"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
Darius got mad when Sheila brought the bill to our table and set it down. “Oh, no you don’t,” he said as he gripped my hand when I reached for it.
I gave him a pleading look and said, “I really don’t mind. Please let me do this.”
“It’s okay with me,” said Myles as he snapped his fingers. He looked at Darius and smiled. “I was going to ask you to pay for mine anyway. I’m a little low on cash right now.”
“What did you do?” laughed Latasha. “Buy a new purse?”
Myles smiled and replied, “You know it, Girl.”
Sheila stood by and impatiently said, “Well, someone has to pay. How do you want to do it?” Against Darius’ protest, I pulled out my credit card and handed it to her.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” stated Darius angrily. “We may be black, but we have our own money.”
Suddenly, I felt ashamed. I wanted to buy dinner to show them how much their friendship meant to me. It didn’t even occur to me that they would think that I was a rich white boy buying a dinner for poor blacks. “I’m sorry,” I stammered nervously. “I didn’t even think that. I just wanted to show you how much I enjoyed your company tonight.”
Dwayne gripped my arm and said, “Parker. It’s okay. You don’t have to buy our friendship. We already like you.”
I was embarrassed when tears welled up in my eyes. “I’m not trying to buy your friendship. I’m sorry if it looks that way.”
Myles eased the nervously by exclaiming, “I’m okay with it. Next time, Parker, you can buy me a new purse.”
Dwayne laughed and said, “You’re such a cheap whore, Myles.”
Myles batted his eyes and replied, “Whatever works.” I laughed when he looked at me and winked.
“Forget it, Myles,” said Sheila. “Parker is only interested in one person at this table, and it definitely isn’t you.”
Myles swatted Darius’ arm and muttered, “Lucky bitch.”
Their bantering was making me nervous. I looked at Darius, and I could tell he felt the same way. It seemed that everyone at the table was assuming that Darius and I were a couple. I hadn’t even told Darius I was gay. By their actions, it was obvious they knew that he was.
Sheila returned with the bill and my credit card. I slapped Myles’ hand away when he reached for it. “Nice try,” remarked Sheila. He replied by telling Sheila it never hurts to try.
Darius put his hand on my back as we started out of the restaurant. Several diners stopped to talk to him, but he didn’t remove his hand. Most said that they would see him soon at the protest. Each time, they would give me an inquisitive look, but Darius didn’t introduce me to anyone.
We walked out into the parking lot and stopped. Darius handed his keys to Dwayne and said, “You drive Myles and Sheila over to Somerset. I’ll ride with Parker.” He looked at me, and I nodded.
Myles said excitedly, “I’ll ride with you girls.”
“No, you won’t,” insisted Darius. “You ride with Dwayne.
“Oh, I get it,” he laughed. “Kissy face.” Darius smacked Myles’ arm and walked over to my car.
It was an awkward twenty-minute ride to Somerset. I had no idea what awaited us. Darius seemed equally nervous. He kept drumming his fingers on his pants legs. I looked over and asked, “Are you okay?”
He sighed deeply and said, “I guess. I just wish it wasn’t me that this happened to.”
“I had plans,” he replied. “I only wanted to finish school and head off to college in the fall.” He sighed again and added, “And now this.”
“I know what you mean,” I responded. “My life has been changed since I posted your assault on Facebook.”
“Sorry,” he apologized.
“No,” I insisted. “You’ve got no reason to apologize. That was a shitty thing Anderson did to you. I should have just turned it over to the newspaper and let them handle it.”
He looked over and said softly, “Then we wouldn’t have met.”
“Yeah,” I smiled. It surprised me when he reached over and held my hand.
“Is this okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied as I squeezed his hand. “So, I guess this means we’re both gay?”
“Why do we have to put a label on it,” he asked. “Can’t we be two guys who like each other?”
I held up our hands. “But if we do this in public, people will say a lot more things.”
“True,” he replied. “But I’m comfortable in my skin. I’m black and gay. My friends and family accept it. It doesn’t bother me what others say.” He squeezed my hand and asked, “What about you?”
I frowned and said, “My friends know, but I don’t think the accept it. They’re always giving me shit about it.”
“What about your family?”
“It’s just my mother and father,” I replied. “They don’t have a problem with it. In fact…” I suddenly stopped when I realized what I was getting ready to say.
He smiled and asked, “In fact what? No,” he said as he squeezed my hand. “You were going to say something else. What was it?”
He laughed when my face began to redden. “They think we’re boyfriends already,” I said with a laugh.
“They do? Why do they think that?”
My face reddened deeper when I confessed, “I guess I kind of told them how cute I think you are.”
“Me cute?” he asked. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
“Okay,” I laughed. “We’re both okay, I guess.”
“Yeah,” he replied. We didn’t say anything else on the way to the courthouse. Darius continued to hold my hand and gently rub his hand gently over my knuckles. I was beginning to get an erection, and I was afraid I might not be able to get out of the car when we arrived.
I had to park several blocks from the courthouse because it appeared that many people were attending the protest. I got out and walked to the passenger’s side, opened the door and Darius got out. I had to smile because it looked like he had gotten an erection while we were driving and holding hands. I had checked when I exited the car that mine wasn’t obvious.
“Sorry,” he apologized as he rearranged himself. “It happens sometimes.”
“Just sometimes?” I joked. “It happens to me all the time.” He quickly looked down at my pants. “It went to sleep,” I laughed. My face couldn’t have been any redder. I couldn’t believe I was joking about erections with someone I had just met.
“Come on,” said Darius as he grabbed my hand. We walked for several feet holding hands until we saw a few people across the street looking at us. As we walked toward where the protest was being held, we let our hands brush lightly against each other.”
When we arrived, a crowd had gathered on both sides of the street. There appeared to be at least two hundred protesters across the street holding up signs supporting Darius and condemning Anderson’s actions. There were also a few Black Lives Matter posters being waved.
On the other side of the street in front of the courthouse, there were about one hundred counter protesters. I immediately noticed Dan standing in the front waving a Police Lives Matter sign. Beside him were Jeremy and Stephen. They didn’t have signs, but occasionally they would raise their middle finger to the group across the street. There were several policemen standing in the street with their arms crossed. They were facing the protesters. They appeared to be waiting for a reason to arrest someone.
“Darius!” hollered out Dwayne. He waved and motioned for us to join him. He had on a large BLM button pinned to his shirt. Myles and Latasha were standing by him. Myles was holding up a large ‘Fire Anderson’ sign. “Took you long enough,” said Dwayne as we walked up and faced him.
“Kissy face,” giggled Myles as he smiled as us.
“Jealous?” asked Darius.
Myles laughed and replied, “You know it, Girl.”
Suddenly, I heard Dan holler out, “What the fuck? Parker! Ain’t you on the wrong side?” I turned my back and tried to ignore him. “Mother Fucker!” he shouted louder.
Latasha warned, “He’s been hollering shit for the last ten minutes. The cops aren’t doing anything about it.” Across the street, started everyone chanting, “White Lives Matter!”
“He’s an asshole,” I muttered as I walked deeper into the crowd. I didn’t want Dan and the others to be shouting insults at me all night.
Suddenly, I heard someone shout, “Parker!” I turned and saw Natalie heading my way. I was surprised to see Pete and three other friends with her, two girls and another boy.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
Natalie replied, “I told you I was coming.” She pulled Pete forward. “Pete, Amanda, Richard and Becky wanted to come too.” They timidly waved at me. People in the crowd began to surround us and welcome us for joining them. There were many handshakes and fist bumps. I laughed when someone handed Natalie a BLM sign, and she held it up and started waving it at the group across the street. Dan’s eyes narrowed, and for a minute I was afraid he was going to come storming across the street.
Natalie walked over and stood before me and Darius. She looked up at Darius and smiled. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend, Parker.”
“Darius,” I said politely. “This is Natalie, one of my best friends.”
Natalie laughed and said, “I’m probably about your only friend right now.” She turned to Darius and held his hand. “Parker has told me all about you.”
“I hope it’s good,” he laughed.
Natalie winked and replied, “Time will tell.”
“Darlings!” shouted Myles as he walked up to us. He scanned Natalie’s body and asked, “And who might Miss Thing here be?” I think he thought Natalie might be my girlfriend.
“Miss Thing?” asked Natalie with a tone of resentment. “I’m more woman than you’ll ever be.”
Myles stood back and roared with laughter. “I don’t know who you are, but I like you already.” He reached out and pulled Natalie into a hug. We spent the next few minutes introducing each other. Pete, Amanda, Richard and Becky walked up, and I introduced them to everyone. I was surprised that my friends seemed completely relaxed with the group.
We stopped talking when we heard Darius’ father began to speak. Several large speakers had been placed around the area where we were assembled. He didn’t have to speak through a bullhorn.
He began, “I want to thank everyone for being here today.”
“Go back to Rosemont!” shouted Dan and several others. They then began to shout, ‘White Lives Matter.’ Suddenly, those around us began to shout, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This went on for several minutes. Occasionally, I heard the words, ‘Niggers go home.’ They appeared to be from Dan, but I heard a few female voices as well.
Pastor Moore tried to settle the crowd down. “We are here today to protest the arrest of my son, Darius. What that officer did to him was cruel and unjust.” Instinctively, I reached down and gripped Darius’ hand. Natalie noticed and smiled.
The counter protesters began to chant, ‘Police Lives Matter.’ Pastor Moore began to shout over the crowd when suddenly he was hit with a tomato in the side of the face. I tried to grab Darius, but he bolted away and headed toward the front of the group. Across the street was Dan holding another tomato that he was getting ready to throw. Darius started to cross the street, but he was grabbed my two police officers. Dan approached and hit him in the face. I ran out and jumped on Dan to prevent him from hitting Darius again, but I was grabbed by a policeman. He held my arms back, and Dan punched me. Several policemen were standing nearby, but none of them attempted to stop Dan.
I was pulled to the ground and handcuffed. I looked to my right and saw Darius also being cuffed as he lay on the ground. Three or four police officers had shields raised as they attempted to hold Dwayne, Myles and several others back. On the other side of the street, counter protesters were taunting us. A cameraman ran up to video my arrest, but he was quickly pulled away. Pastor Moore was shouting for everyone to remain calm. He warned that the police were trying to agitate the crowd so they could make more arrests.
I was yanked to my feet and led across the street toward the courthouse. I don’t know who it was, but someone spit in my face. The policemen who were dragging me didn’t even react. They took me inside and slammed me down into a chair. A minute later, they brought Darius in and shoved him into the seat next to me.
I looked over and noticed another bruise forming on his face. “Are you okay?” I asked worriedly.
“Yeah,” he said as he looked at my face. “Are you alright? That big guy gave you a pretty hard punch to the side.”
“That’s Dan,” I said. “He used to be a friend.”
“Damn, Parker,” he replied angrily. “With friends like that, you don’t need enemies.”
“Used to be a friend,” I said.
Sheriff Morgan came storming over to us. “What the hell are you boys doing? My officers said you were inciting a riot.”
“Inciting a riot!” shouted Darius. “They were throwing tomatoes at us!”
“Darius!” I looked over and pleaded. “Don’t say anything else. Wait until my father gets here with our attorney. He’ll deal with this.”
Morgan bristled at the mention of my father’s name. He ordered an officer standing nearby. “Take the cuffs off these boys and take them to a holding cell. I need to find out what happened.” He turned and exited the building.
The officer removed the handcuffs and asked us to follow him. We were placed inside a small cell with two beds and a toilet. He slammed the door shut, locked it and left. I hurried over and sat down beside Darius.
“Are you sure you are okay?” I asked as I gripped his hand.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I went through this shit the other day.”
“What did we do?” I asked.
“We didn’t do anything,” he replied. “They were waiting for us to react so they could make it seem like we were being violent. They probably even supplied the tomatoes. You notice they didn’t do a thing to your friend.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” I said. “Dan threw the tomatoes, and then he attacked us. The police did nothing.” I looked around the small room. “But we get arrested.”
Darius laughed nervously. “Welcome to a black man’s world.”
“Is it always like this?”
“Yes, Parker,” he said angrily. “It is always like this. We don’t have to do a thing except be black.”
“I’m not black, though,” I replied.
“You’re even worse,” he said. I gave him a puzzled look. “You supported us. In their book, a nigger lover is even worse than being a nigger.”
I didn’t even know what to say. I was repulsed by the term he used to describe me. I had attended the protest to show my support. I knew that someone like Dan would be mad, but I didn’t think others would feel the same way. However, whoever spit in my face wasn’t Dan. He wasn’t near me when that happened.
“I shouldn’t have lost my temper,” said Darius. “But when I saw that tomato hit my father, I just lost it.”
“I know what you mean,” I replied. “When I saw Dan hit you, I lost it too,”
He smiled and said, “Thanks. I hope it was worth it.”
“I’d do it again if I had to,” I admitted. “I don’t want to see you get hurt again.”
He sighed and rested his head against my shoulder. “I don’t want to see you get hurt either.” We sat comfortably for a few minutes. Well, as comfortably as you can on a hard cot in a drab room. I put my hand around his waist and pulled him closer to me.
We jumped apart when we heard the outer door open. Sheriff Moore stood in front of our cell, and then Mr. Abrams, my father’s attorney, walked up beside him. Moore fumbled with his key, and then he unlocked the door.
“You’re free to go, Boys,” he announced angrily. We pushed our way past him and headed for the exit. Abrams hurried behind us. Once outside, I turned and faced him.
“How were you able to get us out so quickly?” I asked.
He explained, “I was watching from a nearby office. I figured there might be a problem, and I wanted to be close by in case an attorney was needed.” He looked and frowned. “I wasn’t expecting it to be you, Parker.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” I apologized. I looked over at Darius. “But someone hit Darius’ father with a tomato. He went after the guy who did it. When my friend jumped him, I had to do something.”
“I understand,” he replied. “I would have done the same.”
I asked, “What’s going to happen now with us?”
To my surprise, he said that nothing was going to happen. He said he filmed the incident from the office. When he showed it to Sheriff Morgan, he decided to release us. “He doesn’t want you filing a lawsuit against the police department,” he explained. “His officers did nothing to stop…,” he opened a pad and read from it. “They did nothing to stop a Daniel Thompson from inciting the crowd and throwing tomatoes. However, when you approached, they instantly arrested you. I would also guess by now that several people have posted the arrest on social media. Several news crews were also filming, and they can show that it was Thompson who was at fault and not you.”
“Does my father know?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “I called him as soon as I saw you get arrested. I also called him and told him you’ve been released with no charges against you.”
“Darius!” We turned when we heard his name being called. His father was running toward us. He pulled Darius into an embrace. “Are you okay, Son?” Darius assured him he was alright.
“And what about you, Parker?”
“I’m fine, Pastor Moore.” It surprised me when he pulled me into a tight embrace.
“Thank you for standing up for my son,” he said. “I’m sorry you had to get arrested as a result.”
Mr. Abrams stepped forward and introduced himself. He told his father what he had told us. Pastor Moore was happy that Darius hadn’t been charged for anything. He asked Mr. Abrams for his card. He wanted to call him in the morning and discuss the video he had of the arrest. He looked over at me. “After Parker’s video and now yours, I think we have a solid case that Somerset police department engages in racist behavior. I’m sitting down tomorrow with leaders of the NAACP, the National Urban League and several other organizations. We’re going to demand the resignation of the sheriff, the officer who attacked my son, and any other officers who have exhibited racist attitudes.”
Abrams shook his hand. “You have my complete support,” he assured him. “My office will gladly provide you with whatever you need.” He asked, “What time is the meeting?”
“It hasn’t been decided yet,” he said. “I’ll call you when we have decided.” Pastor Moore looked at his watch. “Darius, I think we should be getting home. It’s been a long night, and you have school in the morning.” He started to walk away.
“Pastor Moore,” I asked. “Would it be okay if I drove Darius home?”
A slight smile curled on his lips. He looked over at Darius. “Is that okay with you, Son.”
Darius nervously responded, “Yes, Sir.”
When we walked to my car, I noticed that both crowds had left. I looked at my watch, and it was after ten. With everything that had happened, I hadn’t paid any attention to the time. We drove in silence to Darius’ home. As I pulled into his driveway, he reached over and took my hand.
“I’m glad you were with me tonight,” he said.
“Me, too,” I smiled. We stared briefly into each other’s eyes. Then, he leaned over and gently kissed me.
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