August 15th, Wednesday
You lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Your mind flashes back to Bakari, as the burly white men drag him down the dark road. Tears slide down your pale cheeks, remembering how he cried out your name in his husky voice.
“Are you sure nobody will see us here?” You asked Bakari after you had walked up to him. He didn’t respond.
For days, both of you had met up in the same place: a graveyard. The stones on the graves looked like they would tip over at any moment if a gentle breeze came by. This was the cemetery for black people, as one of the signs said. Since the government allowed segregation, the white and black people weren't even buried in the same place. You shook your head and sighed. The cold breeze made your arms feel chilly, and you rubbed them in hopes that you would be warmer.
"Are you absolutely sure nobody will find us meeting up here?" You asked and glanced at Bakari.
He shrugged and said, "I dunno. I heard from the other slaves that guards never come here."
"Miss Cruz, I don't wanna put you in danger," Bakari said, avoiding your eyes. You knew he called you that because that was what he was used to, but you had told him that he didn't need to say that.
"Bakari, shush. I don’t care if I get into trouble,” you told him, your arms crossed “and stop with the Miss Cruz stuff.”
"If you say so."
"You know what, I do say so."
Suddenly, the ruffling of the leaves sounded very unnatural, and you knew somebody was there.
"Show yourself!" Bakari yelled, turning around and holding you behind him.
Two white men came out from behind the bushes around the cemetery and race towards Bakari, grabbed his arms, and held him to the ground. One of the men turned to you.
"Ma'am, this is your first warning. If you are caught near a black person again, we will confiscate all of your belongings." One of the men said, sounding like a robot with their politeness. You knew that they were only speaking that way because of your family's high status.
"Let him go," you told them in a warning tone, snarling at the men. The men stared at you in what looked like confusion, Bakari still in their arms. "Let him go!" You screamed again after a while.
"Sorry, Miss Cruz. We can't do that. He's black, and he can't be with you." one of the men apologized, his cold blue eyes glaring at you. You slap him in the face, your teeth bared.
"This is a cemetery for blacks! He can be here, he’s black." You declared, pointing to the sign.
The man you slapped felt the place where you hit him, and his mouth curved into a frown. "You ungrateful, rich bi-"
"Carson, shut up! We aren't supposed to disrespect them, remember?” The other man yelled, blocking you from Carson.
“Ugh! Fine,” Carson grumbled, flipping you off. You stuck out your tongue, grabbed Bakari’s arm, and tried to pull him away from those stupid men.
"Would you like one of us to escort you to your home?" The other guy asked, smiling fakely. “Just to be safe,” he said, pausing. “A black person might get you.”
You shook your head, glared at the men, and crossed your arms. "I can get home by myself."
"Esperance, why don't you get a bit of fresh air? Forget about that stupid boy. What's his name... Bahari... whatever. Just forget about the stupid black boy!" Your mother yells. "We live in separate neighborhoods for a reason."
You roll your eyes, wiping the tears off of your face. "Fine, I'm going out for a walk."
"Not yet, missy. I'm not done talking!" Your mom exclaims, grabbing your arm as you pass by her in the kitchen. She leans against the plain, gray door frame of the kitchen. "You should be more like your sister. She doesn't go to where the poor black kids are."
"Enough, Mom!" You yell, biting your lip.
"You're lucky you aren't a slave, or I would give you a proper beating!" Your mom says, shaking her fist at you.
"Okay, see ya later!"
You grab your favorite burgundy coat and leave the house. When you stuff your hands inside the pockets of your coat, you discover a white scarf. Your eyes water as you hold it in your hands. You remember how, although she was poor, Bakari's mother bought supplies to make you a scarf because she thought you were a very sweet girl. Every day during the process of making the scarf you pleaded with her to let you subsidize and provide them with money and food.
As a prosperous and affluent white family living inside of the yellow lining, your family's reputation is important. If anyone else ever saw you giving to Bakari, everything of yours and your family's would be gone.
The people of the government have no mercy on people inside the redlining.
You think, shaking your head as images of Bakari's beautiful, big brown eyes pleaded with you. He was definitely an equitable man, but he was prejudiced when the topic switched to black rights.
"I don't understand why they treat us so wrongly." he would grumble, his arms crossed. "we're people too."
You agreed with him on that. Although you had been taught that whites were dominant and blacks... just weren't, you didn't believe that. You had secretly hung out with the black kids when you were a teen, even acted like one.
But now that he was with the government they were probably hurting and torturing him.
You clench your scarf more tightly.
Or maybe... just maybe... he's already dead.
You shake the thought away, knowing that Bakari wouldn't let that happen. He might've let the men drag him away, but he wouldn't let them kill him.
But in Levittown, you never know what might happen.
You see, someone standing many feet ahead of you, and lift your hand, which has the long black oil lamp your mother gave you. You thought he was dead, but there he is, right in the middle of the dark street, smiling urbanely at you.
"Bakari?!" You exclaim, squinting at the figure. "Bakari, is that you?" You call, running towards him.
As the figure comes into view, you see Bakari's bulky frame. On his body are welts and bruises.
An image comes to mind. Bakari coming out from a bright room with beautiful designs. His body was covered in bruises and slaps, but his wide smile shone through all of that. He winced in pain, but his smile was genuine.
"I missed you so much," you exclaim, running into Bakari's arms.
I don't care if anyone finds out!
"I know you did." Bakari teases, grinning.
"Oh, shut up, and let me hug you," you tell him, shaking your head and grinning.