I am empty. “Have they? Have they?” Tessa. Tessa crying. Tessa crying over the phone to me. Tessa crying in front of the children she was entrusted with. Her tears are loud; that’s all I hear. And then I feel my own and they are hot and heavy on my cheeks and there’s a sound coming from my throat.
It’s hard and grating and I feel it starting low inside of me and coming up through me, but no one else can hear it. It’s in my head and it’s drowning out Tessa’s tears and I am about to burst and I am moments from bursting and then, “No.” I get out. And Tessa cries harder. “No, they haven’t found him. No.” And Tessa cries harder.
6:01. 6:01 and I got on the bus. 6:01 and I got on the goddamn bus. And I sprinted when I got off of it and my feet slapped the pavement in my rush in a beat, beat, beat and I ran upstairs and I opened my apartment door and, breathless, I squeaked “Someone took him” and my cheeks were reddened. Someone. Who is someone? Who the hell is someone?
Someone is the dark figure who comes up to a child’s snowball fight at a bus stop. Someone is wearing a coat and a hooded camo sweatshirt, his face in shade. Someone is tall and thin and hunched at the shoulders. Someone has a small scar near his left temple and a chipped front tooth. Someone walks in that slow way with a destination. Someone took a boy. I couldn’t stop someone. Someone couldn’t be stopped. Someone took a boy.
I am shaking. I can feel my hands shaking, my fingertips quivering, my shoulders trembling, my body rocking. Tessa is in my ears, crying in my head. I hang up the phone; I don’t want to hear her. I hold my fluttering hands together.
“His parents are divorced, his dad’s in Florida. Does anyone know his mom’s number? We can call Vera, she works with Frank, maybe they have the number on file at school? Does anyone know his mom’s number?”
I know he’s gone, and his mom doesn’t even know. His mother, who raised him and loved him and moved him to this big, dangerous city, she doesn’t know. He’s gone and she doesn’t know. I know. And Tessa and Livia and Gracie and our parents. We know. But who are we? Just dumb kids. We couldn’t stop someone.
I scream through the streets in a car service over to Livia’s house, the lights and the trees and the houses rushing past. I can’t see anything in individual pictures, just long lines from the car windows. The park is a blur. Where is he, where is he, where is he, where the hell is he, where is he? Then I’m at Livia’s. They’ve called the police, the real police, not someone claiming to be the police, not someone lying about being the police. Their cars are parked everywhere on the small block, lights flashing into all the houses.
The police ask me clipped, quick questions. The man asking is short, with a disfigured face. He looks like a rat. I don’t like him, he acts too detached. “A boy was kidnapped!” I would yell at him, but he already knows. And the boy’s mother is near me, sitting on the couch. She doesn’t need to hear it said again. Her head is in her hands and she is crying and shrinking. I shake when I see her. I don’t know how to help.
I wanted to hit him with a snowball. He just got me and I wanted to get him back. Why was this man getting in my way? Someone was talking to him. Someone put their arm on his back and pushed him forward.
“Cedric. What’s going on? Are you okay?” Cedric was small next to this someone, this man. He didn’t say anything, just shrunk even smaller. “It’s okay, I’m a cop. I need to take him with me.” “Cedric! Cedric, what’s going on? Cedric, are you okay?” Cedric shrunk. He didn’t talk, he shrunk.
There were people at the bus stop around us. Mothers and fathers and their babies in strollers. They heard the scared in our voices. They heard our terror. They looked away.
“Cedric? Cedric!” Nothing – he shrunk. The man pushed him down the steps back into the subway. “I’m a cop, I’m a cop.” He wasn’t a cop.
Then 6:01 and the bus was there and I ran onto it and off of it.
I hear Tessa’s voice again in my head. She’s crying and asking me questions. She wasn’t there. I don’t want to answer her, I don’t know how. Shut up! I want to tell her. I am terrified. She is making me more scared. Where is he? Where is he? Where is he?
People are moving around me. There are police everywhere in the house. They are swarming the house. The voices are loud and Cedric’s mother is crying and crying. She is shaking her head, angry with herself, shrinking and crying desperately.
I don’t know what to do so I just hold tight to Livia’s arm as we sit numbly on the edge of the couch, sliding off. I try to block out the memory of Tessa’s voice.
“Have they?” Tessa says to me. “Have they?” She asks me. “Have they found him?” Have they? I repeat in my head. Have they found him?
“Do you want to talk about it?” the teacher asks me. I shake my head. “No?” I shake my head. “Well, it’s just water under the bridge.” Yeah, water under the bridge.
Age 15, Grade 10
Brooklyn Friends School