I've been having nightmares about Trayvon Martin's killing. In the dreams, he's that fresh-faced young man in the Hollister tshirt we've seen splashed all over the media. Then he morphs into Nathan. I stand helpless, unable to move while he's pursued.
On his Monday show, Rev. Al Sharpton played the 911 tapes of the neighbors in that gated community calling to report the disturbance while Trayvon struggled with his murderer. I was not prepared to hear the screaming for help and the gunshot. I was on my way to the post office to drop off a small care package for Chloe. I imagined the horror of Trayvon's parents listening to those tapes.
My cheeks were wet as I carried the box to the door. On the other side of the glass was an African American woman on her way out. Our eyes met. She pulled the door open and stepped aside to let me pass. I thanked her.
I wanted to ask her. Did she have children. Did she have sons? Did she teach them to beware? Did they inherently know they were suspect because of their skin? I asked nothing. She kind of shrugged and turned away.
As I left, she was leaning against her car digging through her purse. I can't find my cell phone, she said. I was so upset about that young man in Florida who was shot, they were talking about it on the news. When I got out of my car, I don't know what I did with my phone.
I was just listening to a story about it, too, I said. The woman looked up from her purse. That poor child. His poor mama. I nodded and opened the car door, slipped back inside.
Thursday evening, Nate's girlfriend and I huddled together under an umbrella. A light rain fell on the batter as he took a swing. His dark skin glistened under the lights. She told me how her teacher asked if anyone knew about the Trayvon Martin case. She raised her hand and was called on to explain it to the class.
I felt so smart, she said. I knew about it.
Isn't that a great feeling? I asked and congratulated myself for doing something right. Which makes me look like a total tool. I know.
She often spends the weekends at our house, using Chloe's empty room, because she lives so far away. On Sunday mornings while I watch Up with Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris Perry, she comes into the living room and hangs out. I thought maybe she was bored by it, but last weekend, when Nate wanted to watch something else, she refused. I like watching this, she said.
She told me how the kids in her class, most of them African American, were outraged at what had happened in Sanford, Florida. Outraged, but not surprised. They're used to the attitudes that separate them from their white classmates. The Rite-Aid across from the school will only let three students into the store at a time. Not that it matters if you're black or white in that case - three students. That's it. If the school were mostly white and upper middle class, would such a rule exist?
The team was stomped. Hard. Slaughter Rule evoked hard. This was a big disappointment because they can play better. We've seen them play so much better.
After the game, they walked by looking all hang-dog. I wanted to stop each one of them and quiz them. Did they know Georgia has one of those Stand Your Ground laws? Did they realize those laws are meant to make "some" people feel safe, but it made them with their not exactly white skin vulnerable to frightened people. Frightened people who believe the law says they can shoot first and justify their fear later.
Do they know how to stay safe? Did they know that they were in more danger in a white, gated community than Nate is when he goes to their homes? Because let's not kid ourselves, if Nate gets shot by a black man claiming self-defense, the black man is going to spend some time in a holding cell.
MathMan and I drove home and Nate and his friends went out for a bite to eat. I couldn't shake a bad feeling, a sense of something about to go wrong. Antsy and snappish. I was going to spread my misery around to anyone unfortunate enough to have contact with me. I went to my room to worry.
Nate called MathMan. He'd been rear-ended on I75. What should he do? Pull over, call 911and wait inside the car.
Nate did what MathMan said to do, pulling onto the grassy median. The other driver pulled in behind him. MathMan ended the call and went back to lesson planning. I went downstairs to keep busy. A bit later, I asked MathMan if he'd heard from Nate again. He called Nate back. He was on the speaker phone so I could hear what was happening.
While Nate explained to MathMan where exactly he was, the police arrived.
You're gonna get me killed! One of the officers was shouting. You on the phone? Get off the phone!
Yes, sir, I was talking to my father, Nate said. Then he was gone.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath. Made a wish. Let Nate would remain respectful. A nervous kid who'd just been in a car accident being shouted out by a uniformed person with a gun and all the power. He was on his own. What happened next depended on his ability to stay calm and respectful even if the other person was neither.
I asked how much more precarious the situation would be if Nate were a kid with brown skin.
Later he told us how the officer berated him. Do you even have a license? The cop yelled. Why had he been so stupid to pull into the median? Didn't he know he was supposed to pull over to the right shoulder? Whose car was he driving? Why was he out so late?
Why be like that? Since when does serving and protecting include shouting? I mean, Nate already has a mother for that.
He got home in one piece. I could breathe again. After he went to bed, I stopped in his room to say goodnight. To tell him how much I love him, to make sure he was okay behind that mask of cool, calm, collected.
I had a million questions, but only one thought which gave me little comfort, despite the fact that my sixteen-year-old son was safe at home.
Things could have turned out so differently.