I’m not sure I can remember how to breathe; my chest is hurting from all the sobbing. But that pain is nothing compared to the ache in my heart.
My boy! My beautiful boy, what did they do to you?
I hear my own voice, as if from miles away, begging for answers – but no-one has any to offer. Your father tries to hold me, to comfort me, but I’m not having any of that. He was supposed to protect you. Call this protection? I could’ve done a better job of it myself. I’m angry now, real angry and broken too. If I could see those bastards, I’d tear them apart with my bare hands. Lord, forgive me – I know you gave up your only son, but no-one had the right to take mine! God help me. God help us all. What kind of world are we living in anyway, where a sixteen-year-old child can end up like this? Cold as ice, he is.
They tried to fix you up, so it wouldn’t look too bad but I can still see the marks. Did they think a mother wouldn’t know every curve of her son’s face? Fools, they’re all fools. On your way home from choir, they said. A gang of youths with nothing better to do attacked a choir boy, and for what? Your dad thinks it was racist. But people don’t really do that, do they? You had friends of all colours all of your life, and this is England. We all have equal rights here.
The service is starting now, son. I’ll be brave for you one last time. That pastor has a fine voice. There are no instruments in our little church. We don’t need them. I think I read somewhere that whenever a group of black people gather to praise the Lord their voices don’t need an accompanist. That’s surely true. Listen!
“Then sings my soul, my saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”
I can’t join in, son. I’m sorry Lord. But how great are you if you can let this happen? Why didn’t you protect him, God? He was a good child. He was going to college. He might have been a pastor, or a doctor. He could have saved lives or even souls, but you never gave him a chance. So what makes you so great?
Your father’s crying. I want to comfort him, but I can’t bear to touch him or let him touch me. Times have changed so much. Once, I longed to feel him close to me, that’s how you came into the world. No one will ever touch me that way again. That act is for making children and I am done with that. What you don’t have you can’t lose, and I’ve lost both of mine. First, your sister – shot in the street, back home in Kingston. That was when we brought you here to England, to be safe. Huh! What else can I say? Now you’re gone too.
Is it a punishment for my sins, Lord?
Who am I kidding? There’s nobody listening to me at all.
How do you take your coffee, Pastor? Black or white?