The Definition of Hope

The Definition of Hope

The day breaks sweaty like the last, like every day in summer. In the city where there are no trees, no shade – only blocks of cement baking like dessert in the church basement after service. Luther at the edge of the alley offers to sell you a gun but no bullets. The news is on, floating from open windows across the neighborhood, all channels report the same in a monotone chorus of strife – the riots, the riots, the riots, and when will order be restored? Mama Yea fans herself with her church bulletin on her front porch, rocking back and forth, and tells us that great change is coming as we pass by on our bikes – but not before great violence. There’s a mural of a rising sun on the south-facing wall of the corner store, a sun red and orange over a garden and the city skyline against it. It was painted twelve years ago after Mike Yellow was shot by police, the same day Ronny died after he jumped from a bridge downtown – he would have shot himself, Mama Yea says, her voice just above a whisper. But there weren’t any bullets in the gun Luther sold him. It’s the anniversary today. As Long As I Breathe, I Hope The pastor of the church at the end of the block, Pastor Johns, has breath that smells like sour milk, and he leans in close when he’s talking to you. I am in love with Casey who lives three buildings down from mine and she knows it. But she has to stay inside most...
Not For Sale

Not For Sale

Gogo was raised by her uncle, whose last name was Sale, after her mother died and her father left for Africa. Her father never returned from Africa, and whether he was alive or dead she never cared to find out. Her uncle was a large man. He had a strong jaw and head shaped like an anvil – his words had the same sort of weight. Though he didn’t say much, and his house was large enough that they were able to coexist while rarely crossing paths. Gogo told me she could dissolve into a glass of water when he yelled for peace and quiet. The house was on the edge of the Okopai River. When I visited we stayed in her room. If we were hungry we left her house and went to the small diner nearby. If her uncle was in a bad mood we stayed at my place, hiding beneath the covers of my bed so that my parents wouldn’t know she was there. We were safe beneath the blankets, lying close together and whispering about where we would go tomorrow, next month, next year, forever. We read books to each other: Great Russian literature and a few of the American classics, like An American Tragedy when we found it on sale. We read Waiting for Godot, which was one of her favorites, and promised we would see it performed live someday after we saved enough money. We read the poetry of Nikki Giovanni and wondered how so much could be said with so few words. My parents never caught us. Gogo always slipped through the...