Nemo Tenetur Seipsum Accusare
Sharon sprung up, hinged at the hip, as she sat in her bed, her torso slightly tilted forward as if leaning closer to the bedroom’s door would help her listen past the sound of her heart thump, thump, thumping. She anchored, stiff-backed and paralyzed. Only her chest moved, as she inhaled, exhaled, her ribs constricting each breath and heartbeat. And her nylon baby doll nightie, its right strap slid from her shoulder down her arm, resting beneath her elbow. Pulling down the thin fabric across her torso, exposing her right breast.
Ray Ray came home last night, didn’t he?
She could have sworn she heard the slightly incongruent shuffle of his stride after hearing the door shut barely above a whisper. She was certain that that was him who came in as she watched the last few minutes of Power.
That had been Ray Ray, hadn’t it?
Sharon hadn’t called out his name because she didn’t want to wake the twins from their school night slumber. And because she was sure that it was him. The cadence of his strut as familiar to her as the stretch marks on her stomach, the grays on her head.
But she hadn’t called out his name. She hadn’t gotten up from her bed to check. She hadn’t really been certain that it was him before her eyes turned to sleep, and her mind shut down, now had she? So now, she sat skewed, unsure and unsteady, staring before her at what has always been the door to her bedroom.
But even of that she was uncertain.
Staring past her sleep-clouded vision into the lurid black of her predawn tomb, Sharon silently cursed the dark while aloud she begged, “God please tell me that was in my dream. Please God, tell me that was a...”
But God could curse too.
Her bedroom door smashed in, shooting splinters of cheap wood. “Get the fuck down, get the fuck down now!”
Which came first? The silver white light that stunned her blind, the barrel of the gun jabbed into her forehead, the piss that ran warm down her shivering inner right thigh, or the suffocating white claws that clasped around her neck? Who knows. But that she eventually kissed her floor was without question.
Sharon, sandwiched between urine-covered wood planks and the pudgy white man who incessantly shifted and thrusted his knee upon and into her lower back, leveling her flat and prone, became acutely aware of her wet nipples and her bare ass. She became acutely aware of her assailability. She became acutely aware of her black womanhood.
The man’s bone-hard leg pressed deep into her ass. His leather stiff, street-worn crusty sneaker cuffed her vagina as it supported his straddle. His forearm rested against her exposed spine pressing her deeper into her piss, as his calloused fingers and foul breath molested the nape of her neck. Sharon wished the hardwood floor, her piss or the black that had once been before this break-in, she wished it would swallow her free.
The white man, who carried a puffy inner tube covered by a black hoodie around his torso shouted, “where the fuck is the shit, where the fuck are the drugs?! Where the fuck is Rayshawn?” What he didn’t say aloud, but what she heard communicated clearly between them… tell me or I will blow your fucking brains out bitch!
Sharon’s throat and the fist that squeezed it seized her scream. Rayshawn. The twins. My babies! she longed to howl. Someone save them!
Before Sharon could open her mouth, she heard a struggle ensue in the hallway outside of her bedroom door. Glass vases and ornamental bowls that once rested on the length of the narrow table crashed to the floor. Sneakers and boots screeched against the wood floor. Ray Ray screamed.
“What you doing? Get off me! I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything!” his pitch peaked soprano high, sending Sharon over the edge of crazy.
“Ray Ray! Ray Ray!” she yelled from the base of her gut past the chokehold that threatened to trap her breath. “Get the fuck off my son. Let him go! Let him go!”
“Yo, lemme ask you a question.”
“Yea, wus good April?”
“Where did you think you were going today? Did you think you were going to play ball at the park? Did you think you was goin to ya girlfriend’s crib? Did ya think you were gonna kick it with the fuckin homies? Where the fuck did you think you were goin today?”
I stared Frankie dead in his face, knowing that my harsh words and tone could turn this whole attorney-client relationship of ours sour. But, I didn’t care. Not even a scintilla. It was 10 minutes to 11. Court opened over an hour ago. The judge, a mean antebellum south typa muthafucka who wasn’t in the business of waiting on criminal defendants, had been on the bench for at least 45 minutes now. And Frankie had the nerve to show up late, dressed in a dusty ass wrinkled white tee, basketball shorts, white ankle socks and Nike flip flops.
What the muthafuck!
“Didn’t I ask you to wear your Sunday’s best? Your church suit?!”
But, Frankie had zero fucks to give me, the courthouse we stood in or the white walker looking ancient crypt keeper of a judge who held his fate in his wilted hand.
He looked at me without malice, without contempt, without a fleck of any damn emotion and nonchalantly replied, “I don’t go to church.”
I couldn’t help but stare at this fool, my lips agape, snarling crooked. If there was ever a time when I wanted to lay my hands on somebody, it was now. Like, for real tho. While staring at him, I couldn’t help but to envision hooking off dead in his face. Tightening my grip around my briefcase’s handle, I just stared.
Bzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The vibration broke my fury. I pulled my cell out of the right pocket of my suit jacket and saw that Sharon, my aunt Bev’s friend, was on the line.
“Ok Frankie. Go inside and just sit. If the court officer calls your name, let him know I’m out here. I gotta take this call.”
I didn’t even wait for his response. I turned around and hotfooted towards the nearest window, to take Sharon’s call without any reception issues. I swiped the green “answer” option.
“Hey Sharon, what’s going on? You good?”
“April!” Sharon screamed, “the cops done run in my house. They came in. Didn’t knock, nothing. Kicked in the door and took, they took my kids!” At the mention of her kids, Sharon’s screaming turned into relentless wailing, only interrupted by the sound of her short breaths in, followed by more of her churning, desperate heartbreak.
I ached for Sharon. But she called me because she needed a lawyer, not a friend. And, I had a fool of a client who sat in court as if he were next in a game of 21, rather than facing a 2-to-5. I didn’t have time for bullshit, or compassion.
“Sharon, I’m in court and we need to get your babies back. What do you mean the cops took the kids?!”
Sharon finally realized that the intruders who wore black hoodies and jeans… the intruders who flashed guns and smug smirks… the intruders who choked and flung and cursed her… that those intruders were the police.
The police rounded her and her children up, and brought them to the living room, where she sat shaking on the edge of her couch handcuffed and facing her firstborn - Ray Ray. That Rayshawn could not look in her eyes did not go unnoticed by her.
Sharon had lived in the streets of Brooklyn long enough to know the rules. She dated all kinds of dope boys. She transported weight across state lines a time or two. She spent more than a few nights in jail. But that was all way back when she was struggling to feed Ray, struggling to find herself and begging to find love. These were all bones buried, and hidden well away from the greedy eyes and thirsty ears of her children.
But now, sitting four feet across from her 18-year-old son and her twins, 6-year-olds Renata and Rochelle, Sharon second-guessed her decision to keep her secrets locked away. She knew that she had not prepared Ray Ray for this life, a life she now knew that he was dabbling in. She now knew that the lessons she learned needed to be passed on.
“Listen, the longer yous take to talk, the worse it’s gonna be for yous. If yous just tell us where the shit is, we won’t toss ya crib. We already fucked up the top floor. We’re just gonna do more of the same to the whole fuckin house. Just tell us where it is, so we can get the fuck outta here.”
Sharon knew this was all bullshit. But does Ray Ray? Has he ever heard the snaking lies of the law before?
“Officer, we don’t know what ya talking about. There’s nothin’ here,” Sharon offered.
“Look, ya just making it harder for ya’self. If yous tell us where it’s at, we’ll just get it and take Rayshawn. We know it’s his. But the longer yous make us wait, we’re gonna have to call ACS to come and get these girls. Yous don’t want that do yous? Come on Rayshawn! Ya little sisters in some stranger’s foster home? Yous never know what can happen to two little girls around strange men.”
Ray Ray stirred. He was about to break at the mere mention of his sisters going into the system.
Sharon was more aware of the truth of the officer’s statement than he knew. But whatever Rayshawn had going on had already tossed them head first into the deep end. Now there was no going back. All that was left was to ride and paddle and stroke this wave as best they could.
Rayshawn began, “It’s in…”
Sharon interrupted loud and undeterred, talking to everyone and looking at nothing and no one but Rayshawn, ignoring the cops and her twins, conjuring telepathic connection of we in this together with her firstborn…
“Like I said. We don’t know what the fuck you talkin’ about. Ain’t shit here!”
Ray Ray sat back, and shut the fuck up.
“Ms. Sharon, what the cops find?
“They said they found two guns and an ounce of weed in Ray Ray’s room.”
“What did you say to the police? What did Ray Ray say?”
“Nah, Ray Ray ain’t say nothin. It was mostly me, I was screaming for them not to take him. I begged them not to take my baby.”
“Ms. Sharon, what did Ray Ray say?”
“I’m telling you, he didn’t say shit! He was going to, but then I stopped him.”
“Ok, where are the girls?”
“ACS came and got them. I have to go to court for them tomorrow.”
“Ms. Prince, your case is being called,” the court officer shouted from in front of the court part where Frankie waited. I gave him a swift chin-up nod and raised my index finger before my chest. One minute. That’s all I needed. He gave me a thumbs-up in response.
“Ms. Sharon, I have to go. I’m with a client in court. Text me the name and number of the ACS worker who took the girls. And text me Ray Ray’s full name and date of birth. As soon as I’m done here, I’ll head right over to the precinct to make sure the police know he's lawyered up."
Nemo tenetur seipsum accusare. No one is bound to accuse himself.