top of page

Virtual Reality - Kirslyn Schell-Smith

I don’t know much about virtual reality,

but I think my device is broken

October 2019, 12:33 AM; driver’s side: a photograph of me in my car passenger side: her sitting next to me behind me, blue lights like a knife twisting into my back


I can’t.

You were going under the speed limit and swerving.

i don’t know this road too well it’s very dark

Where are you going?


What were you doing here?

visiting a friend

What were you doing with your friend?

marie kondoing her closet

What? Killing what?

the netflix show marie kondo we were helping her get rid of clothes cleaning

Oh. It smells like alcohol in here. Have you been drinking?

i had one drink at dinner 6 hours ago is it my blackcherry seltzer water

No. Maybe you’re just one of those people who still smell like alcohol for a long time.



I just want to make sure you’re safe. I need to do a Field Sobriety Test.

can i come too


He would have arrested me if I refused

No time to hug or kiss her, tell her I loved her

Is this what it feels like to be a pirate, walking the plank?

Trying to page through my memories like a flip book—

is this what it feels like to watch yourself die?

Convinced I would be taking my last breath in a few steps;

this isn’t happening.

Stand on this line. Do you have a hard time seeing far away or close up?

far away

Take off your glasses.

(this is it)

Follow my pen with your eyes only. Not your head.

You can get back in the car. I just had to make sure you were safe, doing my job. If you weren’t safe and got in an accident then I’m not doing my job and that’s on me. Your registration is dead. Have a good night.


I’ve spent 28 years trying to love my skin,

my curly, frizzy, biracial hair

Learning to not just live with it

but love and embrace it

and in two minutes an experience that is based on someone else hating what I’ve been

trying to love

I’m not yet strong enough to be resilient in times of racism

I’ve had more practice with homophobia

and although I was born in this skin,

grew up in this skin,

will die in this skin,

knowing this skin was different since I was 5,

hated it until I met her,

still struggling with the fact that I can’t just

get up and go, leave the house looking like Tracee Ellis Ross

without spending time oiling, conditioning, styling, blow drying, straightening;

I’ve always been afraid for my dad and my brother,

but never for myself.

Being afraid for yourself is a different feeling

One week later, I was told I didn’t have to worry about racism

by someone who has lived her life and prospered

by stepping on and breaking the backs of blacks

by someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to get pulled over for doing nothing wrong;


by someone who has never been called a half breed,

by someone who doesn’t have to remember her whole life in 30 seconds and remember

every time someone told you they loved your hair, how tan you got in the summer, how

you’re so lucky you don’t have to slather on sunscreen, how they wished they had curly

hair like yours, skin like yours, how lucky you were to be loved, what was it like growing up

with a black dad and a white mom, can I touch your hair, can I touch your hair,

can I touch your hair, look I’m almost as tan as you, look in the winter you’re almost as

white as I am, as white as I am, white, white, white, fucking white.

or what I meant to say was, my virtual reality my virtual realit my virtual reali my virtual real my virtual rea my virtual re my virtual r my virtual my virtual reality device is broken. broke/n


Kirslyn Schell-Smith is a biracial photographer and writer based in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She enjoys spending time with her wife and four cats and enjoys drinking Diet Coke (although she is trying to cut back) and eating breakfast sandwiches. She has a BA from Denison University and an MFA from Ithaca College, although she isn't fond of Ohio and upstate New York winters.

She prefers to write when she isn't expecting it; her psychiatrist's office, in her car in a parking lot, in between clients, in bed at 2am, standing in line at the grocery store, and while she's avoiding the household chores.



bottom of page