Dying in the Dark by Valerie Wilson Wesley

By Valerie Wilson Wesley

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He balled his right hand into a fist and hit the palm of his left hand three times. If he hadn't been a kid, I would have been scared of him. His eyes got hard, and he stared straight out my dirty office window to the buildings outside. When he shifted his gaze back to me, tears were still in his eyes, but he didn't try to keep them back this time. My first impulse was to offer some comfort, but knowing teenage boys like I do, I knew that was the last thing he would want from somebody else's mama.

That was always a common point of entry to any conversation. His face softened the way mine does when I mention Jamal. ‘A daughter. Nia. ” He chuckled self-consciously. ‘An empty nest can be a good thing for a couple. ” I'd heard that on some talk show and threw it out for lack of anything better to say. “My wife and I are divorced. Well, you want the car, Ms. ” He'd changed the subject abruptly but there was no nastiness in his tone, just an eagerness to get the deal done. It told me that the breakup of his marriage had been recent enough for him not to want to talk about it, but far enough in the past for some perspective.

And there were no follow-up stories. I looked every day. I can't say I shed any tears when I read it. We had known each other a long time ago and not parted as friends. We fought over a man, the dumbest thing in the world two women can fight over, so she'd gone her way and I'd gone mine. The last time I saw her, she was climbing into the driver's seat of a midnight blue Lincoln. She had a Virginia Slims cigarette dangling out her mouth and a men's T-shirt covering her high pregnant belly. I called her name, and when she turned in my direction, I saw a bruise the size of a silver dollar on the left side of her mouth.

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