Neighborhood Forum

by Terri Steel

/ You are in the airport, waiting to board the plane when you read the message posted on your neighborhood forum; she warns you of sirens, cops and suspicious guys who do not fit the Canton demographic.

You think you read wrong and misunderstood her intention, so you read it again, but cannot understand why she thinks her words are okay.

You joined this Facebook group a few days ago, looking for connection and community after moving and unpacking boxes, hoping to find friendships. You try to push her words away; burying is something you have mastered, but fifty-two years of layers cannot protect you.


Her words tunnel through the barrier, touching on a fear that lay deep in your heart tucked under a safe covering of white skin before it was removed by your grandson's cries that unearthed a thunderous roar, removing folds of protection to reveal a truth you preferred not to see.

When despair threatens to drown you from images racing through your mind of innocent boys shot down by bullets filled with fear, flashing against your grandson's big brown eyes, your fingers move like triggers across black keys intending to destroy and cross out those words you cannot bear to tolerate in your new grey skin.


A calming comes over you as you re-read the exchange:

She: Hi neighbors, Just wanted to let everyone know that sirens are going off around Rite-Aid and just before cops arrived I saw a group of suspicious guys lets just say they didn't fit Canton's demographic.

You: I live in Canton. My family is mixed. Does that fit Canton's demographic?

It is only temporary, a brief pause of reprieve before the fires have flamed. The phone vibrates excitement as voices chime in with new strangers all humming with hurt.


Five minutes pass before the entire exchange is erased as if it all never existed. Still you and she both know it did and now you wish that you could see her, talk to her, ask her what it is she fears. When will you look at my grandson and see a monster? Will he be ten? Will it be when he wears a hoodie? Will it be after he graduates high school?

Only, you and she already know the answer. She was afraid the day he was born and you cannot take away her fear.


The evening after you arrive back home tanned and rested you hear a knock and open the door to a man offering literature to his local church. You take the pamphlet, meet his eyes and are surprised when he thanks you for answering. The night is as dark as his skin.


Neighborhood Forum by Terri Steel

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