I wasn't pleased with the verdict, yesterday, but I don't think any verdict could've pleased me. Because Trayvon Martin's dead, and that matters.
We traveled to Baltimore, yesterday: five people; all manner of Pampered Chef tools; and a giant, cookie cake. I needed icing and birthday candles to decorate that cake, so Jim stopped at an Aldi in downtown Baltimore. He wanted to know if I felt alright about going inside, and I said something about having worked in the heart of Dallas in the middle of the night.
People don't generally scare me. Maybe they should, but I'd rather err on the side of comfort than on that of fear.
This is the kind of store where every item's still packed in a big, brown box with the rest of its kind, and I don't get that. Why is that? Do they think someone's going to want the whole, brown box full? There's nothing aesthetically pleasing about a space with so many brown boxes, and trust me, no one's confused. Not even the food's confused; it's ready to get in a moving truck and get the h-e-double-matchsticks out of there.
A young, thin black man and I nearly bumped into one another in the aisle. I can't remember who said sorry or excuse me or what, but I looked brightly at him and reached out, brushed his sleeve. "Do you know where the birthday candles are?" I asked, and I thought of Trayvon.
"Birthday candles," he repeated, his tone rich and warm as melty chocolate. "Not sure. You'd think they'd be right here, though." I mmm'd my agreement; kept on studying the brown boxes full of smaller boxes; thought of Trayvon.
There was a woman pushing a baby in a cart. She had two other children with her, besides, and I'd heard her long before I saw her because she'd been screaming at Jabril. She was screaming at him, still, and I'd like to tell you she was threatening to spank his little hiney, but in fact, she was threatening to kick his ass: her expression as hateful as her tone. Jabril must've been accustomed to both because--when I saw him--he was climbing the big, brown boxes and paying her absolutely no nevermind.
He was six or eight, and I thought of Trayvon. I prayed right then and there for Jabril's mama; she looked young and overwhelmed enough to be those things for a very long time.
I asked a worker about the candles and she confirmed: they don't carry them, and what does that mean? Don't people in downtown Baltimore blow out candles on their birthdays? What a sad grocery store to assume its patrons wouldn't purchase candles (just food stuffs out of big, brown boxes), but I responded only with a thank-you and a smile. "You're welcome," she said--calling me Honey or Sug or some such--with her own smile. I thought of Trayvon.
The man in front of the man in front of me punched in the same, wrong pin number three times as I waited patiently in line with my can of vanilla icing. "Is there someone you can call," the cashier asked, "to get the correct pin number?" And then: "Will you come back for your groceries?"
"I'll have to, I guess," he said, scowling from under the brim of his hat. I thought of Trayvon.
"Yes," she said, "but will you?" She was cool as a self-assured cucumber in her cat eye glasses, only about eighteen. She didn't even have paper or plastic: just more brown boxes. I thought of Trayvon.
And it's all I know to do; understand? I'm too tired to preach to anybody. I'm just doing my thing: I'm deciding not to be afraid; making contact with my eyes and fingertips and smile. I'm praying and waiting patiently. I'm thinking of Trayvon because he's dead, and it matters so much.