"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
The restaurant where Myles wanted ice cream was in downtown Rosemont. It was located on the corner with a bright sign flashing ‘Dewey’s Ice Cream Parlor.’ Darius parked a block away, and we walked to the restaurant. I was worried because Myles and Peter were holding hands. Besides a few small stores and the ice cream parlor, there were residential homes. People were sitting on their porches at several of the homes enjoying a warm evening. An elderly couple scowled when we passed their home.
When we entered the ice cream parlor, I didn’t get the same vibes I do at Charley’s. The place was crowded with younger people, and music was blasting through speakers on the wall. Several couples were dancing in the middle of the parlor. The men were grinding their bodies against the women as if they were engaging in sex. People around were laughing and encouraging them to dance.
Darius pointed to a table off to the right. He put his hand on my shoulder and directed me to the table. I looked back and noticed that Myles and Peter were still holding hands. I grew worried when I heard someone to my left mutter, faggots.
I turned and worriedly asked Darius, “Is it safe for us to be here?”
“I come here all the time,” he responded. “Just ignore what you see and hear.” It was easy for him, but I was becoming scared. It seemed like everyone in the restaurant was watching us. He asked, “What do you want?” I have to go to the counter to order. He handed me a menu, and I read over it.
“How about a strawberry milkshake?” I replied. I reached into my pocket for some money, but Darius said it was his treat. Myles and Peter each wanted a turtle sundae, and Darius said he wanted some black walnut on a cone. He headed to the counter, leaving me with Myles and Peter. I looked into Peter’s eyes, and he looked as nervous as me.
“Relax,” laughed Myles. “People are just having fun.”
There was a couple sitting at a table beside us. The woman had dreadlocks and long eyelashes. The man had a very large build. He looked like a body builder. His head was bald, and he had a heavy dark beard. When I looked over, his stare sent shivers down my back. He leaned over and whispered something to his date. She looked over and laughed uproariously.
When Darius returned with our orders on a tray, the man stuck out his foot and tripped him. Our ice cream tipped onto his table. They were coated with strawberry, chocolate and black walnut ice cream. When the man rose, he must have stood over six foot five. He grabbed Darius by the collar and hollered, “What the fuck, you faggot!”
Myles jumped to his feet and screamed, “Let go of him, you Fucker! You tripped him. I saw it.”
The man towered over Myles and threatened, “What are you going to do about it, you fucking sissy? You going to protect your girlfriend?” By now, everyone had stopped talking, and they were watching what was happening.
The man’s girlfriend stood and grabbed his massive arm. “Come on, Buster,” she pleaded. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Not until this nigger bitch apologizes for spilling ice cream on your dress,” he replied angrily. Her blue dress was dripping with the ice cream that Darius had spilled on her.
Myles shouted, “He isn’t apologizing for nothing, you black son of a bitch! It was all your fault!” I winced when he hit the man on his chest. It made a loud thud. Several people standing around gasped.
“You fucking faggot!” shouted the man as he picked Myles up by his neck. Myles kicked the man as his feet dangled in the air. I winced when he hit Myles in the face, and then he threw him out into the middle of the floor. People began screaming and running from the building. The woman tried in vain to stop Buster from attacking Myles who lay motionless on the ground. After hitting him several times, he looked down, gave him a final kick, and then he and his date hurried from the building.
By the time I had gotten out of my seat, Darius was on his knees over Myles’ listless body. He was sobbing uncontrollably. I leaned down and looked at his bloody face. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was oozing blood. I began to gag at the sight. Peter leaned down beside me and began screaming, “Myles!”
I don’t remember much of the next hour. It seemed like forever before help arrived. Several police officers appeared about ten minutes later. It took another ten minutes for the EMS to arrive. In the meantime, several people had offered their jackets to put under Myles’ head and cover his blood drenched body. During this time, Myles never moved. Darius kept holding him and yelling at him to open his eyes, but he didn’t. We refused to believe the obvious- Myles was dead.
The police pulled us away from his body, and they led us to a back storage room. We spent the next hour answering questions from homicide detectives. They wanted a description of Myles’ attacker, and they wanted to know what had led up to the assault. I couldn’t believe that everything had happened so quickly. One minute we were talking as Darius got our ice cream. Five minutes later, Myles lay dead on the floor. It seemed like a horrible nightmare that I couldn’t awaken from.
After what seemed like an eternity, Darius, Peter and I were told we could leave. Peter was devastated. I had to hold him up as we left the room. When we emerged, his parents rushed to him and helped him from the building.
I saw my mother and father and ran to them and collapsed in their arms. I couldn’t even speak. All I could do was cry uncontrollably. They must have held me for several minutes before I began to calm down. When I looked for Darius, he was gone. When I asked where he was, my parents told me that his father and mother had taken him home.
I was numb all the way home. My parents tried to get me to talk, but I didn’t want to say anything. I just wanted to be left alone. Every time Myles’ dead body appeared in my mind, I would start crying. I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted the nightmare to end. However, I knew it wouldn’t. Then I thought of Darius, and I wanted to be with him. He needed me as much as I needed him.
When we arrived home, my father helped me to my bedroom, and then he undressed me. I felt like a zombie. My emotions were holding on by a thread. I wanted to erase the past few hours, but I knew I couldn’t. It had really happened, and now Myles was needlessly dead. It made no sense. How could such a simple incident change so many lives? I didn’t want to think of it. I climbed into bed, but I didn’t sleep. Soon, my pillowcase was filled with falling tears.
* * * * *
I awoke the next morning with my phone ringing. I looked at the caller, and it was Natalie. I didn’t answer it. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even Darius. What could I say? Myles had been his best friend his whole life. Myles had died in his lap as he held him. I had no idea what I could say to take away the pain he is feeling. I had known Myles only a couple of weeks, and I was devastated by what had happened. I was also blaming myself. If Darius and I hadn’t met, then he would still be alive today. The four of us wouldn’t have gone out for ice cream. He and Darius would be attending services at Pastor Moore’s church. Now, they were probably planning his funeral.
I pulled the covers over my head, but I couldn’t sleep. I kept reliving my life for the past couple of weeks over in my head. Why did there have to be a stupid basketball game? Why did I have to stop and video Darius being beaten; and then why did I have to pick him up that day and go to Charley’s? Tears fell from my eyes when I recalled my first encounter with Myles. I had never met anyone like him. He was funny and filled with so much life. He could brighten up a room and make everyone laugh.
Why then, did he become so defensive toward the man in the restaurant? I suppose he was protecting Darius. I remembered his threat that day in Charley’s when he warned me not to hurt Darius. He was joking, but I knew he meant it. I think he thought the man was going to hurt Darius, and he might have. Myles gave his life to protect him. Now, I can’t stop crying.
About an hour later, my father knocked on my door and asked to come in. I sat up and told him to enter. He came in, followed by Mr. Abrams. My father walked over to the bed and sat down. Mr. Abrams sat at my computer desk.
“Are you okay, Son,” asked my father very emotionally. Like I didn’t know what to say to Darius, I knew my father was having the same difficulty speaking to me. When my body began to shake, he pulled me into his arms. I must have cried for ten minutes before I was able to gain my composure.
“I’ll be okay,” I said as I finally sat back up.
“No, you won’t,” my father said sadly. “Your life has changed dramatically over the past few hours.”
I looked at him, hoping he would have an answer. “What do I do?”
“I wish I had a simple answer for you, but I don’t,” he replied. “What happened to Myles is going to live with you for the rest of your life.” I leaned on his shoulder and began to cry again.
“Why did it happen?” I sobbed. “Myles didn’t deserve it.”
My father spoke softly, “They arrested the man who did it. They said they had been looking for him. He was a suspect in an armed robbery a few days earlier. This was also not his first assault. He’s been arrested three times before.” I nodded into his shoulder.
I asked weakly, “Has Darius called?”
“His father called this morning asking about you,” replied my father. “He said Darius is in his room, and he won’t talk to anyone.” My mind was filled with the image of Darius lying across his bed and crying like I have been doing. A new sadness enveloped me. Suddenly, I wanted to see him. He needed me, and I needed to be with him.
“I need to see Darius,” I said to my father. I rose and walked over to my closet to find clean clothes. Mr. Abrams rose and stopped me.
“You won’t be able to leave the house,” he informed me.
“There are reporters outside,” he replied. I went to my window and looked out. There were two news vans and cars parked in front of our house. I counted three cameras pointed in our direction. The cameramen saw me in the window, and they began filming me. I pulled the shades shut and sat on my bed.
“Dad,” I pleaded. “You’ve got to get me to Darius’ house.”
“It’s impossible,” responded Abrams. “The media is at his house too.”
“They can’t stop me from seeing him,” I replied angrily as I went back to my closet and took out a clean shirt and a pair of shorts. I then hurried into my bathroom. When I had dressed, I went back into the bedroom.
My father stood and tried to block me when I headed to my door. “You can’t do this, Parker,” he said as he grabbed my arm. “You’ll never get passed them. Besides, they’ll know where you are going, and they’ll be ready when you get to Darius’ house.”
I pulled my father’s hand off my arm. “They can’t stop me. Call Pastor Moore and tell him I’ll be there in about a half hour.”
“Wait!” shouted Abrams. He began pacing around the room. “We’ve got to come up with a plan.” I stopped to hear what he had to say. He continued to pace. He stopped and faced me. “Give me a minute to make a phone call. Promise me you won’t leave until I get back.” Reluctantly, I nodded my head. Mr. Abrams had given me good advice in the past, so I knew I could trust him. I walked over and sat on the bed while my father stood and stared at me.
“I wish there was some way I could take away the pain you’re feeling,” he said tearfully. “I know you’re suffering, and there isn’t anything I can do about it.”
I rose and pulled him into a hug. We both cried as we held each other tightly. “I love you, Dad,” I cried into his shoulder. He had supported and protected me for seventeen years. This time, however, there was nothing he could do. I had to deal with it on my terms. But I did know that he and Mom would be here if I needed them.
Mr. Abrams returned about five minutes later. I rose and asked, “Well?”
He walked over and stood before me. “We are going to take you and Darius to a safe place to be alone where no reporters can bother you.”
“Where?” asked my father.
He replied, “I own a condo in a gated community about thirty miles from here. It used to belong to my wife’s mother until she moved to Florida. We keep it because she sometimes likes to return for the holidays and stay for several weeks. I called the manager of the complex, and I informed him that there would be guests staying for the night. I also explained the situation, and he will make sure that Parker and Darius will not be disturbed by anyone. The complex has two security guards who will watch over the condo while they are there. He looked at me and asked, “Does that sound okay with you, Parker?”
“Yes,” I replied. The thought of being alone and safe with Darius sounded like a good plan. “But how do we get there?”
“I called the new police chief, and he agreed to pick you up and take you there. He’s also sending an officer to get Darius. They are going to take you to the precinct. Reporters will think that you are going there for another interview. My wife has driven our other car to the rear of the precinct. She will be waiting at a rear entrance. You and Darius will hide in the backseat until I come out. We’ll then drive you to the condo. Reporters will have no idea what is going on. They’ll still be stationed at the front entrance waiting for you to come out.”
My father started laughing. “You old fox, Louis. I couldn’t have thought of a better plan.”
Just then, my mother hollered upstairs. “Jonathan, there’s a policeman here to see you.” My father looked at me and nodded. When we got downstairs, two police officers rushed me to an awaiting cruiser. I pulled my hoodie over my face and avoided the questions they were shouting. They pushed me into the backseat and sped away. I looked back and watched as reporters jumped in their vans and cars and tried to follow us.
When we got to the precinct, I looked around for Darius, but I didn’t see him. When I asked Mr. Abrams where he was, he informed me that there had been a delay in trying to smuggle Darius from his home. He would arrive a little later.
It took Mr. Abrams about a half hour to arrive at the complex. I looked behind us as we entered the gate, but I didn’t see anyone following us. He drove up to a nice ranch home, opened the garage door and drove inside. We waited until the door was closed before we got out of the car. My father asked me if I was alright, and I assured him I was. In just a little while, I would be with Darius.
The home was elegantly furnished with modern furniture. It was a place I could feel comfortable living in. There was a large screen television in the family room. I walked over and plopped down on a green leather sofa.
“Make yourselves at home,” said Abrams. I toed off my shoes and lay back my head. I was mentally and physically drained. I felt like I didn’t have the energy to go to the bathroom if I had to. My father kept looking worriedly over at me.
He looked at Abrams and asked, “Louis, do you think we should take Parker to a hospital?”
“No!” I shouted.
“I’m worried about you,” he said. “You’ve been through a tragic ordeal, and you might need some kind of medication to help you cope.”
“I’m not crazy, Dad,” I insisted. “I’ll deal with it.” He shook his head and gave Abrams a worried look.
Just then, we heard a buzzer at the door. “That must be Darius. One of my colleagues picked him up to bring him here.” He went over to the box on the door and pushed a button and started to talk to someone. “Were you followed?” he asked. He then pushed another button and walked back over to us. “They’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”
I was becoming extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to say to Darius. What do you say to someone who just lost his best friend, someone he had known all this life. Saying I was sorry didn’t seem adequate. I jumped when the doorbell rang. Abrams walked over, opened the door and let Darius enter.
I couldn’t believe his appearance. He was still wearing the blood drenched clothing he had been wearing the day before. His face was drawn and taut. He looked like he had aged ten years. He took a step inside and froze. Suddenly, he collapsed onto the floor.
I rushed over, got on my knees and pulled him into my body. We were both crying as we clung to each other. It must have been five minutes before we pulled away from our embrace. I helped him up and led him over to the sofa. We sat down and continued to hold each other tightly.
Mr. Abrams asked, “Do you boys need anything?” I looked at Darius, and he didn’t respond. I gripped his hand and held it tightly.
After a minute, I asked, “Dad. Mr. Abrams.” They looked at me worriedly. “Can you leave and let us be alone tonight?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Son,” replied my father.
Mr. Abrams walked up and reached out for his arm. “Jonathan,” he insisted, “I think the boys need to be alone.” He began to pull my father from the room. “If you need anything, you have my number.” He chuckled and added, “The liquor cabinet is locked. Don’t try to break into it.” I smiled and nodded. My father looked back worriedly as Mr. Abrams pulled him from the house.
When they were gone, I reached over and turned out the lamp beside the sofa. I embraced Darius, and we held tightly to each other until we fell sleep.
I awoke when the sun began to shine through the windows. Darius was still nestled in my arms. During the night, we had lain out on the sofa with me behind him with my hand clutching his chest. He began to stir when he realized I was awake. He rolled over and kissed me gently.
“Good morning,” he smiled meekly as he gazed into my eyes. “You’re awake?”
“Yeah,” I said as I returned his kiss. I looked over his shoulder at the clock on the wall. It was 7:08. “Are you okay?” I took him in my arms and held him tightly.
“I think so,” he sighed. “I’m so tired of crying. I’m not sure I can take any more.”
I replied, “I know what you mean. I just wish we had never met. Then Myles would still be alive.”
Darius pulled away and looked angrily at me. “Parker, don’t you ever say that again! What happened wasn’t your fault.”
Tears filled my eyes. “But I feel it is. If…” Darius covered my mouth with his lips.
“But…” I said as I pulled away. He stopped me by kissing me again.
His shoulders began to shake as he started giggling. “Say something else. I like this.”
I smiled and said, “But Darius…” We lay back, and he snuggled against me.
“No one is to blame but the guy who did that to Myles.” He began to cry again. “I still can’t believe he’s dead.” He buried his head in my chest and wept. “He was my soul mate. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.”
“I’m here,” I whispered softly into his ear. He raised his head and kissed me.
We held each other for a few minutes until Darius’ stomach started to growl. I asked, “Are you hungry?” He nodded his head. I rose and grabbed his hand. “Let’s go check out the kitchen. Maybe we’ll find something to eat.” We held hands as we left the room and headed into the kitchen. We looked into each room as we walked down the hall.
“This is a nice place,” remarked Darius. “Who owns it?”
“Mr. Abrams,” I responded. “Didn’t they tell you?”
“They may have,” he replied, “But I don’t remember too much about last night.”
I began searching the cabinets and refrigerator. Since the house had been vacant a few months, there wasn’t much. We found a box of cereal, but there was no milk in the refrigerator. “Tada!” I said as I held up a jar of instant coffee. I found two mugs and filled them with water. After a minute in the microwave, we had a hot cup of coffee. I also discovered some sugar and creamer on a shelf. Soon, we were sitting at the counter sipping coffee and nibbling on dry cereal.
“I’m still hungry,” said Darius as he rubbed his stomach.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” I replied. “I don’t really even know where we are.” I took my phone from my pocket and checked to make sure the battery wasn’t dead. I dialed a number and waited. Soon, I heard shouting.
“Where are you, Parker?” cried Natalie. “I’ve been worried sick about you. Are you okay?”
“Listen, Natalie,” I said softly. “I’m okay. I just need you to do me a favor.”
Two hours later, Natalie was knocking at the front door.