Tacos for Teachers (May It Fill Their Bellies Like It Never Filled Mine)

Going to Taco Bell as a black adult unaccustomed to Taco Bell
made me feel jazzy blue beneath the midnight, moonlit sky when I went in mid-2017.

No one in my family ate there growing up in Savannah, GA, and we were
poor black folk, so it should have been a perfect marriage, but it wasn’t and still isn’t.

Taco Bell is mysterious to me to this day, because it’s basically invisible
to me and my family’s brown eyes. Other black folks from their differing tribes

never mouth a single word about eating a damn thing at Taco Bell either,
young or old, rich or poor, light or dark, educated or dumb as fuck.

I’ve never seen a single offering from Taco Bell catch the ancient forest of black interests
ablaze. Not on Twitter, not on Instagram, not on TikTok, or any other platform.

Blessed Sermon/
Personal Service Announcement:

Black folks make your goddamn internet,
we are the American id, ego, and superego

shipped out the world over.
what we love, the world loves.

what we mourn,
the world mourns also.

Let that seed sink into the good earth.
Black folks don’t keep good things to ourselves. EVER.

We share and share and share
and spread and spread and spread—

even to our detriment,
‘til our gifts belong to everyone,

‘til our place as the origin is forgotten
and WE are gaslit and misremembered as unoriginal.

Tell Your Mama /

I’ve seen black folks deal with motherfucking Chipotle before they’ll deal with Taco Bell,
despite many e-coli related incidents, which often are the fault of the good sis, emerald romaine,

like Chipotle don’t know nothing about switching things up
with the likes of spinach, red leaf and butterhead lettuce, dulse, or watercress, but I digress.

I went to Taco Bell once as a child in the 90s when I was maybe ten for some child’s birthday.
I believe they only let me get a taco, a single taco,

for me, greedy, friendless vulture, me, and all I can remember was not being full.
Things like that don’t leave a great impression on the mind.

When I eat, I eat to be full because I may have only one meal a day to truly savor. That’s just math.

That’s what made going to Taco Bell in 2017 so strangely fulfilling to me.
I was finally in possession of finances that could sustain my life as an adult.

It wasn’t a financial windfall of course because despite what my students ignorantly believed, I was a teacher in America, a country that rewards the toil of educators with pennies even during a global pandemic. And it was only for a year

because I could only do one year in the public schools of Orangeburg, SC
where more often than not, I was surrounded on all sides in a jail/classroom

with almost all black people as fucked up as I,
except they were half my age, and twice as vulnerable,

which left me mad, insecure, and breathless, which made me
wingless, self-destructive, and afraid, knowing I couldn’t do anything real for them.

That environment affects me to this day.
I can’t shake the stories I learned about,

the powerlessness I knew. That’s how 2017
became the most poisonous year of my short life

of unfortunately many poisonous years,
and yet, it’s only the second most inspired—

by way of the void that lives in an empty shell casing,
by way of the eclipsed sun that is tragedy,

soft, august shadow that still makes me want to sleep forever.
My most inspired, My holiest year, My black poppy, 2015,

is the year I lost my father and brother back to back, one from
being gunned down like an ebon anhinga in the swamp, the other from mourning the murdered.

It wasn’t the best idea to attempt to teach children who suffer(ed) incredible trauma
when I have yet to overcome the pitch cloak of the tragedian I’ve known so well. But, oh well.

I had Taco Bell in mid-2017 with a white girl
and two other black people, all teachers younger than I, in our first year.

It was simple food we ended up getting—
I remember I got tacos, multiple tacos this time, which I drowned in fire sauce.

It was awesome. I was unblemished, ever so briefly, chilling with folks
trying to figure out life as badly as I was, struggling like hell,

but not giving up. The food I ate wasn’t memorable at all, disappearing into my gullet, feeding my detestable love handles, as quickly as it came, and I was hungry after—I am a me after all—

I am a greedy, friendless vulture still, like I never left the child I was,
Still poor, Still black, Still lonelier than Satan, but the freedom,

the casual freedom of being broke, hungry, hopeful, exhausted, and briefly unencumbered
by my three beggars, loneliness, grief, and rage, was delightful like rain warmed by the sun.

Denzel Xavier Scott earned his BA in English from the University of Chicago and received his Writing MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in his hometown of Savannah, GA. His works appear in various literary magazines: Rattle, Pigeonholes, Empty Mirror, Spillway, decomP, both Euphony Journal and Blacklight Magazine of the University of Chicago, SLAB magazine, Linden Avenue, 3Elements Review, Cortland Review, and many others. His twitter is @denzelscott. He’s a friendly, enthusiastic tweeter.

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