The deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have pierced the space within Aaminah Norris’s heart.
It happened in slow methodical stages–as slow as the moments in time. So slowly in fact that I did not realize it until it had occurred. Suddenly my son had become a man. A beautiful and striking man whose movements were morphing from awkward spurts to shoulder led strolls through large spaces that he suddenly filled. I have come to measure those spaces overtime as he has grown and developed into the hooded, jean sporting teen who stands over me, or calls me on the phone, or complements me as he strolls past my room into his–man cave.
I can still recall when I began measuring his use of space. It was when he filled the space inside my womb as he began to grow and develop and the doctor told his father and me that he would be a boy. This boy child frightened me. How would I mother a boy? How would I raise a boy? Would he like me? Could we be friends? It happened again at about the age of two when he was holding the refrigerator handle.
He was so tiny then in his blue pajamas with the stocking feet, his hand holding the door to the fridge that he wasn’t quite strong enough to open. And his voice so tiny and squeaky, and unable to really say much but “Juice mommy, I want juice”. I took a picture of that moment as I hoped that capturing it would allow me to suspend it in time and….space. There I was helplessly and totally in love with this young sweet baby boy. My sweet boy who would always be the first one to tell me that he loved me or “Mommy you are so pretty.”
I remember the only time that he stopped speaking to me. He was almost three. I left him to go to the hospital and give birth to his younger sister. I returned after about five days, that he spent with his father. I went to pick him up and kiss him as he sat on the cushion of the couch. His tiny frame couldn’t even fill the entire space of the cushion. As I approached him, he looked up at me and his eyes spoke to me what his mouth couldn’t say. “Mommy you betrayed me. You left me and I hate you for it.”
Those cold eyes washed over me, as he got up from that space on the cushion just as I went to hug him. He left me there dejected and ran to fill the space on his father’s lap. He did not speak to me for three days and nights. On the third night I went to tuck him into the space of his nice comfortable bed, and I told him “Baby I know that you are mad at me. I know that you are because Mommy left you. But I promise that I will never leave you again, because whenever I am away you fill the space right here in my heart. So you are always with me.” He hugged me and I felt restored, whole.
And over time I have continued to both consciously and subconsciously measure his use of space. Until last year when I took him to a basketball game, and I stumbled awkwardly behind him as he strolled the hallway to pass through the massive crowd. I noticed that he was not a boy. He wore a hoodie with the hood covering his head and strings hanging, and sagging jeans, and rounded shoulders and suddenly again I was frightened. Fearful thoughts raced through my mind.
How can I mother a man; a black man…in America? He is no longer a boy. He is a man, a black man in the United States. He is tall, and strong. I think of Langston’s words “They’ll see how beautiful I am, and feel ashamed.” I watch his movements everyday when we are in spaces. I spy on him even though he does not realize it. I listen attentively as he says “Thank you, ma’am.” “No thank you, sir.” when we are in the grocery store, or coming out of the coffee shop, any time that we are entering or exiting public space.
I watch and am afraid. I am afraid that he won’t be seen by others as the beautiful man that he is. I fear that their shame will cause them to fear him. His voice resounds in my heart and fills that space and I am grateful for his politeness as I breathe a sigh of relief. He is such a nice young man, I think and feel proud.
And then suddenly my eardrums are rattled by the sound of hip hop music silenced by gun shots. The space on my computer screen, and the space on my television are filled with images of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Both young, black, beautiful, at the convenience store.
My ears ring as I hear of 911 calls and shots fired and bloody chests. And the space between my heart and my mind are confused. My mind informs my heart that neither of these young men are my son. My heart does not believe it. My mind cannot seem to convince my heart to let my eyes stop welling up with tears. The bullets that went through that killed them have pierced the space within my heart. And the space that exists here is still filled with my son. This space is so small that that piercing bullets hurt.
I cannot breathe!
Originally appeared at AaminahNorris.com