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By Carvell Wallace
My son is home from school. He stays in bed while I take his little sister to her 4th grade class. He watches about 8 hours of television. I have to work. We watch Skyfall together in the morning. The violence is a little beyond what I would normally allow, but something about a father and son watching a spy thriller together…I can’t resist. A Final Showdown at the Scottish Manor. Helicopters and explosions. Cars with semi automatics in the headlights. Sawed off shotguns.
I pick my daughter up at 3:30 while he stays at home. I take her to the grocery. We talk about persimmons and how to tell if they’re ripe. She asks me how I decide which chicken to buy. I explain about air-chilled, and free-range, and grain fed, and hormone free. I realize that I don’t actually understand “air chilled.” I send her clear across the store to go find peanut oil. She does. I am impressed.
In the car, she asks about her brother. I tell her he’s home alone. She is quiet for a few more minutes. Then she tells a story of the time her mother went to the store and left them home alone. And they heard a sound. An explosion of a kind. And her older brother started panicking, telling her it was gunshots, telling her to close the blinds and hide on the floor. And how she became terrified and FaceTimed Mommy from her iPad. And Mommy tried to calm her down, but eventually came right home, leaving a cart filled with groceries in the aisle.
Helicopters are already circling downtown.
She tells me that she now knows that they were overreacting. That it was probably fireworks. It didn’t sound like real gunshots. She’s heard real gunshots. They happened one afternoon while she was playing on the schoolyard. The teachers told them to run inside and they didn’t even have to line up. That’s how she knew it was serious.
We come back home and the kids are reunited. Rare is the day that one has school and the other doesn’t. They are so used to being together in the same cars on the same schedule, even at different schools, that when they see each other, there is awkwardness. They want to check in. If they were adults, they might say “how was your day?” and “I missed you!” But they are not adults. So they argue about who is the worst teacher at the elementary school, and then reminisce about funny episodes of sitcoms that they’ve watched. She quizzes him on his menu, keen to make sure that he didn’t get an ice cream or a cookie on his day off. She’s always keeping track of things like this. Everything must be even.
Grand Jury Decision is expected to be read at 8pm CST.
She begins her homework. He watches vaguely racist and sexist youtube videos.
I make her a snack of plain yogurt and granola.
Rumors are starting to spread that there will be no indictment.
I already know there will be no indictment. I’ve been a black man in America for a long time.
The house is quiet, everyone engrossed in their screens. I am agitated. Scrolling social media, lead in the pit of my stomach.
We’ve been here before. As a family.
We are black people in Oakland. We talk about race a lot. We talk about gender a lot. We discuss transphobia and homophobia a lot. We discuss capitalism and civil rights a lot. We’ve heard helicopters and chants and seen the streets burn. We’ve been to protests. We’ve held signs and played drums. We’ve had our car broken into and our heart-covered backpack and pink size 3 trench coat stolen from the front seat on the first night of Occupy. We’ve driven past armies of cops in riot gear in our minivan. We’ve been here before. We are black people in Oakland. Continue Reading…
When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.
Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”
“No,” she said. “I did.”
As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.
And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…
By Shannon Brugh.
My oldest son E turned to me today- out of nowhere, in the middle of lunch- and said, “Mommy? When I’m big, can I go everywhere with my family? I want to stay with my family. I don’t want to be alone. I’m scared to be all alone.”
And my heart broke into a million little pieces.
Earlier today, he and my youngest son W, ran ahead of my husband and me in the hallway of our apartment building. They jumped into the elevator before we had even turned the corner. They’re normally so good about waiting for us. But this time, this time they forgot. And as we turned the corner and the elevator doors closed, I heard E yell quietly in surprise, “Nooooo!!!!”
We ran as fast as we could, but we couldn’t get to the elevator before it started moving. They had already pushed the buttons inside when the doors closed. My husband bolted down the staircase and I waited where I was, in case they followed the directions I had once given them to stay where they were. I was hoping they would come right back. But they didn’t. I could hear E whimpering softly. He was scared. I listened as the elevator stopped at this floor, and then that one. I didn’t know which. And then I couldn’t hear them anymore. And I couldn’t hear my husband.
I started to yell through the elevator doors, hoping they could hear me.
TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or rape which may be triggering to survivors.
By Kathleen Emmets.
Words on paper tearing open old wounds
Rolling Stone: “Rape On Campus” read the headline
Scandal at UVA
I put the magazine down and head to yoga
I focus on my breathing
Losing myself in the rhythms
Supported back bend
Heart wide open
I begin to crack
I am 16 again- Continue Reading…
My flight landed in San Francisco on Halloween night. I had $300 in my pocket. I was alone. It was a warm evening, and I paid $12 for the shuttle to take me to my destination. I spoke to no one. Outside the van window I saw fat nuns in silver boots, pink-haired girls on roller skates, a pair of vampires with blood dripping down their jaws and a 200-pound Rainbow Brite in a tutu. Everything sparkled and I wondered about the future.
I was 25 and alone. I had left Montreal that morning because I had to. I was run out of town by my own bad habits. I drank too much, I slept with too many people, I let my untreated depression get the best of me. The streets of the city seemed haunted now, every place I went held memories of bad behavior or an unbearable sadness. I left because it was the place where my boyfriend had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had locked me in the apartment while he talked to a dead telephone, and threatened to throw my off the balcony if I tried to leave. I left because the last apartment where I had lived was too dark and too quiet. It gave me nightmares to live alone. Besides, in Montreal it was cold all the time.
I was raised to believe that to be a grown up was to leave where you had come from without looking back. You did it out of necessity. Leaving your home was like growing three inches over summer vacation when you were a teenager, painful and completely out of your control. After high school graduation I’d gone to Ireland with my best friend, hoping to connect with my roots. I though maybe I’d move there. But it wasn’t like I’d imagined. My grandmother didn’t answer her phone, my aunt was welcoming but harried, overwhelmed by the demands of her two young children. The guidebook told us to visit the Aran Islands, and we obliged. One night two drunk men we’d ignored in the pub that evening climbed through the window of the isolated hostel where we were staying, hunting for us in our beds. I left the country the next day and returned to Ottawa, the city I called home. It wasn’t really home though. My parents had moved five hours away two weeks after graduation.