what my mother said

Maybe he heard his mother’s words replay in his mind, memorable as the latest hip-hop CD that dropped just that morning: “look both ways before you cross the street, remember jaywalking is reason enough for an arrest; say thank you when the cashier gives you your change, count every coin but don’t raise your voice if he shorts you; hold open the door for the elderly woman coming in, keep a respectable distance so you don’t frighten her; take your hands out of your pockets like a gentleman, show the world that you have nothing to conceal; speak when you are spoken to, avoid mumbling but avoid sounding as if you’re mocking; make sure you’re home by midnight, try not to raise suspicion by leaving too fast; walk away from a fight, but don’t turn your back to anybody; believe the good in people, but don’t be naïve; grow up fast, pick your battles, stand your ground, please just stay alive.”

“Maybe that will teach young thugs not to be so sketchy,” my mother commented with her chin held high, the television screen making her face ghostly white and her blanket pulled closer as if the chill that spread across our living room wasn’t from the coldness of our judicial system. My boyfriend turned his face away so she wouldn’t see the tear that scarred his handsome black skin. And I didn’t have the words to change her heart or help heal his.

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