I was at my then fiance’s house, with his mother, his father, his older brother, and his (ours) two nephews. My husband is the middle of three boys, all Brooklyn-born, all married, all fathers. C is the only childless one.
Anyways, we’re in the kitchen, which, if you know black houses, is most-often the living/den/hanging out room. Mother-in-Law (I call her Moms–Mama reserved for the woman who birthed me–) is cooking something to feed us, even though we didn’t necessarily come over to eat, we know that as soon as we cross the threshold, there will be onions and thyme sizzling in a pan a few moments later. There is a television mounted to the wall. Pops (Daddy–you know. There is only ever ONE Daddy) usually controls what the entertainment is–sports or some home-remodeling channel.
That night, it was the court room. We were waiting to hear what would happen to George Zimmerman. At first nothing was happening. Pops muted the television, and we chatted about any and everything; his bell-toned Guyanese accent filling up the space. It’s summer, the summer before my nephew enters high school–and I think it is the summer before he bridges into being a man, into coming into himself in a way that has been different from other summers. He is making choices of his own now. His voice is getting deeper. He rides the train by himself.
I’m still trying to figure out my place in all of this–the family gathered around the room, and not-yet-married; am I a part of it? How will I be a part of it. Moms and Pops joke that I’m the quiet one (read: daughter in law), that I observe. Pops knows the way to my heart–through food, and listens when I make requests: Oxtails at Christmas, Lamb on the grill, whiskey or brown liquor on the table, and so on. Moms loves her boys, all of them, and I joke and say C is her favorite, though he says it’s not true. I’m not calling him a Mama’s boy, just stating fact. The two of them (Moms and Pops) raised some beautiful men in New York in the hard 70’s, in the harder 80’s, in the hardest 90’s, in the most hard 2000’s, in the ever hardest 2010’s. What must it take now? In the future?
Pops shushes us. Remember, he controls the television in the kitchen, always. A man is walking on screen to say something, and I swear to you, all of the warm air that was in the hot summer kitchen with the gas stove sizzling oil and thyme and rice now is sucked out of its one window.
I don’t remember the words or how they came. I just remember Moms scream.
She has three black sons; this is her worst fear. She has two black boy grandchildren, and–she hopes, looking at Me + C–for more, but this television just told her that the man who killed a black boy–just a few years older than her oldest grandchild–will be able to walk away guilt-free. Will be able to hold his gun in his hand; will be able to–has been given permission to–hold another gun in his hand and point it at a black man that could be–my husband, my brothers-in-law, my Daddy, my Pops, my two nephews (today, the oldest one is taller than me; he has facial hair, and his voice keeps reaching to his knees)….
And what are we, the women of the room, to do when the answer comes and it is judgment passed down? When my husband leaves at 11:30PM Thursday, Friday nights to go to work, in Brooklyn, just 8 blocks south of where the man shot the police, just a few blocks south of where the young man was shot sitting in the stairwell, where cops post up on our blocks in threes and fours……when My husband leaves the house, and kisses me good night. I pray he makes it back. He might not.
There might come a day when someone I know is sitting in a court room waiting for an answer to arrive. We have been waiting with baited breath too many times, gathered around a television, waiting for an answer. Only to yelp. Only to turn off the television and sit in silence, and figure out how you are going to continue to walk out into a world that continues to deny your very breath that expands your chest.
Moms catches her breath, and holds her oldest grandson. A black boy. We shake our heads. We shake our heads. The remote drops to the table. Somehow, we gather the strength to eat.