Friday, March 20, 2020


There's a house up the block - the one with the Deathly Hallows on the door - and I could hear him screaming.

As I passed, on foot, I could hear - among the many expletives - the reasons for his wrath.

Something about the laundry.

Something about his damned son - whose ass was gonna get kicked because he was riding his Big Wheel too far from the designated mailbox border.

I saw her face, downcast.

I kept walking...

and made it maybe 20 yards or so.

Is THIS who I am?

The one who'd rather slink away than stand and fight?


I cast about for my courage. Where the hell has it gone?

I talk a Gryffindor game but when the time came will it be said that I up and run?

Fuck no.

I'd rather die in battle than live a coward. And be damned if I'm gonna flee from the House of the Deathly Hallows.

I turn around.

My steps are steady but my mind is racing.

Do I prepare for a fist fight with this man who's got military signage in his yard and what appear to be service-commemorative tattoos on his arms?

I guess I'm prepared, because my feet keep moving, but my racing mind? Is stilled.

Or, more accurately, moments before my feet hit their yard, my mind hones in on a still - the image of a little boy, only 8 years old, who I never met, but whose story recently filled me with guilt. Guilt that the system failed him. Guilt at the pain he endured. Guilt that I wasn't there to stop it...

The last one, I knew, was an unreasonable guilt.

I mean, I didn't even know Gabriel Fernandez. How could I have saved him?

My feet hit the grass.

"Excuse me!," I yell over the din.

He stops screaming.

They both stare at me.

What. the fuck. do I do now?

I still haven't decided. And all I have in my head is Gabriel Fernandez.

As I scramble for a battle plan that I should've had before I marched myself over, I hear the voice of Gabriel Fernandez's teacher, saying that every time she called child protective services, Gabriels' beatings got worse.

I decide it's safest - for the woman and the son - for me to deescalate.

I tell her I've noticed the Deathly Hallows on her door. I ask if she's a fan.

He's sulky, but silent. She brightens.

"Why yes!," she says, and I register the relief on her face.

As she speaks her fandom, she has her son stand up from his tricycle. He's wearing a Harry Potter shirt, which he shows me.

I ask her if she made the Deathly Hallows (she had). I compliment her work. I ask if I can commission a piece from her.

She's positively beaming now, and runs inside to grab a business card.

I am left with the man.

I don't say anything - but I make eye contact. And I keep it.

He knows I know. And he knows I saw.

She comes bouncing - has she never received a compliment on her work before? - back, card in hand. Apparently she makes art for military families.

I introduce myself.

She introduces everyone, and tries to introduce little Eli - the tot on the trike - but he insists on introducing himself.


I've heard of God speaking through burning bushes. I've heard of a Still, Small Voice. I've heard tales of whales, and of promises written in rainbows.

But in the few times in my life where I can be sure God spoke to me, it's felt like a sneaky gut punch. Like I'm looking left and someone, from out of nowhere, lands a body-shot from the right.



The name Eli is special to me. It's my nephew's name.

"I also have a brother!," Eli says, expectantly. He has little kid gaps in his teeth.

"Yes," she gestures. "He's in the house."

I look to Eli, with his "I like to play outside" scratches on his knees.

I look to Eli, and I ask: "Oh? And what's your brother's name?"

I'm looking left.