her to exit, roll my eyes, and leave a few seconds behind her. Her pace accelerates out the lobby door and around the corner. I shake my head, laugh to myself, and grab my bike.


“Mr. Davis?”

I look up from grading papers at my desk. Tracy–my eager student–waves her hand for my attention. I walk through the quiet rows of desks with students focused on their assignments.

“What’s up?”

She asks for clarification on how to use the PEMDAS method when the fire drill alarm goes off. The pulsing lights flicker and the chattery voices of my students’ zig-zag across the classroom.

“Alright, pencils down. Line up at the door,” I instruct. “Single file. No talking,”

Of course, muted voices still carry through them as they move from their seats and line up by the door. I move to front and direct them out, following the other evacuating classes. As the last student exits, my gaze falls to Kevin in the back of the class, still at his seat. His pale arms tremble as he grips the side of his storage desk. His pinched face and watery glare tell me something is wrong.

“Kev? Son, are you alright?” I make slow, careful strides toward him. “We gotta head out for the fire drill.”

He doesn’t say a word. His concentration moves from his desk to me.

I hold my hands out and ask again. “Are you alright, Kev?”

Kevin is one of my quieter students who keeps to himself. I’ve noticed other students picking on him, casting him out, and made the counselor aware. Times he didn’t want to go to recess, I let him stay in the class, eat lunch with him, and talk about the newest comic books and movies. He’s a good, fragile kid I fear has now come apart.

Within just inches of him, I place my fingers on the desk and pause. Kevin huffs. His trembles increase. I take a second before shifting my fingers under the desk surface and slowly lift. A black handgun sits in the center surrounded by pens, notebooks, comics, and candy wrappers.

I sigh. His jittery eyes shoot up to me and he crumbles into a sobbing mess.

"Kevin, it's alright," I say in a lulling voice. "It’s alright.” I take the gun slowly from the hidden space. My fingers numb. “Do you have another one on you?”

He sniffles and shakes his head no.

“Okay, go. Go out and line up with the other students. We’ll handle this later.”

He stares at me bewildered, wipes his wet face, and walks out the room.

I never held a gun before, but I’d imagine the piece of metal weighing in my hand. Instead, it’s as light as cardboard. I squeeze and the grip folds between my fingers.

I exhale deep then sprint to my desk, toss the toy in my bag, and join my class on the school lawn. Kevin stands at the back of the boy’s line with his head hanging down. I’ll talk to his counselor after the drill and bring the toy gun in. This incident was way too close to be something more catastrophic.

“Always late,” Ms. Cole’s soft voice breaks through my angst.

An instant smile paints on my face when I look her way, standing in front of her 8th graders. Her mustard-colored dress, passion pink lips, cinnamon locs, and chocolate skin under the sun takes my breath away, as always.

“What can I say?” I whisper and shrug. “Making sure all of my students are good.”

I follow her woeful gaze to Kevin. Her full lips purse then pout. The Kev-situation is well-known.

I lean into her.

“He brought in a toy gun to class.”

“What?” she hisses.

“Yeah. I thought it was real.” I throw my hand to my chest. “I’m going to talk to Principal Morales, his counselor, and call his parents. Whether it was meant to scare people or not, this is a major cry for help.”

“Oh, definitely.”

Silence waves overs the school waiting on the lawn as the blaring alarms come to a stop. Principal Morales gets on the speaker horn. Feedback rings, making everyone recoil. He gives the same speech he does at every fire drill.

Quicker…Quieter…Better formation.”

I turn to Ms. Cole and we both scrunch our faces and sneer.

One by one, each class heads back into the building. Ms. Cole follows behind her class. I jog to the front of mine, leading them subsequently, to speak to her.

“So, it’s Friday…” I whisper beside Ms. Cole. Her giggle is music to my ears.

“Here you go, again,” she says. “What is this now? The third time?”

“Third times the charm.”

“No one has ever proven that,” she retorts.

We stop at the doorway, standing on opposite sides, as the kids go in and return to class.

“Just go out with him already. We could use a major break on homework,” Daryl–my student–says before going in.

“Wowww, that’s how you feel?” I lean up off the wall, nodding my head. Betrayed by my own student.

Ms. Cole laughs. “Hmm, I guess, for the sake of the kids, I will take your offer.”

Excitement extinguishes the flush in my face.


“Seriously.” She walks in after the last student and looks back. “Tomorrow. You can cook me dinner. You do cook, right? You’re always bragging about it in the lounge.”

“Oh, definitely. I can throw down! You’ll see. Tomorrow.”


The last bell rings. I grab my bag and bike straight to the organic supermarket to prepare the most important meal of my life. The air conditioner blasts cool air over my sticky skin as I grab a basket and call my dad. He’s the chef of the family, the one that taught me and my sister to cook. Now, I needed the recipe that reeled in Mom.

“Now, I don’t just give out my secret recipe all willy-nilly. Who’s this girl?” his raspy voice asks through my earbud.

“This is the girl. I promise you.”

“Mmm-hmm. Must be, because you haven’t asked ‘til now.”

I walk down the aisles, grabbing every staple I need for Dad’s famous one-pan hot honey chicken and rice dinner. “The perfect blend of sweet and spicy,” he repeats several times.

“I get it, Dad. Alright,” I laugh. “I got everything.” I rummage through the basket and make my way to the line.

“Alright now. Call me if you need anything else.”

“I will. Thanks, Dad. Love you.” I click off.

A bell rings, signaling me to the fourth register. The short, white cashier wrinkles his brow as he rings up my items. His eyes never break from me. I do my best to ignore him, fishing my wallet out my pocket.


I had him a crisp twenty and a quarter.

He takes it between his fingers, holds it up to the light. He squints and tugs the bill several times then grabs the counterfeit pen and marks the side of it. I press my lips hard and suck in a breath, waiting for him to confirm I’m not trying to con him.

Despite finally getting Ms. Cole to have dinner with me, today is one of those days that trigger two emotions out of the big three––exhausting, infuriating, but not yet frightening. Finally, he rings up my money and hands me the receipt and a nickel. I would drop the coin in his tip jar to be petty, but he doesn’t even deserve that. I shift my backpack from my shoulder, open it, and reach inside. His pallid face warps with fear, and he takes a step back. His palms flinch up beside him. In the corner of my eyes, the security guard––a hefty white male who couldn’t run two feet without keeling over––makes strides in my direction. I sigh and pull out my tote bag, de-bagging the groceries from the plastic, and strategically repacking them.

If I weren’t black, neither of them would have been quick to react and think the worse.


Instead of riding back home, I walk, balancing my tote bag around the handlebars. I stroll through the park to cool off. It kills me every time to be reminded of my blackness in the most negative way, from the moment I step out my door to the second I am back in my house. I stop at the pond and watch the sun descend into the fiery horizon.

As soon as I get home, I open up Dad’s “confidential” email on my iPad and start prepping the food. Once the chicken is seasoned to perfection, I set it in the fridge to marinate overnight. My phone buzzes on the counter as I wipe down the kitchen. My heart stops, thinking it’s Ms. Cole. I bang my elbow reaching across the counter and grab my phone. Instead of her, my best friend Andrew texts me about coming over to watch the game with some wings and beer. Sounds like a Friday night plan to me.

Andrew arrives twenty minutes later with a six-pack, thirty-piece lemon pepper wings, and an ounce of strawberry fields Sativa. We start off watching the game for the first half-hour than navigate our way to different conversations seemingly deeper than they should be. After hours of nonsensical laughter, random dialogue, and zesty gratification, Andrew calls for an Uber. Five minutes out.

I walk him to the door. He steps out then pivots back.

“Oh yeah. Here.” He reaches in his bag. “This is to relieve ya nerves tomorrow. Don’t want you to forever be single. It’s sad.”

A door lock clicks in the hall trailing his laughter. Andrew folds his hand into mine. His gift presses into my palm.

“Funny,” I scoff, “but good looking out.”

A set of piercing eyes watches me from the other end of the hall through the sliver of an open door. I catch the pale face of my neighbor who greets me with scornful stares every time I see her. She slams the door shut when our eyes meet. I push the gift down in my shorts and dap up Andrew.

"Thanks, bro,” I breathe out, “hit me when you get home.”

“Iight. Later.” He walks to the elevator bank and I close the door.

Sleepiness sets in quickly as I clean up the scraps of chicken and empty bottles. I bump into my school bag, knocking it on the ground, on my way to the kitchen to throw the garbage away. When I turn back, my heart drops into my stomach at the sight of a gun on the ground. It takes me a second to catch my breath and realize that it is the toy gun I confiscated from Kevin. Wrapped up in the excitement of my date, I completely forgot to turn it in. I’ll have to do it first thing Monday morning.

I sigh and stroll into the bathroom to brush my teeth. A shuffling sound catches my ears. I peek my head out into the living room, but it’s silent. I blame the Sativa and the fatigue; got me hearing things. I finish brushing, relieve myself for the night, and hit the lights off in the bathroom and kitchen. I squat down, pick up my bag, and grab the plastic toy when a loud bang sends me to the floor. My door snaps from the hinges and drops to the ground with a thud.

Light from the hall pours into my dark apartment. Figures in tactical gear move like shadows. My eyes freeze open watching their real war-like guns shift in their hands and point at me. My chest tightens with each second that passes.

“Wait! Wait!” I lift my quivering hands.


The word isolates in my ears like a trigger word shutting my entire body down. Each gun clicks before the rapid firing of bullets fill my ears. Light flickers at the end of each barrel like tiny flames, and domino around the circular firing squad. My body vibrates from every piercing sting that rips through my flesh. The side of my face slams into the carpet.

My soul draws from my perforated body with resistance. Blood pours outs and absorbs into the rug fibers. My lips curl into an “O’ shape as they gasp for air, or choke on the blood filling my lungs. I can’t tell.


The gunfire stops, and silence fills the room. Footsteps knock on the floor until I see the boots of an officer right in front of me. He kicks the toy from my listless hand then kicks me, sparking back a glimmer of life in my eyes. My body flails like a fish out of water, out of life. Ignoring me, he squats and reaches across my face for the gun.

“Um, sir. We have a problem.” He holds it up. “It’s plastic. It’s fake.”

“Shit!” a voice hisses. “Check him! CHECK HIM!”

I stop and lay defenseless as the officer’s hands roughly inspect my dying body. No one tries to stop the bleeding or give me aid.

“They said he was dealing! Find something!”

Their presence flickers in my vision like a broken screen. My eyelids grow heavier and my body more powerless. The officer’s hand snakes its way into the pocket of my shorts.

“I have something.”

He draws his hand back. The cap of the CBD relief roller Andrew gave me for my anxiety is nudged between his fingers. Moonlight glints in one of the quartz crystals inside, the last thing I see before my eyes shut.

“What the fuck is that? Jeez…”

The words fade in my ears.

If I weren’t black maybe…


© The Acentos Review 2020