His Name's Robin

Submitted into Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about solidarity.... view prompt



The lawyer was talking. I looked at him, tried to pay attention, but I only caught a few words: video, dead, protests, fight this, stay inside. They went in through one ear and out through the other. 

There was only enough space for three words in my brain right now. They were loud and unforgiving. They played on a loop, in his voice. In Robin’s voice. They—

“Amaia,” mamá said. I turned to her. Blinked away the thoughts and the video that I couldn’t pause.

“Hmm?” I said. She was giving me that be respectful look: her eyes slightly widened and hard.


“Aren’t you listening?” she said. “Your papi’s entire life is on the line, and you’re daydreaming?” She shook her head. Apologized to the lawyer, who only nodded. There was empathy in his eyes, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted it or not. If it was aimed at the wrong person. The wrong people.

“You have to stay inside,” the lawyer said. “It’s not safe for you or your mom right now.” He said it as if I couldn’t tell. As if I couldn’t hear the protesters outside our home, on the street, yelling “Robin Brown,” and “Black lives matter.”

I always joined them. I was always on the streets, marching, helping spread awareness, fighting for equality in school. I stood up for injustice, and I stood up for myself. When the woman at the grocery store told amá and me to go back to our country when she heard us speaking Spanish, I defended us.

Today, they hated me. They hated mom. Most of all, they hated papi. Fernando Garcia. The cop who killed Robin Brown. The man who committed no crime.

“Stay inside,” I said. “Got it. Can I go now?” I asked, looking at amá. She nodded, and I got up so fast the chair fell to the floor. I didn’t turn around to pick it up. My feet pounded on the stairs as I ran up to my room. The door slammed when I closed it. 

I leaned against it, my chest rising and falling fast. I closed my eyes and tried counting to ten, but every time I closed them I only saw papi on Robin’s back. His knee pressed against him as he said it over and over again—those three words that haunted me: I can’t breathe. 

Amá had told me not to watch it, but I needed to. I needed to see if that was really my dad they were talking about. The man who taught me to stand up for people.

I opened my eyes again, walked to the window, and risked a peek out. They—mamá and the lawyer—had told me not to, but I opened the curtain a little. Not enough for them to notice any movement.

There were twenty of them, maybe twenty-five. Black and white and brown people holding signs of Robin’s smiling face, signs that read “No Justice, No Peace,” and one sign that read “He deserves to rot.” They weren’t talking about Robin in that one.

I let go of the curtain and sat on the floor, back against the wall, asking myself the same question I’d been asking myself since we found out what papi did: Why? Why had he assumed Robin was someone he wasn’t? Why would he sit on someone like that in the first place? Why wouldn’t he get off of him?

Did he really deserve to rot? No, I thought. Not my papi. He was a good man, a good cop. He didn’t deserve to go to jail. 


I sighed and covered my ears with my hands, but it wasn’t enough to drown out the sounds from outside. The angry cries and yells. It wasn’t enough to block knock on my door.

“Mija?” mom said, peeking her head inside the room. I uncovered my ears as she came inside. “Can I join you?” She nodded at the space beside me on the floor.

I nodded, but instead of meeting her eyes, I looked at the picture on my dresser. The one of me and papi on the first day of my senior year. Hard to believe that picture was only taken four months ago.

“Estás bien?” she asked. 

“No,” I said. No point in lying.

She put her hand on my knee and squeezed. “I know this is hard, but we have to fight for your papi,” she said, her voice desperate. “We’re the only ones who can fight for him. He’s a good man.” I didn’t know if she was trying to convince me or herself. 

“He killed that man, mami.” I looked at her so she could see the tears that started spilling out of my eyes. “For no reason.”

“We’re family,” she said, her voice rising. “We’re supposed to fight for each other no matter what.”

“But at what cost?” I stood up and faced her, on the verge of yelling, too. “He did a bad thing. A terrible thing. And he should pay like all the other people he’s arrested. Why should he be any different?”

“He’s a police officer—they would kill him in there! Is that what you want?”

“Of course not. Jesus,” I said, furrowing my eyebrows. “But just because he’s a cop doesn’t mean he’s above the law. He killed someone, and there have to be consequences.” Even as I said it, there was a part of me that wanted to argue otherwise. He wasn’t like those other cops who’d killed before. He was different.

“He’s your dad!”

“He’s a killer.” Mom’s eyes widened. The video started playing in my head again, those three words screaming.

She pointed at me. “That man—” 

“His name’s Robin,” I said, unable to distinguish if my tears were of sadness or anger. “You can say his name.”

She glared at me. She’d never looked at me that way before. “That man is dead. And I’m sorry he is, but that doesn’t mean we can give up on your papi.”

“I’m not giving up on him,” I said. “But it’s not just about Robin. It’s about all of them. They never pay—they don’t even get fired from their jobs. Amá, you know how wrong that is.”

I could see that her eyes were breaking then. She knew what I was saying was true, but she didn’t want to admit it. Who would? No one ever expected something like this to happen. 

“Why isn’t he pleading guilty?” I asked. Or was all that talk about doing what was right complete bullcrap?

“He did nothing wrong.” She said it differently this time. She sounded more like a robot than as if she’d really meant it.

“Did you even watch the video? He did everything wrong.” I pointed to the window. “If he’d done nothing wrong, they wouldn’t be here right now. He wouldn’t be in jail right now.”

Amá stayed silent. She was clenching and unclenching her fists, a sign of indecision. Her inner struggle was as big as mine.

“Who is he if he doesn’t do the right thing?” I asked. She loved that about him. I knew it. She knew it. Papi knew it. He always apologized and admitted when he was wrong. He was always fighting for minorities. It was what had made him a great cop.

It was why I couldn't understand why he’d done the wrong thing. Why he’d screwed up so badly. Maybe we all had a little prejudice inside of us. Maybe we all had to be better. Even me.

“Family matters more than the right thing,” she said. 


I shook my head because I realized what I had to do then. “No, it doesn’t,” I said. “Robin matters. They all matter.” I walked up to amá and hugged her. Hugged her tight like I used to when I was a kid. “I love papi with everything in me. I always will. He taught me right from wrong and this amá? What he did?” I shook my head, unable to say more. 

I pulled apart, sniffled. “He taught me to fight for what matters, and if that means fighting against him, so be it.”

Mama’s eyes widened. “Amaia, no,” she said. I started walking backward toward the door. “You can't do this. He’s your papi. He would never do this to you. He’d never betray you.”

“He betrayed himself,” I said. “And that’s on him.” I turned around and opened the door. I heard mamá fall on her knees and cry, and I sobbed as I ran down the stairs, but I wouldn’t be deterred. 

I stopped at the front door, my hand on the doorknob, and gathered myself. They were chanting outside, and I reminded myself that this wasn’t about papi or even me.

I opened the door, and suddenly, as I stepped out, everyone was quiet. The protesters and their signs and cameras still.

I took a step toward the silence. Straightened my shoulders, wiped my cheeks, willed my knees not to bend. Not to fall. And I stood in front of them.

“I’m not here to make excuses or to defend my dad,” I said. “I’m here to tell you that… that I stand with Robin.”

I could see the shock in their faces. It broke my heart because they shouldn’t be this shocked. How could someone defend a person who racially profiled someone and then killed them for no reason? No matter who they were?

I raised my fist, slowly, until it was up in the air. I didn’t think about papi. There was only one person in my mind: Robin. I looked at one of the signs in the air, the one of Robin smiling, and I said the only thing I could say: “Black lives matter.”

The silence broke then, and the shock turned to determination. One person raised their fist, matching mine. Slowly, others followed until every fist was in the air. Strong and still against the harsh wind. And then they yelled back because it wasn’t about me. It was about them. “Black lives matter.”

June 11, 2020 19:05

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