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every other man

The light outside the main entrance to our building has gone out again. The heavy metal door swings wide as I pull a hat down over my ears. In the darkness there are maybe twenty teenagers standing still. My boot scrapes across the ground, slowing down. Their hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, I look for a space to pass between them. A voice appears, saying hello in English, with an obvious accent. I am all instinct, sayingpivyet as I pass, not looking back, wondering who said this. There was a boy that was an extra in Blackbetty that lives in our building, but he is too young, too short for it to have been him.

I look back, navigating the puddles in the street. It does not make any sense.

N is with V, making their way home. I meet them, pulling V into my arms as she chatters about her day, about dry leaves and princesses, about her grandmother's apartment and what she ate there. We are going back home, and I try to explain the odd collection that stands outside. As we pass th…

the playground

E comes home from school on Friday, and her normal smile of relief is not there. She is usually out of her school clothes in minutes, curled on the couch asking me what we are having for lunch. Today, she stands in the dark corridor, her shoulders hanging low. Her mouth opens, closes, nothing coming out. I ask her what happened.
"A boy, a boy from our school." She begins. "He died."
"How?" I ask. 
"There was a man in the playground, he gave him some gum and it had poison on it." She explains.
Her mouth twists around. 
"You knew him?" I ask. "What grade was he in?"
She nods once. 
"Seventh." She says at one point.
E leans against me for a bit. I rest a hand on the small of her back. 

Later, we will talk, as I make sure she knows not to take anything from anyone but of course she knows that but I say it anyway. There are calls to find out more about what happened, what there is to know. It turns out that none of this is on the news, that there is no police investigation, no hovering presence of guards on the school playground although there are hordes of them in the metro. The mothers are all sharing information, talking in private secure chats. But there is no official statement. 

The boy died and nothing changes. 

Nothing will happen except for stern words from parents to their children. There is talk that there is a gang behind these acts, that they have been doing this all over the city. But there is nothing in the news about it. Well, the news stopped being the news a few years ago. 

E is processing things. There are no tears, no nightmares. I wonder if living here has insulated her, or worn her down until she simply accepts whatever random act she is presented with as inevitable. 









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