It's loud in the evenings in Morganstown. Cars drift by, music blaring, a mix of Mexicana and rap that swells into a headache behind my right eye. I feel the beat there now, pounding. Or maybe it's my heart that pounds out, "No, no, no" but I feel the answer, a cold bubble of truth that lodges like a knife in my gut.
I know but I don't want to know.
He's standing on the steps of his mother's apartment building, his teeth flash as he laughs with a skinny boy with FT shaved into the back of his head. But I don't see that other boy; I see him, my son.
Just his name and he freezes, his dark eyes wide, the dimple disappearing from his cheek.
I grab his arm, digging my calloused fingers into the plump flesh underneath.
"Dad?...Dad?" someone calls but I'm already dragging him across the street, ignoring the screaming horns and swear words. His skin is slippery with sweat but I yank him after me, not stopping when he stumbles. The music beats in the background like an accusation, ringing in my ears.
In the park where I took him to play as a kid, I stop. He trips and falls to his knees, blubbering. The swings sit empty and silent behind him as big sloppy tears pour down his cheeks, leaving wet circles on his blue t-shirt.
That bubble of cold breaks in my belly and spreads through my bones. I'm trembling. He's trembling.
"Darius, don't lie to me, son. Did you do it?"
He's on his knees, his eyes rolling wildly, looking at anything, anyone but me. To me, we are the only two people in the world. The vein behind my eye throbs. I yank the gun from the waist band of my jeans and I press it against his forehead. He moans. The cold wraps around my heart until each beat of it rips a bigger whole in my chest.
"Darius, I will know if you lie. I'll know."
To be continued...