It was a strange day that day. It was sunny and hot. The August sun hung there in the sky shining its light, almost high noon. But the warmth of the sun did nothing to remove the chill she felt.
When the knock finally came, she sighed and rose from the chair; the sigh betraying the hurry. Opening the door, seeing two police officers brought the chill to a dead freeze. No need to steel herself; her body had done it for her.
Through the screen door, an officer spoke “We’re here with a warrant for the arrest of Jr.”
“I know” she said in her low, steeled voice.
“Ha…How did you know?”
Dropping her eyes to the floor, “I don’t know.” Averting her eyes was a mistake. The steel was melting away and the tears were beginning to well. Holding them back as best she could, “Can you please wait a few minutes for my husband to get here? I need him to be here.”
If I had had any inkling of what was about to happen, we would have been long gone. The fear that I felt that day was all too familiar. In retrospect, I still wonder who I was afraid for more—me, the cops, Sr. or Jr. I was scared times 4.
Sr. arrived, literally, like a bat outta hell, screeching, speeding, careening into the driveway. Barely getting the car in park, he’s jumping out and storming (if you can picture a 6’4”, 250 lb. Black man, you know what I mean when I say “storming”) toward the cops, booming “WHERE’S MY SON!?”
I’m not sure exactly what happened. I’ve blocked it out. But the next thing I remember is getting into the back of the police car with Jr. Everything seemed calm. My dad was telling the officers “Be careful, you have precious cargo there.” I almost smiled at the thought that he meant me…but it was my son he was talking about. The body steeled. My son is being arrested. FOCUS!
I think I waited at the police station while they ‘booked’ Jr. (at this point in the writing it occurred to me that it’s possible that the cops may have questioned my 11 year old son without me being present).Officer D. finally called me to the back. He told me that he wasn’t supposed to, but he told me what my son was being charged with. That was a shock. But the steel held. I was ‘allowed’ to sit with Jr. while they arranged for transport. We were ‘guarded’ by the two arresting officers (as I typed, I remembered that one of these officers was the same officer standing across from at the George Floyd rally). I know Jr. and I had limited, stilted conversation, but I only remember asking him if he wanted something from the vending machine while we waited and he said yeah. I can only surmise that my next shock caused me to forget my last conversation with my son before they took him.
Walking outside, there was Sr. sitting on a log under a tree; head hanging, shoulders slumped. His legs stretched out, heels dug in.
The steel steeled and the anger reeled up inside me. What the fuck is he sitting out here for….? Teeth clenched, fists clenched. I can only hope the steel allowed me to walk over to him calmly, but I would not be surprised if my body betrayed me in that instance. Angered steel is different according to circumstance. And surely this was a different circumstance. I went into the “Your son needs you” mode and pretty much let him have it. And without a word, he lumbered up, never lifting his head and followed me. Not wanting him to go alone, I led him to the vending machine explaining that I was getting something for Jr. He just followed silently. When we entered the station where Jr. was, one of the officers started to say something, but Sr. cut him off, “Don’t speak to me. Don’t say nothin’ to me” swiping his arm vehemently right. The cop backed up and Officer D. was motioning me his way. Sr. sat down next to Jr. and I went with Officer D. to the back. He let the door close before he spoke and he leaned in, damn near whispering “Is he gonna be a problem?” My steel melted into instant fear. “I…I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. But experience told me that men in the state this man was in always went sideways. I had never seen this man devolve to violence but I had seen the potential. Officer D. then asked me to ask Sr. to leave. I damn near shit myself. You want ME to ask HIM to LEAVE? My mind shattered into a thousand pieces as the steel, fear and anger combined into an atomic bomb. WHAT!? I simply nodded my head and looked at Sr. through the window in the door. If I was white, you’d describe me as pale as a ghost, or even a green one if one can be pale and green at the same time. This time it was me that steeled, not just my body. I had to ask this man to leave even though I was scared to death to even go near him. Officer D. opened the door for me and I stepped out. It only took seconds to notice the officer’s guns were unsnapped. If the officers were that scared, how much more am I? And there I was trying to protect all of us. I sat down next to Sr. and I asked him to leave. I do not remember what I said exactly, I just remember that my voice trembled when I spoke. He left without incident or a single word. I sat down and hugged my son. We didn’t cry.