By Babi Oloko
The First Time We are climbing up through the dense grassy underbrush. I am in shorts, and long blades keep scratching at my ankles like tiny reminders. I bat away bugs from my face and try to keep up with your infinitely long strides. You are in sneakers and you are unruffled. We climb up, and up, and up. I walk behind you, because I have never been where you are taking us. I am panting slightly, but I do not allow the air to make noise when it escapes my body. American Boys do not pant, so I must not either. We arrive at a ladder, but it is blocked off. A cold vertical sheet of metal hides the bottom half of its many rungs. The message here is clear—do not proceed, do not keep climbing, do not grip the cold metal deterrent and use it to effortlessly hoist yourself up the ladder’s sides, do not lift your endlessly tall body above and beyond its rungs.