Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pointing the finger

Dre was coming out of the corner store. I was twelve years old, a seventh grader at Bancroft Junior High School. I got off the bus and saw him. Dre was my mother's friend's son about six years older. I hadn't seen Dre in a long time because he had been away. I didn't know what away meant back then.

He opened his arms to hug me and I responded. Or did I open my arms to hug him and he responded?  I don't remember. He asked if my parents were home as he walked with me toward my house. Home was only three doors from the bus stop. By the time we got to the house it was already too late. My father was sitting on the porch saying goodbye to one of his buddies who had come by earlier. My father was wondering why I was walking with Dre. My father knew what away meant. 

Dre walked up the walkway and my father shook his hand sternly. I walked into the house and Dre stood at the door. My father didn't let him in farther than that. My mother sat on the couch in the living room and spoke to him from there. "You doin' okay?" She asked. I walked away and went to my room, but I could easily hear the conversation. 

"Yes, I am."

"What are you doin' around here?"

"Oh, my friend lives a block over. I was on my way over there." 

"Okay, don't be walkin' up my walkway with my daughter." I heard my father say. Then Dre left. 

That night my mom was reading late and sleeping in the living room on the couch. My father was in the bedroom. My sister was in her room and I was in my room next to my parent's room. Some time around the early morning, maybe between one and three, there was a scuffle outside my door. Then the police were called and came. 

According to my dad, Dre had been in the house and was slowly headed to my room. How did he know what room I slept in? 

My mother and his were still friends, since childhood. I'm sure the news was hard to deliver. Dre, anyway, had narrowly escaped my father's grasp through the bathroom window. They deduced that he  had gotten through the front door. As crazy twists of life would have it, the locks on our front door were changed a couple of days before and the new keys were sitting on the television along with all the other things that sat on super large televisions of that time. Jet magazines, newspapers, mail. Televisions then were like large pieces of furniture. Ours, like many, sat by the front door. 

The whole time he spoke with my parents he was standing at the door and must have slipped the keys into his pockets. He came into the front and my mother must have been asleep. My sisters room was next to the living room. Maybe he opened that door and saw that it was her. My father's room was open and Dre probably thought he was sleep. My door was closed and was the last choice. My father opened his eyes as he was going into my room.

The police showed up and displayed a selection of photos and Dre's picture was among them. I screamed when I saw Dre's face on our family's kitchen table. My father pointed him out to the police.

Then court. I don't remember how much time went by until we went to court. We all went. My father drove. My mother sat in the front with him. I sat in the back and Dre's mother went with us. My father didn't like that. My sister didn't go to court. I think Dre's mother's presence was her way of saying that she was sorry and showing support. I don't know. My father, even on the stand stated that she rode in the car with us and that he didn't like it. Of course it wasn't a question that had been asked, but my dad wasn't afraid to express what he didn't like.

There were other girls. Girls younger than I who were also on the stand that day. Two in fact. One girl was about my sisters age. Four years younger than I. I still remember her little face. Her brown face like mine. Her shoulder length puffy ponytails like mine. Her soft and sweet voice. 

The attorney was a white man who walked up to her slowly and asked her to explain what happened. She said that she was in her bed and then felt someone rubbing her leg. That woke her up but he didn't stop and he told her not to scream then he left and then she screamed.

"And do you see the man who rubbed your leg?" The attorney asked the little brown girl.

"Yes." She nodded her head slowly and pointed at Dre.

Then I screamed. There in the court. I screamed. Not out loud. I swallowed the scream. Was that what he was going to do to me? Rub on my leg and tell me not to scream? And then I would have been too scared to scream. And then I would have screamed when he left. I hoped I would have been brave enough to scream when he left. What if I would have swallowed the scream? I had swallowed screams before. Screams before the court. Screams before Dre. I knew what screams tasted like in my throat. They were nasty and salty and went down slowly, but letting them out always seemed worse.

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