NO ONE IS IN CUSTODY • by Ebony L. Morman

Fortunately and unfortunately, no two days are the same.

“I’ll be damned if I let them get the best of me, today! Not me, not today!” I say to myself.

The morning bell screams through the sound system. Within minutes, the halls are full of adolescents. Within seconds, they enter my classroom and it’s showtime.

“Good morning, Miss C,” Xavier wails across the classroom.

Zora follows with a “Yo, Miss C?”

“We need you to settle this debate,” X says just as the room begins to fill with 25 of his peers. “I’m trying to educate this young queen. She still thinks that the earth is flat. FLAT, Miss C!”

I smile and roll my eyes.

“Let’s start today’s class without a debate,” I announce to everyone.

“Got it, Miss C,” says X. “You still coming to my game on Friday? I promise I’ll ace my test if you do.”

I smile as I nod my head in agreement and I motion for everyone’s attention.

Some trivial conversations come to a halt while others continue. I start class anyway.

Assessment days are usually a breeze and this one is strategically placed. As I walk around the room, I observe some students rushing through the test, some barely making it through and a few taking it serious. I look over X’s shoulder as I pass his seat and he’s almost done. At first glance, I’m pretty sure it’s another perfect score. I see his hand shoot up and I grab his paper. He takes out a novel.

I grade it on the spot because that’s our tradition. He’s always the first to finish. Early on he convinced me that his should be the first one graded. Out of fairness, I don’t reveal his final score, just a fist bump at the end of class confirming he passed. Though, we both know a passing grade for X is a perfect score.

The bell rings, interrupting my thoughts. Before he exits, our fist bump.

“See you at my game, Miss C!”

***

I survive the day without being a referee, a psychologist, a nurse, a spiritual advisor or an older family member.

I slam the car door shut, start the engine, crack the driver side window, turn my Spotify playlist all the way up and put the car in reverse. On most days, I hate my commute. I hate hearing the gun shots as I drive through the city. I hate witnessing the drug deals. Most of all, I hate seeing my students hanging on the “block.” Today is not one of those days. Today, it’s quiet. No gun shots, not even one. No drug deals. Not one student lining the streets. The calm before the storm, I think. I try to nudge this eerie feeling out of my gut but the thoughts will not subside. More than ever, I need this drive down Lake Shore Drive. I need to take in the best skyline in the country. I need to hear the waves in Lake Michigan crash against the concrete. Most of all, I need to feel the lake breeze kiss my skin.

***

Testing is not on the agenda today. Today, there will be some good old-fashioned learning taking place.

“By any means necessary,” I whisper to no one in particular.

The bell serenades us with its favorite song. I prepare for their arrival. Nothing.

I wait a few more minutes. Nothing, still.

The eerie feeling returns. My gut feels as if someone is punching me from the inside. If last night was the calm, then, hello storm.

I head to the door. Nothing. I start down the hallway and it’s not long before I spot Xavier’s best friend sitting in front of X’s locker.

“Mr. O’Neal,” I start. “What’s going on? Where are your classmates?”

He is disheveled and unresponsive.

I repeat myself, only this time, I raise my voice an octave.

His eyes meet mine. I can feel the sadness, the despair, the breaking of his heart. His eyes are cloudy. I see the tears fall behind his Ray Ban frames.

“It’s X,” he cries. “X—”

My entire life flashes before me. He doesn’t need to say more. I know what it means. My knees get weak and it takes everything for me to make it back to my desk. My thoughts are jumbled. Nothing makes sense.

I chose Kennedy High, which means I chose not to deal with private school brats and their “issues,” though they were the same I had as a student at one of the most prestigious private schools in the city. I was naive to think my choice ended there.

Choosing Kennedy meant low test scores over high achievement, extreme behavior issues over those that could be resolved with just a tap on the wrist, one-parent or no-parent households over “stable,” two-parent households, and to some people failure over success. It started to resonate that I signed up for far more than I bargained.

I manage to pull out my phone to type a quick search into Google and my throat tightens as I read the words:

Xavier “X” Bryant was gunned down Thursday evening. Allegedly, the 14-year-old boy was walking down the street following basketball practice when someone ran up to him and opened fire. The gunman immediately fled the scene. A resident who heard the gunshots called the police.

Known to his family and friends as “X,” he was an exceptional student and leader in school. He was the captain of the debate team and the baseball team.

X was a respectful young man who loved painting, debating and sports. He is the only child of two loving parents, one doctor and one lawyer.

No one is in custody.

Fortunately and unfortunately, no two days are the same.


Ebony L. Morman’s primary passion is writing. She holds a MFA from Columbia College Chicago and is currently an educator in Nashville, TN.


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