A Dangerous Man
She sat in the back of the cop car, her tiny hand pressed against the foggy window, the sirens ringing in her ears.
The cops were screaming.
She thought they were screaming for the same reasons she had.
You rolled down her cheek singing a song I couldn’t quite make out, and then you were gone.
I knew I’d see you again. And I did. At the station when the white cop kneeled down in front of the orphan girl and said, I’m sorry, but your father was a dangerous man.
She wanted to know what was so dangerous about packing an extra Capri Sun with her lunch. Or playing wiffle ball with her in the backyard. Her voice was hoarse; it had aged since the car.
The cop didn’t have a reasonable explanation. I thought maybe I’d meet you on his cheek, but the only tears he ever sheds are for himself. He cleared his throat a few times and called for backup, as if backup could mold him a new heart, with all the working parts.
You hung from the corner of her eye for what felt like eternity.
I wanted to reach out and touch you, but you had your teardrop and I had mine.
I hated how beautiful I found you. I hated that I wanted to see you again, when I knew seeing you would mean the girl was suffering.
We were the evidence of injustice. Of white-hot hatred. We were born on a slave ship, raised on plantations.
We are immortal. We are unanswered prayers.
Do you remember how the orphan girl spit in the cop’s face? We loved her for that. I think I caught you smiling when she called the cop a murderer. Not because her daddy’s death was something to smile about, but because she wasn’t afraid to speak the truth. Or maybe she was so afraid she spoke the truth.
I swear the cop almost smacked her. I’m shocked he didn’t. You and I have seen enough to know that the things men swear they will never do often serve as a premonition for what they wind up doing.
Again, she wiped you away. I splattered against her green overalls.
I knew I’d see you again, fragile in your resurrection. And I did.
Every day for the next twenty years. Sometimes in her office, the door closed, sometimes in the car, her knuckles white against the steering wheel, sometimes in her bedroom filled with his things: a box of work shirts, a stained Chicago Bulls hoodie, a collection of jazz albums, a pair of gray Converses she wears like slippers around the house, talking out loud to the version of him that hasn’t been tarnished by the media.
We have lived thousands of short lives. I wish we could stay dead.
Now when we see each other, you hold your finger up to your lips and together we listen for a new crack to form in the orphan woman’s heart.