Things Only a Black Mother Can Prepare You For
The oldest sat in the passenger seat. He grew his first moustache
at thirteen. His little brother’s chest was still a birdcage
sitting in the backseat of his best friend’s Chevy. Jason was crooked gap grin,
dirty jokes, and the only white face. Among the five boys,
he was the smallest by one and a quarter inches. His dick jokes
all had the same punch line. Jason sat in the backseat
between two black boys, each one of them next to a rolled down window.
In the front, two more black boys, two more open windows.
All five boys in the car sang in unison with the radio and prayed
to the same god. For years now they had whispered in the back of their church
about girls who stood in the front of the church whispering
about them. The four black boys in the car
thought about their mothers when they passed the sedan,
white and unmarked. Jason sat in the middle of the backseat
with no warning rising up in him. His mother had never bought flowers
for a young man’s funeral or advised her son how to avoid attending his own:
Say ‘Yes, Officer’ and ‘No, Officer. ’Keep your hands on the wheel.
Every boy but Jason, breathed deep and remembered their lines.
When the red and blue and noise tangled in the air above the car,
the Chevy answered by bringing its body,
already more rusted than when they left home,
to the shoulder of the road. Four of the boys
were pale as dead men. The officer pulled them all out of the car
with only his voice and his badge. Jason was praying to the same god
his friends were. Those four black boys, eyeing the blue uniform
and the familiar face it wore. Jason got half-hidden sideways looks
when the officer pulled him away from the others
and spoke to him in hushed tones: Are you okay?
He did not understand. In the side view mirror, he saw his friends.
The man’s eyes repeated, Are you okay? He stepped closer
to the boy, close enough to offer the secret handshake
of his concern: With them? Jason's friends, several feet and a world away,
stood staring at the ground, looking apologetic, thinking
of their mothers, of black dresses, of their own crime scene faces.
Jason, somehow whiter now than when they had left home, nodded
like an apology to the boys he grew up with. Back in the car,
the radio offered up a song they could all sing like a hymn
to the same god.
by Nicole Homer
Nicole Homer is a educator and nerd who currently lives in New Jersey where she bakes carrot cakes and counts deer (dead and alive) on her way to work. http://nicolehomer.com/