It’s 8am and sizzling hot. I’m already late. I pass a Green light and I am walking fast up the block.
I see the line of heads shaking. Some women pacing. Everyone looking down. I look down to see the red spots covered in chalk and mosquitos.
What is this? I look closer. It’s someone’s shadow caught in the middle of a walk near the door of Mr. Singh’s shop.
I looked around and saw the cops. It’s then that I knew he was dead and that I had killed him!
I cried to school in total loss. How come I never told my ma? I heard them say they would shoot the day before when I went to pick up a coke for dinner. I heard them cussing in the car.
“Mother fucker is gonna pay for his disrespectful shit.”
I honestly thought that mother fucker was me. I was the only one there, so who else could it be?
I cried like hell all the way home too. As I passed his store I still saw the lines. Brown now. Mosquitos resting still and yellow tape all around. Mr. Singh was gone. That nice man with the tall turbine and the very strict voice. He was gone.
He and My dad would talk. He liked to talk to my dad about politics and history and books. A respect even. I knew it was going to be hard to tell my dad what I saw.
I got home. His eyes had been crying.
I learned that Mr. Singh was dead because he demanded respect. Apparently, the kids in the projects would come steal his candy and sometimes other things. He’d often look away. The kids that shot him had gone too far, but he broke the rule. He chased them home and went to their mother. He demanded justice. He wanted them beat or punished. When she refused, he did it for her.
I have to tell you that I saw this again. This violent end for “disrespect.” and yellow tape. More yellow tape.
In a different city and a different life
Mohammed, or Mr. Mike, saw me grow from 12-21. I’d go to his store often. Once again he became a family friend. We shared stories. He would asked me about school. Who was I going to be? Who are you? Always friendly. Always kind.
One day I drive passed his shop on another hot sizzling day. I see the yellow tape and sigh to myself.
So I watch the news that day. Shot 5 times. His clerk too. The whisper in the hood is that he refused. He refused to be “disrespected.”