"Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America." -The Honorable John Lewis speaking atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020
As I backed out of Darius’ driveway, he watched and smiled. He waved as I headed down the street. He had kissed me. I should have been excited, but instead I was filled with fear. I realized that kiss could drastically change my life.
My world wasn’t ready to accept that. My mother and father would approve, although it would come with a list of caveats. Other than Natalie and a few friends who attended the meeting tonight, no one else would approve. And I know very little about Darius. His friends seem to know he is gay; however, I’m not sure how long that list goes. He might not be out to everyone. I’m not even sure he is out to his parents. His father seems to accept our friendship, but would he approve it if it became more that just that?
Even I’m not sure if I want more than that. I am deeply attracted to Darius. However, I’m not sure if I want to take our budding friendship to the next level. And I can’t ignore the fact that he is black. There are so many obstacles in our way that I don’t know if I am strong enough to endure them.
Look what happened tonight. I try to defend him, and I get arrested and spit at. I’ve only known him for a few days. What if we did become more than just friends? If being his friend has caused me this much trouble, what could happen if we became lovers?
Lovers? I can’t even wrap my head around that. Until a few days ago, I never even considered race. It was something I read about in history books. Now, I’m thinking what could happen if I fall in love with a black guy. But his kiss. I can’t stop thinking how soft and gentle it was. Ray and I kissed occasionally, but it was usually when we were having sex. It was raw and rough. However, I can’t erase how Darius’ kiss felt. There was something more behind it than just lust. It was as if he…
No! I can’t think like this. I’m not prepared, and I don’t know who I can talk to about this. Mom and Dad can probably provide me with good advice. How can I tell them what I’m feeling and make it have sense? I think I’m scared, and I can’t help feeling like this. I’ve led a protected life. I know nothing about this. How can we make it work in a world that doesn’t understand? Not only would we be an interracial couple; we would have another strike against us- we’re gay. The odds are stacked so unevenly against us, that we wouldn’t have a chance of succeeding.
As soon as I entered the house, Dad hollered out, “Parker! Your mother and I want to see you in the family room.” I put down my bookbag and headed into the room. They were sitting on a leather sofa. My father was on the phone. He held up a finger and then pointed for me to have a sit in a recliner to the right. Mom gave me a worried look, but she didn’t say anything.
When my father finished his conversation, he asked, “Would you like to tell me what happened tonight? I’ve been talking to Abrams, but I would like to hear your side of the story.”
He gripped my mother’s hand when she said, “I warned you to be careful tonight, but…”
“I didn’t do anything, Dad!” I said emotionally. “Someone threw a tomato at Pastor Moore, and Darius tried to stop them. I was afraid he might get hurt, so I jumped in. The next thing I know, we’re both being thrown to the ground and arrested.”
“That’s the story Abrams gave me,” he replied. “He says he taped the whole incident. It appears a lot was happening on the other side, but the cops ignored it.”
“That’s right,” I insisted. “Dan and a bunch of the others were yelling some really nasty things, then Pastor Moore got hit with the tomato. I even got spit on.”
“Oh, Dear,” my mother said. “I hope they didn’t have anything contagious. Did you wash your face yet?”
I had to think for a moment. “No, Mom,” I didn’t.” She insisted that I wash my face immediately. “Use that antibacterial soap,” she hollered out as I ran up the stairs.
When I returned, she examined my face. “I’m fine, Mom,” I insisted, but she still looked worried. My father began to tell me what Mr. Abrams planned to do. He was going to contact the mayor and city commissioners and demand the resignation of Chief Morgan and Patrolman Anderson. “This shouldn’t have gotten this far,” my father said.
I asked, “What if they don’t do it?”
“He’s going to schedule a meeting with the governor,” he said. “Pastor Moore is meeting tomorrow with several civil rights organizations. Abrams will be there to get their support as well.”
“Will it do any good?” I asked worriedly.
“Morgan has turned this into a clusterfuck,” replied my father. “He should have immediately fired Anderson after seeing the video. Then tonight, he just let the anti-protesters do whatever they wanted. Abrams says his officers just stood around and watched the name calling and tomatoes being tossed. They were waiting for your side to react. When you did, they arrested you.”
“Sorry, Dad,” I replied.
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Son,” he assured me. “I’m proud that you tried to protect your friend. If I had been there, I would have done the same thing.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said. I looked over at my mother. I was worried about what I was going to ask.
My mother seemed to notice something was wrong and asked, “What’s wrong, Dear?”
I sighed and replied, “I don’t know how to say this.”
“Say what?” she asked worriedly.
My father asked, “Has something else happened?”
“Kind of,” I replied. He laughed and said that didn’t tell him much. He reminded me that he and my mother loved me, and there was nothing I could say that would make them think anything less of me.
When I remained silent, Dad leaned forward and asked, “Did something else happen today that you want to tell us about? If it is some kind of trouble, I’ll get Abrams involved.”
“No, Dad,” I reassured him. “It’s nothing like that.”
“What is it then, Parker,” asked my mother.
I took a deep breath and said, “Something is going on, and I don’t know how to handle it.”
My mother patted the seat beside her, and I rose and sat down beside her. She took my hand and asked, “What’s bothering you, Parker?”
I took another deep breath and said, “You and Dad have been very supportive of me being gay.” Tears welled up in my eyes. “When I first came out to you, you never stopped loving me for a minute.” Now, tears were beginning to flow from my eyes.
My mother squeezed my hand tightly and said, “Why should you being gay change how we feel about you.” She tightened her grip on my hand. “Has something happened we should know about? For some reason, I don’t think this has something to do with the protest movement.”
I blinked away tears and replied, “In a way, it does.”
My father looked past my mother at me. “You have us completely puzzled, Parker. We have no idea…Wait! I got it!”
“Got what, Jonathan?” asked my mother.
“It’s Darius,” he said as if he had just discovered the lightbulb.
My mother gave me a puzzled look. “What is your father talking about?”
My father asked, “Did something happen between you and Darius tonight?” My mother gave me a puzzled look.
My face reddened as I answered, “Kind of.”
“Oh, my God!” shrieked my mother. “You didn’t have sex with a boy you just met, did you?”
“No, Mother,” I laughed. “Darius and I didn’t have sex.” She let out a sigh of relief.
Dad said, “I knew when I saw you two together that something might happen between you.” He smiled and asked, “Do you like him?”
My face reddened when I confessed that I did. It was awkward talking about another boy with my parents. They knew about Ray and me, but we had never talked about it. I don’t think they really wanted to know what was going on behind my closed bedroom door. However, the feeling I had for Darius was different, and I needed their guidance.
“Yes, Dad,” I confessed, “I like him.”
“Then what’s the problem, Parker?” asked my mother. “You know we respect your decisions. If this Darius is the boy you like, then you know you have our approval.”
I gave her a hug and said, “I know I do. But…”
“But what, Dear?” she asked.
“But he’s black?” interjected my father.
“Yes, Dad,” I replied sadly. “I know it’s wrong to think like this, but I can’t help it.”
“I get it,” he responded. “When I was in college, my roommate and best friend was from Iraq.”
My mother said, “You never told me that.”
“It wasn’t important,” he replied. He then told us how other guys in the fraternity would make rude comments about Hasaan, his roommate. “They were constantly asking him if his uncle was Osama Ben Laden. Or they would ask me how I could put up with his smell.”
“That’s terrible,” responded my mother.
“Once, they came to the room pretending like they were FBI agents, and they searched our room for assault rifles and bombs,” he related angrily. “They thought they were being funny, but Hasaan was deeply hurt.”
I asked, “What did you do, Dad?”
“I’ll tell you what I didn’t do,” he replied. “I didn’t change roommates. Hasaan and I became very dear friends all through college.”
“Where’s he at now?” I asked.
A frown appeared on my father’s face. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “He returned to Iraq. We kept in touch for a couple of years, but then one day, he stopped receiving my phone calls. I think something may have happened to him.”
“Maybe you should try again,” I suggested.
“No,” he said as he sadly shook his head. “I have a feeling that he may be dead. If he was alive, he would contact me.” He turned his head and looked silently at the wall. My mother rose and said that she would go get us something to drink. I sat and watched my father. I could tell that he was deeply disturbed by what he had told us.
My mother returned with two glasses of gin and tonic for her and my father. She handed me a Pepsi. “Why can’t I have what you’re having,” I joked.
“When you turn twenty-one, I will,” she said sharply. I had been warned for years to avoid alcohol until I reached the drinking age. Other than a sip of beer from someone’s glass at a party, I had done what they told me to do.
After drinking half the contents from the glass, my father looked over at me and spoke. “I told you about Hasaan,” he said, “because I wanted you to know that friendships sometimes come with adversity. However, a true friend is worth the risk. My friendship with him opened my eyes to how cruel and evil some people can be. But if your friendship with Darius is as true and faithful as ours was, it is worth the risk. One day you’ll be able to count your true friends on one hand.” Tears welled up in his eyes as he added, “I hope Darius is one of those.”
I went over to him and gave him a hug. “Thanks, Dad. I love you.” He rose and we embraced. My mother joined us as we hugged. I don’t think I had ever been happier that I have a mother and father who truly loves me.
Since it was Saturday morning, I slept late. I was exhausted by all the excitement that had unexpectedly entered my life. And, I had no idea where it was heading. Before last weekend, I was making plans to graduate and head off to college in the fall. It was the usual things that seniors do. A week ago, my biggest worry was who I would take to the prom. I was considering asking Natalie since she knows I’m gay, and she’s not dating anyone at school. My second biggest concern is deciding what I wanted Mom and Dad to buy me as a graduation present. Since I’m fortunate, and I have everything most teens would want, it was difficult to come up with something. They suggested that I could invite a friend to go with me on a trip to Hawaii. They thought it would be a nice thing to do before I started college in the fall. However, there wasn’t anyone I wanted to join me. And each time they mentioned it, it saddened me because Ray isn’t here to go with me.
It was after eleven before I finally got up and headed into my bathroom to take a shower. After I finished, I headed back to my room to dress. Suddenly, I heard the sound of glass breaking. I rushed over to my window and looked out. My car was sitting in the driveway with the back window shattered. I quickly finished dressing and rushed outside to inspect the damage.
Someone had thrown a brick at the window. It was lying in the backseat among the shattered glass. Tied to it was a note. It said: Nigger Lover. I looked up and down the street to see if there was a car with someone inside watching me. However, I didn’t see anyone. I was shaking with anger. I couldn’t understand why someone would do something so vicious.
I went inside and hollered for my parents, but they must have gone somewhere for the day. I checked the kitchen counter, but they hadn’t left a note telling me where they had gone.
I ran upstairs to get my phone and call my father. “Dad!” I said excitedly when he answered. “Where are you?” He told me that he and my mother decided to go to lunch and then to the mall. He asked why I was calling. “Someone threw a brick through the window of my car. I need you to come home right away.” He told me that they were almost finished eating, and they would be home in about a half an hour. I paced around the living room. I rush to the window when I heard a car driving by. I was afraid that whoever busted out my window might return to do it again.
When my parents pulled into the driveway, I rushed outside. Dad had gotten out of his car, and he was inspecting the damage. “Did you see who did it?” he asked.
“No, Dad,” I told him. “I had just gotten out of the shower when I heard the glass break. I didn’t see who did it.”
“Let’s go inside,” he said. I followed him and my mother into the house. Mom headed for their bedroom, and I followed my father into the family room. He pulled out his phone and sat on the sofa. I sat beside him and watched him open the Ring app on his phone. I forgot that we had a Ring camera on the porch that records who comes to the house.
“If we’re lucky,” he said, “It might have captured who did that to your car.” I leaned over and watched as he scanned the app. He stopped it when a figure came into view in the driveway. It was Dan! He was carrying a brick and heading toward my car. It didn’t show him throwing the brick, but it did show him running back toward his car.
“That son of a bitch!” I hissed. “I thought he was a friend.”
My father replied, “You saw how he was acting toward the protesters. I don’t doubt for a minute he’s responsible for the damage to your car.”
I asked, “What should I do about it?”
“Go back to your room,” he ordered. “I’ll call that worthless Sheriff Morgan and report what happened. I doubt he’ll want to do anything about it.” He got up and headed for his office. I went upstairs and sat at my computer. I opened Facebook to see who had tried to contact me, but I suddenly remembered I was no longer on it. I also didn’t have any messages because I hadn’t given any of my friends my new number. I considered playing a video game, but I was too upset to concentrate.
I was asleep when my mother hollered up the stairs that I had company. I didn’t know who it was because I wasn’t expecting anyone. I went to my door, looked out and saw Natalie coming down the hall.
“Hey,” I said as I stepped aside to let her in. She wrinkled her nose and told me that my room smelled. “Sorry, but the maid doesn’t clean until Tuesday.”
“You have a maid?” she asked with an astonished look.
“No,” I laughed. “I keep my own room clean.”
She looked around and remarked, “You’re not doing a very good job.”
“What are you doing here?”
“Can’t I just come by and see you?” she asked.
“We see each other at school,” I replied. “When did you start coming to my room to see me?”
She sat on the bed and stared worriedly at me. “I was worried about you,” she said. “What happened after you were arrested last night? Me and the others waited around for about an hour, but you never came out.” I then told her about Mr. Abrams getting me and Darius released. She was relieved that I hadn’t been charged for anything. She then asked, “What’s going to happen now?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “My dad’s attorney is going to meet with Darius’ father and a bunch of civil rights people to discuss the next move. They want Morgan and Anderson to resign.”
“They should,” snarled Natalie. “They’re making Somerset look like a racist community.”
“Don’t you think we are?”
“No,” she insisted. “I’ve been contacting a lot of students at school. Pete, Amanda, Becky and I have been chatting all morning with people. That’s why I came over today. We’re organizing a group of students to show up at the next rally to show our support for Darius and Rosemont.”
“Really?” I asked surprisingly. “From what I saw last night, it seemed like most students supported the police.”
“That’s because Dan and some of the others got together to cause trouble,” she informed me. “I only showed up because you told me about it. When I mentioned it afterschool to Pete and the others, they wanted to be involved. No one else really knew about it. You can bet at the next rally, there will be more students supporting Rosemont.”
“Wow,” I said. “I had no idea.”
“I didn’t either,” replied Natalie. “Just this morning we’ve gotten over 100 students who are ready to protest with you.” She reached out and gripped my hand. “Not everyone in Somerset is a racist. Maybe we haven’t been around many Blacks, but we still know it’s wrong to discriminate.”
“That’s great,” I said. “I can’t wait to tell Darius.”
“How is he?” she asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno,” I said. “I haven’t talked to him since I dropped him off at his home last night.”
Natalie laughed and joked, “Did you kiss him goodnight?” When my face reddened and I looked away, she shrieked, “You did kiss him!”
“I didn’t kiss him” I insisted. Natalie began to frown, and then I added, “He kissed me.”
“I knew it!” she said excitedly. “I saw you two holding hands at the protest.” She shoved my shoulder, “You two look so cute together.”
I rose from the bed and started pacing around the room. “I don’t know, Natalie.”
She stepped before me, grabbed my shoulders and shook them. “Don’t do this, Parker,” she insisted. “You and Darius are perfect for each other. You can’t think about the color of his skin.”
“I’m not,” I assured her. “I’m thinking about the color of my skin.”
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