No Judging Allowed

The Lone Loyal Voice in the Village

Deedra walked in the door from work absolutely exhausted. She plopped down on the lounge chair closest to the door and immediately removed her red bottoms. Her feet ached something terrible but she couldn’t pass on the deal she’d gotten on an authentic pair of Christian Louboutin even if they were too small. She’d searched high and low for the Daffodile 160 crystal embellished suede pump for months and when she found them she couldn’t resist. Too small, six thousand dollar shoes, to her was a sign that she’d finally made it. Deedra grabbed the remote and rested her throbbing feet on top of her white leather ottoman as she pressed the power button. Suddenly, she remembered the bottle of Vendange Chardonnay she’d placed in the wine cooler before leaving for work and her aching feet no longer mattered. Deedra hopped up, ran to the kitchen; grabbed a wine glass, the wine bottle and the wine opener before heading back to the couch where she intended to stay for the rest of the evening. Her growling belly was covered, since she’d stopped and picked up sushi on her way home. She began to salivate as she thought about sinking her teeth into fresh sashimi and sushi while washing it back with her favorite wine. Since she was dining alone and not with clients, she’d even been a little more adventurous in ordering and decided to try fresh water eel and cured octopus for the first time. The voice of her mother saying highfaluting came to mind, when she thought about what she was having for dinner; a claim Deedra vehemently denied.

She poured herself a glass of wine and grabbed the remote to tune into Lifetime. As she grabbed her glass to take a sip, she saw something on the screen that caught her attention. Fox5 news was showing clips of a video surveillance that looked eerily familiar. Deedra turned up the volume and listened intently as the reporter stood in front of her old neighborhood describing a horrifying event that had taken place directly in front of her mother’s building earlier in the day. She turned up the volume and watched in disbelief as she heard, eighty year old Thelma Dunn and her five year old great granddaughter were both found dead, shot execution style. She was shocked. Mrs. Dunn was her mom’s next door neighbor. She was the sweetest woman anyone would meet. Once a month, Mrs. Dunn would stop by with share baskets full of food from her church. As she watched, her old neighborhood on the news, the indifference she usually felt began to feel more like empathy. Guilt engulfed her as she wondered if her empathy was situational; after all it was the murder of an elderly woman and a child. And she couldn’t remember ever feeling this ache in her heart when the victims were young, black and male. She loathed growing up in Voiceless Village; in poverty. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d visited her mom for that very reason. But what she could remember from her last visit was the stench of liquor and urine in the hallway and the heaviness of hopelessness that burdened her when she left. It was a burden she’d felt most of her life. As she kissed her mom goodbye, she silently promised to never return. It was a promise she’d keep.

Growing up with six brothers and sisters in a three bedroom apartment didn’t leave her with many great childhood memories. The many nights they ate potted meat and crackers by candlelight as a result of the electricity being cut off, while her mom was off at the casino trying to win the money to turn the electricity back on. If her mom returned home with a smile and a bucket of Colonel’s greasy fried chicken, they knew she’d hit pay dirt. From the moment, Deedra turned fourteen she began working and never stopped. Two jobs afterschool and on weekends would be her teenage years. The knowledge of her mom dropping out of school in the seventh grade, was the driving force behind her quest and passion for education. Sheer determination to not be like her and to never be in a position in which she was forced to live in dilapidated conditions pushed her to work hard; providing the fuel for her to graduate high school with honors and a full scholarship to college.

When she went off to college, she rarely looked back for which her brothers and sisters accused her of being disloyal; forgetting where she came from is what they always chimed. And although she would never openly admit it, in a sense, they were right. Deedra certainly wanted to forget the pain of going to bed on an empty stomach. She didn’t want to remember the embarrassment of not knowing how to ride a bike because they couldn’t afford one. She tried to forget the discomfort of having to share a twin bed with two other people and the constant sounds of gunshots right outside of their living room window. Having to step over chalk outlines on her way to school was a daily occurrence. The shame of having to go to school wearing clothes from Goodwill was something she would never have to endure again; her weekly shopping sprees took care of that. She didn’t enjoy family gatherings in which they all sat around laughing and sharing all of their fond childhood memories; she didn’t have any to share. Too her, the memories were much too painful. She often wonder why anyone would want to continue to live in those conditions. Why was her mother so content with having nothing? Somehow the resentment she’d felt for having to grow up in conditions, in her opinion unfit for animals made her less empathetic to anyone in her mind who chose to stay. It was a choice, she would argue. According to her, everyone was offered the same opportunities as she had been. It wasn’t her fault they were too lazy to take advantage of any of them.

At that moment Deedra saw a clearer image on the screen that took her breath away. A less grainy photo of the face of a young black male, staring into the camera before running from the building; with the caption wanted for double murder. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. In desperation, she jumped up and grabbed her purse, in search of her cell phone. Deedra had forgotten to turn it back on after her meeting. But when she did, thirty missed calls and twenty voice mails awaited her; all from her mom. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she stared at the image of the young man. Deedra turned the television off and began pacing the floor; it was all she could think to do. “Oh my god, Demarcus what have you done”, she whispered tearfully.

Trembling Deedra dialed his number; reaching his voice mail. Her message was short and terse. Choking back tears, she simply said call me. But she knew he wouldn’t. He too thought she was uppity and had turned her back on her family. Whenever she tried to reach out to him, the fifteen year old would dismiss her efforts as disingenuous. As she stared at the voicemail indicator, she struggled with trying to convince herself, that this wasn’t her issue; or her problem. She didn’t live there anymore. She’d shaken the dust off of her feet long ago and moved three states away for the sole purpose of distancing herself from the likes of the people and the violence in that neighborhood. Deedra sat down and for the first time, she wondered if her family had been right all along. If her disdain for poverty and her quest for success had turned her into someone who was now using the same bootstraps she’d used to raise herself up with to now choke and punish those she’d left behind. It was a question, she’d never allowed herself to ask until now.

What could’ve gone wrong, she wondered. Demarcus was a good hearted kid from what she could remember. Although, she was away at college and subsequently moved away when he was growing up, she received updates from her mom regularly. Deedra would beam with pride whenever her mom would called to tell her Demarcus made honor roll or that he’d won first place in the regional spelling bee. Receiving good news confirmed that the monthly checks she was sending to her mom were being put to good use and periodical good news was enough to allow her to sleep at night. But somewhere around the age of ten, the span of calls began to widen; slowly dissipating to nothing. And when the calls did come, they were usually a request to obtain a lawyer or to bail Demarcus out of juvenile hall to which she obliged reluctantly. The pain and the anguish she felt in her heart at that moment sent her to her knees. The guilt Deedra felt for leaving him behind made her wonder if this tragedy was her fault. Just as she began to pray her phone rang. “Hello”. “Hi, Aunt Deedra, it’s Demarcus”. She began to cry at the sound of his voice. Something in his voice, said he needed her like never before. The awkward feeling that usually separated the two whenever they spoke was no more. Deedra could hear the pain in his voice as he tried to comfort her. “Aunt Dee don’t cry”. Are you okay, she said in between sobs? “Yes, Aunt Dee, I’m hanging in there. I just wanted you to know that I’m okay but I gotta go”. She paused as she tried to wrap her brain around what had transpired. She wanted to ask him why, who, what, when and how come but she knew that some of those answers belonged to her. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I wish I had done things differently. I love you Demarcus. I love you so much. Please forgive me.” I love you too Aunt Dee. I gotta go, were his last words before he hung up. She held the phone to her ear listening to the dial tone, knowing it was probably the last time she would speak with him. History and late night crime shows reminded her that when the police found him, they would shoot him dead. She knew she needed to do something; he was a baby. Yet, she couldn’t help but remember that he was a baby that murdered two innocent people.

Deedra struggled for hours about what to do. Snitches get stiches; what goes on in this house stays in this house; loyalty above all else and all of the clichés she’d grown up hearing and believing, in this situation didn’t seem to carry the same weight. Two innocent people had been killed; murdered in cold blood. Two families’ lives have been destroyed. Voiceless Village had never been loyal to her or anyone else who lived there. The people who lived there weren’t loyal to each other; sitting idly by and allowing the murders of their neighbors to take place without ever saying a word. Silence was the way of life and a means of survival. But at what cost, she didn’t have to wonder. She already knew. This wasn’t the first time she had information about a murder but it was the first time she’d ever felt compelled to do something; to stand up for the voiceless. Deedra picked up the phone and began dialing trying to get in contact with the detective handling the case. After being on hold for what felt like hours and being transferred to countless people, she was finally connected to the detective in charge. She stated her name and told Det. Marshal that she had information and that she knew the young man in the video wanted for the double murder. “His name is Demarcus,” she repeated. She began to cry uncontrollably as Det. Marshal asked her what her relationship was to Demarcus. Deedra took a deep breath and said as loud as she could, he’s my son.

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