"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
Before leaving his room, Darius stopped at the door, turned and asked, “Do I look okay?”
I kissed him and replied, “You look great.”
“No,” he stammered, “Dad won’t be able to tell what we’ve done, will he?”
I giggled and said, “I promise I won’t tell.” He looked at my hair and told me to fix it. I stepped over and looked in a mirror. It was slightly messy. I used my fingers to comb it into place, turned and asked him how I looked. He still appeared very nervous.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure,” he replied. “It’s just I don’t want him to know what we did.”
I looked at the worried look on his face and asked, “Does he know you’re gay?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “He and Mom know. I told them last year. It’s just that he’s warned me about having sex with someone I just met. He doesn’t like the idea of a guy taking advantage of me.”
“We didn’t just meet,” I reminded him. “And besides, I would never think of taking advantage of you.”
He looked into my eyes and said, “Thanks.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door. He released my hands at the bottom of the stairs before we entered his father’s office.
Pastor Moore looked up and grinned when he saw us. “It took you boys long enough to come downstairs.” I looked over at Darius, and he looked like he was ready to pass out.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” I said immediately. “It was my fault. I challenged Darius to a video game, and I didn’t want him to beat me.”
“Yes, Sir,” I lied. I quickly glanced at Darius. He seemed pleased with my response, even though it was a lie.
“Have a seat, Boys,” ordered Pastor Moore. “I want to bring you up to date on what is going on.”
He spent the next few minutes telling us about the meetings he had been in all day. It appeared that several civil rights organizations were going to demand the resignations of Officer Anderson and Sheriff Morgan. They had already contacted the mayor’s office and the governor with their complaints. They had also held a press conference earlier highlighting their demands.
“What about the other cops?” asked Darius.
“What other police officers?”
Darius looked over at me. “The other video that Parker took where the cops arrested me and threw me into the back of the cruiser.”
Pastor Moore stared at me. “There is another video other than the one we’ve seen?”
“Yes, Sir,” I responded nervously. “After I taped Anderson beating Darius, I stopped the video. Then, when the other officers arrived, I turned my phone back on and videoed them yanking Darius from the ground, handcuffing him and throwing him into the back of the cruiser.”
“How many were there?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t remember. Two or three, I suppose.”
We jumped when Pastor Moore slammed his hand down on his desk. “Morgan lied to us,” he said angrily. “He told us there was only the one video. Are you sure, Parker, that there is another one?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied. “The cop came over and took my phone.”
“Did they return it to you?” he asked. “If they did, show me the other video.”
I replied, “I got it back, but they got a court order and took it.” I held up my new phone. “My father bought me this one.”
Pastor Moore was visibly upset. “This changes everything,” he said. “When we had a hearing before Judge Sanders, Morgan lied. He’s trying to cover for his other officers.” He rose from his chair. “You boys can leave. I’ve got to call Abrams and a few other people. We’ve got Morgan. He covered up evidence to protect his officers.”
When we walked out of this office, I asked Darius, “What’s going to happen now?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “But Dad is pretty mad. Chief Morgan is going to be in a lot of trouble.”
“Good,” I replied. “After what they did to you, I hope the whole department gets fired.” I leaned in and gave him a quick kiss. When I turned, his father had just stepped out of his office and saw us.
“Be careful, Boys,” he warned us. “Don’t let your mother catch you doing that.”
After he walked away, I thought Darius was going to pass out. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied nervously. He looked at his watch. It was getting late. He suggested, “Maybe we should call it a night?”
“Okay,” I agreed. I don’t think Darius could handle anymore drama for the night. After what happened between us in his bedroom, and then his father seeing us kiss, I think his nerves were on overload.
He walked me to my car. “Will I see you tomorrow?” I asked.
“I hope so,” he smiled. I could tell he wanted to kiss me, but he gently touched my hand as I got in the car. Before pulling away, he gripped my hand and squeezed it. “I meant what I said upstairs,” he smiled.
“Me, too,” I said as I squeezed his hand. “I love you, too.” He was still smiling as I pulled away.
I awoke the next morning feeling better than I had in days. I could still feel Darius’ lips pressed to mine. I couldn’t believe that we had confessed our love to each other. If you had asked me two weeks ago if I would fall in love with someone, I would have laughed. Now, everything has changed. I should feel scared, but I’m not. I know we’re going to have a lot of trouble when we start dating. I’ll never be able to bring him to Somerset and introduce him to my friends. Natalie will be a safe person. She already has us practically married after just a few days. If she finds out that we are dating, she’ll be making wedding invitations.
However, how will Darius be greeted in Somerset? Can we enjoy eating at a restaurant here and be welcomed like we are at Charley’s. And I’m not even sure how the rest of Rosemont will react. Will their attitudes be the same as here? Before, I worried about being accepted that I am gay. Now, we have to worry about being accepted as an interracial couple. That is two strikes against us.
“Parker!” my father hollered up the stairs. “Your mother says breakfast is ready. Move it!”
I walked to the door and opened it. “Coming Dad!” I walked over to the mirror and made a last check of my appearance. I’ve always been meticulous about how I look. I shave almost daily, and I get a haircut about every three weeks. I have a large wardrobe, although most guys my age would probably consider it too preppy. I prefer a nice pair of khakis to torn denim jeans. I have nothing against torn jeans. Some guys wear them and look hot. But not me. It just feels strange walking around with my knees poking through a hole in my jeans.
When I went downstairs, Mom and Dad were sitting at the counter drinking their morning coffee. There was a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice for me. Dad was the first to speak. “How is school going? Is Nettleman leaving you alone?”
“Yeah, Dad,” I replied. I then told him about the security measures we had to go through yesterday just to enter the school.”
“Oh, Dear,” responded my mother. She looked at my father. “Do you think it is safe for Parker to go to school?”
“Mom,” I assured her. “Nothing is going to happen. He’s just trying to scare us into thinking that the protesters are dangerous.”
“Nettleman’s an ass,” grumbled my father. “He should be a used car salesman instead of a principal.” I started giggling.
My mother looked over and warned, “Well, you be careful Parker. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” She looked worriedly at me. “Has anyone given you any more trouble at school? After what happened to your car window, I’m worried about your safety.”
“No one has given me any trouble,” I assured her. I asked my father, “Have you talked to Chief Morgan? Did they arrest Dan? He wasn’t in school yesterday.”
“I called him at his office,” replied my father, “but I think he was refusing to take my calls. I was told he was out, but when I came home last night, I drove past the station and his car was parked outside. I called him but they told me he wasn’t in.”
I said excitedly, “Pastor Morgan thinks they may be able to get him fired.”
“How?” asked my parents in unison.
“I forgot to tell you when Chief Morgan came to the house and took my phone that there was another video on it,” I explained. “I didn’t post it to my Facebook account, and I had forgotten about it.” My father asked what was on it. “When Officer Anderson stopped kicking Darius, I turned off the video. When the other officers arrived, I turned it back on as they pulled him from the ground, handcuffed him and threw him into the back of the cruiser. One of the officers saw me, and he walked across the street and took my phone.”
“I don’t understand how that can get Morgan fired,” said my father.
I told him, “Pastor Morgan said they had a hearing the other day, and Morgan told a judge that there wasn’t another video other than the one with Anderson. He lied to a judge.”
“Damn,” replied my father. “He can get charged with withholding evidence.”
“That’s what Pastor Morgan thinks too,” I said. “They’re going to try and meet with the judge later today.”
My father looked worriedly at me. “You do realize, Parker, that you’ll have to testify under oath that the video did exist?”
“I know,” I replied. “I can do that because it’s true.”
Dad looked at me and smiled. “I’m proud of you, Son.” I returned his smile.
I turned when I heard someone knock at the backdoor. It was Natalie. My father motioned for her to come in. “Would you like some cereal?” asked my mother as she rose, poured some cereal in a bowl and placed it in front of her. She then got her a glass of juice.
I asked Natalie, “I guess you need a ride to school again?”
She smiled shyly and replied, “If it’s not too much trouble. What happened yesterday upset me.” She looked at my parents and then turned back to me. “Did you tell them what happened?”
“You mean with Morgan’s gestapo?” asked my father angrily.
She giggled and replied, “Gestapo. I like that.”
“Just be careful, Kids,” warned my father. “Nettleman is really overreacting to this thing. He’s trying to make it seem like there is no racial problems at your school. I guess the way he’s looking at it, there are no black students, so there isn’t a problem.”
“We do have one black student,” replied Natalie.
“Oh, wow,” said my father sarcastically. “Somerset High School is totally integrated.” Natalie and I laughed.
I rose and pulled Natalie to her feet. “Come on,” I laughed. “Let’s go spend another day in Paradise.”
There was a smaller police presence than the day before. A police officer eyed us suspiciously as we drove past, but he didn’t stop and check the car like the day before. When we entered the building, the halls were unusually quiet. A couple of officers were patrolling while carrying assault rifles next to their sides.
“This is stupid,” hissed Natalie. She took out her phone and took a few pictures of the officers. “I’m going to post this on Facebook and Instagram so people can see the shit we are going through.” I watched as she uploaded it to her social media accounts.
“That should win you some points with Nettleman,” I laughed.
She responded angrily, “Fuck Nettleman.”
When we turned the corner, I ran straight into Dan. He was with Jeremy and Stephen. “Watch it faggot!” he shouted as he pushed me into a locker. He then grabbed me around the throat and lifted me into his face. “Why did you tell the cops I threw a brick at your car window?”
“Because you did, Asshole,” I managed to choke out with his hand wrapped around my throat. “My dad has it on Ring.”
“I spent Sunday in jail,” he said angrily. “And I may lose my college scholarship, thanks to your faggot ass.”
He pushed me so fast that I didn’t even see it coming. I briefly saw stars before I fell unconscious to the floor. The next thing I remember was waking up on a gurney in the ambulance. “Lay back, Son,” said a medic as he pushed me back when I attempted to sit up. “You may have a concussion.”
“What happened?” I asked. My head was pounding, and I didn’t understand why I was lying in an ambulance.
“You don’t remember?” he asked. I shook my head.
He hollered to someone outside the ambulance. “Let’s get him to a hospital.” The back door closed, and a few minutes later we were moving with the siren blasting overhead.
I asked, “What has happened to me?”
The medic, a guy who appeared in his fifties, looked worriedly at me. “You don’t remember someone pushing you against a wall?”
I shook my head. “Am I hurt badly?” I asked worriedly.
He inspected my face and replied, “A witness said your head hit the wall when you were attacked. Since you can’t remember anything, I suspect you might have a concussion.” He held up three fingers. “Can you tell me how many fingers you see?”
“Three?” I replied.
“Do you know what day it is?”
“Sunday, I think,” I replied. He looked worriedly at me.
“Lie back and rest until we arrive at the hospital,” he ordered. “I’m going to keep you talking because I don’t want you to fall asleep on me.” It took about ten minutes to arrive at the hospital. He had asked me a few more questions, but I don’t remember what they were. I’m not even sure I answered them correctly.
Two doctors were waiting when they pulled the gurney into the hospital. I spent the next couple of hours answering more questions and receiving xrays and other imaging tests. When they took me to a room, Mom, Dad and Natalie were waiting for me. Dad looked angry, but Mom and Natalie were sobbing.
Dad approached the bed and asked, “Are you okay, Son?” I could hear Mom and Natalie crying in the distance. Dad looked at the doctors and asked, “Is he going to be alright?” I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, so I didn’t hear their response. I later learned I had received a mild concussion when my head hit the wall.
I must have slept for about a half hour. When I awoke, only Mom and Dad were in the room. Mom rose and kissed me on the forehead when she noticed my eyes open. “You’ll be okay, Parker,” she wept as she gently held me.
My father rose and stood beside the bed. “Do you remember anything that happened to you?” he asked.
I was beginning to remember a little. I remembered Dan approaching me, and then pushing me hard. I couldn’t remember anything else except the medic talking to me in the ambulance. “Not really,” I replied. “What happened to me?” Mom held my hand while he explained.
“According to Natalie,” explained my father, “You and she encountered Dan in the hallway. He was angry because I called the police on him for throwing a brick through your car window. She said he pushed you really hard. You received a concussion when your head hit the wall. Your head is going to be sore for a few days. You won’t feel anything, They have you on some pretty powerful medications.” I nodded and rested my hand on the bed.
“What did they do to Dan?”
“He’s been arrested,” my father answered angrily. “Nettleman called me at my office. When I got to the school, Dan was sitting in the office in handcuffs. His father hadn’t arrived yet. I called Mr. Abrams, and he met me at the courthouse when we arrived. He talked briefly to the prosecutor. He’s wants them to file felony assault charges against Dan. According to Natalie, Dan called you a faggot twice before assaulting you. In our state, that constitutes a hate crime, which is a felony. Nettleman was there, too. He assured me that he will have an expulsion hearing next week with Dan and his parents.”
“Okay,” I replied. I felt numb to what my father had said. I don’t know if it was because of the medication I was given or the concussion. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
It was morning when I awoke. The clock on the wall read 6:23. I looked around the room and noticed Dad asleep in a chair. There was an IV in my arm, and a monitoring machine was next to my bed.
“Dad?” I whispered softly. When he didn’t awaken, I said his name a little louder.
He opened his eyes and rushed to the side of the bed. “Are you okay, Parker?” He asked worriedly.
“Yeah, Dad,” I replied as my face reddened. “I gotta take a piss really bad.” It felt like my bladder was getting ready to explode.
“Should I get a nurse?” he asked.
“I don’t have time for that,” I said urgently. “I gotta go now. Help me to the bathroom.”
“You shouldn’t get out of bed,” he replied as he looked at the IV and monitor. “I’ll find you a bed pan.” He hurried over to the sink, looked under it and returned with a blue bedpan.
“Here,” he said as he handed it to me. He stood over me looking down.
“Do you mind?” I giggled. “I’d like a little privacy.”
“Hell,” he laughed, “I used to change your diapers.”
“I’m not a baby anymore,” I replied with a smile. He said he understood and left the room. I must have peed a gallon. I was afraid the bedpan would overrun. A minute later, Dad returned, took it from me and flushed it down the toilet.
We sat and talked for a little while. Dad was still very upset about what had happened. “And to think he used to be your best friend. He was at the house so often when you guys were younger, I thought I had another son.
“He changed, Dad,” I responded. “When I came out, he kind of turned against me.”
“Has he threatened you in the past?”
“No,” I said. “I think he just couldn’t accept that I am gay. That’s why he quit coming around.”
“That’s what I figured, “He replied. “His mom and dad are really conservative. I stopped talking to Carl several years ago. He was always ranting about how the world is changing because of immigrants, blacks and gays. The nut didn’t fall far from the tree.”
“I guess not,” I replied. As we talked, I became aware that I could remember most of what we were discussing. It made me feel good. I knew a few football players who had taken a hard hit in the head and gotten a concussion. It sometimes took them weeks to recover. But then, I think some used it as an excuse so they wouldn’t have to do any classroom assignments.
An aide came in and took my breakfast order. I don’t usually eat a big breakfast, but I ordered many items off the menu for Dad. When it arrived, I ate a donut and drank some juice while he ate the bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. When she returned later for the tray, she remarked that I must have been hungry.
Mom arrived around nine with Natalie. She was still very upset. She described what happened after Dan hit me. She said Nettleman, several teachers and the school nurse wouldn’t let anyone near me. A security officer took Dan to the office. It took about ten minutes for the medics to arrive. I was put on a gurney and taken through the halls crowded with students. Natalie said several girls were crying. She said the school was once again placed on lockdown for the remainder of the day. When she left later, several news trucks were on the road outside. Nettleman made an announcement for all students to ignore them and not to give an interview.
“Was I on the news?” I asked excitedly. I moaned when Dad told me that I had been the lead story last night.
“I don’t think Somerset can handle much more publicity,” he said angrily. “Something has to be done.”
“What, Dr. Frazier?” asked Natalie.
He responded worriedly, “I don’t know. But a change has to come. And soon.”
We continued to chat for a few more minutes until the door flew open, and Darius and his parents came rushing into the room. Darius hurried over to the side of my bed.
“Oh, Baby!” he cried as he leaned down and kissed me on the lips. I looked over his shoulder and saw the astonished looks on everyone’s faces.