You’ve got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little…
Whiteness is to never lose your humanity despite your best efforts; Blackness is to never have it in the first place.
Blackness is such a physical perversity that no matter how many doctorates you have, no matter how long you’ve owned your house, no matter how long you’ve been a professor at Harvard or Yale University, you can’t walk, and you can’t fiddle with your own doorknob.
Mere Black presence is treated as an act of aggression.
A sitting Black person is seen as the ultimate warrior.
Prose from someone who fancied himself a Revolutionary Activist Warrior-Poet, going above and beyond the truth of history and nature, but who was really just a narcissistic, ego-maniacal actor with delusions of grandeur and self-entitlement. His public persona didn’t alter the veracity of his words though, or cause them to be any less relatable or more unpalatable. As plain and unvarnished fact, they resonated. Particularly, when the after-effects changed the course of her life.
The inherent unfairness, injustice and racial disparity those words evoked, was the why of how she lost her John. The how of how she lost him was the violent culmination of mistaken identity. In Amerikkkan parlance, multiple fatal gunshot wounds sustained by an ‘intruder’ entering a white-suburban home while being Black. The who done it, was the constabulary…justifying and excusing their bigotry by trying to retain the illusion of “Protect and Serve.”
She would never forgive this country of her birth. For John and her to have overcome the hardships of being ‘allowed’ to be together, only for her beloved husband to be gunned down in a violent confrontation with inept police.
If only Geneva could have panned out for longer than the already extended time - she’d loved it there. If only she hadn’t felt homesick. If only he’d stopped her from going alone and for him to meet up with her later. If only they’d gone together, her presence would have surely stopped the shooting…she just knew it would. If only she’d been at her childhood home when he arrived, instead of out getting spruced up in anticipation of his arrival. If only anybody had been home. If only it hadn’t been Tillie’s day off. If only he hadn’t struggled with the spare house-key her parents had hidden under a flowerpot. If only her parent’s racist white neighbors weren’t pretend “Good Samaritans” calling in a 911 ‘attempted robbery’ simply because of a Black Man at the door. If only incompetent police procedure wasn’t “shoot first, ask questions later.” If only Harper had gone with him and not simply had the taxi drop John off first, without waiting to see him enter the house.
There were too many “if onlys.” And yet each one was a link in that chain reaction of events that culminated in her widowhood. But for them, they would still be together, happily married with a brood of children and grandchildren. Multiple John Waydes and Joannas. After all it was family tradition, the passing down of the Prentice moniker.
It wasn’t right for her to blame Harper. He had loved John too…his best friend since Medical School. He had been just as devastated as she was. It was their mutual grief that had them turning to each other for consolation.
Harper had been a good friend to both of them. In Geneva, they’d been inseparable. Like the three musketeers. However, he’d never been inappropriate and he’d never pined for her. He knew that John was the love of her life and he was happy for them, that they’d found each other.
She and Harper though…they began as a matter of comfort and convenience. He’d been her rock. Taking care of her, the funeral arrangements and even the legalese of suing the SFPD. Nothing could bring her John back, but those who snatched him from her had to be held accountable.
It was during this time of mourning, when they’d been packing up the house that it had happened. Grief, then reminiscing over the good times, laughter amidst the tears – aided by the copious amounts of Jack Daniels they’d drunk toasting John’s life. And one thing had led to another.
Both of them ignored it the morning after. They were consumed by crippling guilt. It was like they’d been unfaithful to John, to his memory. And so soon after. But it became life affirming. She was pregnant. And although, in the deepest recesses of her heart she knew who the father was, the tinniest kernel of hope bloomed that perhaps it was John’s. She and John had been hoping to conceive for so long and it was the universe’s ultimate slap in the face that a year of trying yielded no results and yet one slip up did. But perhaps it didn’t. Thus she held on to the miniscule chance of it being so.
Harper had been happy at the news and while it wasn’t a shot-gun wedding and neither were they forced into it, it felt like the right thing to do. Both of them felt that John would approve.
She’d later come to find out that Harper had fallen for her and that he’d been giving her time and space to get over her heartbreak at losing John. What he’d learnt however, is that the time to grieve cannot be rushed to conform to anyone’s schedule and that the hands of time moved differently for each individual. Ironic really, this play on time and frustrating to a meticulous mind. The bell tolled and the clock chimed out its ire for every unproductive moment. Time wasted. So worked the brain synapses of a scrupulous-minded Avery.
Over the years their marriage had become comfortable but due to what he’d found out when she’d been in the throes of labor with her son, he never brought up John again. In fact the memory of John’s existence, he wiped from his mind. She suspected that this was his coping mechanism, his method of avoiding the pain of heartbreak. The agony of losing John and the raw ache of never measuring up to him, for her. He became mechanical, robotic, emotionally closed off. Arctic ice encasing his metaphorical heart. It was why she blamed herself for the hardened outer shell he’d developed. She was the cause of it.
What Harper had found out, during the time she was occupied with the pangs of birthing her son, was that she wanted and yearned for physical proof that the baby was John’s. She’d never sought that information out for if she never did then a 50-50 probability still existed. She was good at compartmentalizing.
Robert Avery was born all pink and shriveled looking. He was Harper, but with her eyes. Nevertheless she still continued to have faith. A belief unextinguished, that maybe a tiny part of John resided in him.
When her Robert met and married the force that was the Strong Black Empowered Catherine Fox, the embers of hope were stirred enough to re-ignite.
As an aside, the pangram “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog” always made her think of her fierce and somewhat intimidating daughter-in-law. For one, her maiden name. For another, the parallel between house pets, of ‘Cat’ and dog. And lastly because that phrase, using all the letters of the alphabet, interjected a splash of humor, even if it was only in her mind, that made Kitty Cat seem more approachable, less daunting. She reminded her a lot of John too, with the thirst she had for knowledge and yet she had a Harper Avery type ambition tucked away in that labyrinth of her mind. Catherine was what a child of John and Harper would have looked like with maybe a smidge of Joanna class and sophistication. If it wasn’t biologically impossible and if she didn’t know better…
Genetics huh? A wild ride.
So with Catherine’s contribution to the gene pool, when Jackson finally arrived, she saw her John in him, the stubborn Harper Avery chin and her eyes…