I'm in the school bathroom washing my hands without soap but I'm still washing my hands. I turn the water off and look for a paper towel but paper towels have been gone since the first day of school and it's June now. I start to leave the bathroom with my wet hands but then the big boys come in talking loud and cussing like they rap stars or have new sneakers. I hear the one named Pinto talking about how someone should get Omar after school since he's the only Muslim they know. Pinto talks with an accent like he's new in the neighborhood too. I don't have to ask him what he's talking about since everybody is talking about the Towers and how they ain't there no more. My momma said it's like a woman losing both breasts to cancer and my daddy was talking at the dinner table about how senseless violence is and Mrs. Gardner next door lost two tall boys to drive-bys Bullets flying into both boys heads making them crumble too. Everybody around here is filled with fear and craziness and now Pinto and the big boys thinking about doing something bad. I stare at my wet hands dripping water on my shoes and wonder if I should run and tell Omar or just run. I feel like I'm trapped in the middle of one of those Bible stories but it ain't Sunday. I hear my Momma's voice saying Boy, always remember to wash your hands but always remember you can't wash your hands from everything. Nashville, TN 10/12/01
E. Ethelbert Miller - 1950-
When was the last time you mailed a postcard? My mother kept the ones I sent her. My sister mailed them back to me after my mother died. I had forgotten I had written so many small notes to my mother. The price of stamps kept changing. I was always mentioning on the back of cards I was having a good time. I can remember the first time I lied to my mother. It was something small maybe the size of a postcard. I went somewhere I was not supposed to go. I told my mother I was at the library but I was with Judy that afternoon. Her small hand inside my hand. I was beginning to feel something I knew I would never write home about.