I told her not to cry.
That crying wouldn’t solve anything, that these things had to be done. But she just sat there, cradling his bloody head in her lap as the police marched by, as the screams in the distance announced our failure – announced our eventual bittersweet success – in the fire lit darkness.
It was George who had lit the torches first, before they had beat him down with their sticks and their insults, before he’d given his life so that the rest could flee. We had, all of us, been chanting songs, songs of freedom and protest, against the government. How brave we’d been, to dare to sing right there in their own courtyard!
But we were young, and innocent, before we’d seen George go down. Immortal. We’d been cooking cornmeal on the fire, sharing with one another as we sang the songs around the bonfire he’d lit. He’d been so proud, so full of life and hope.
They came with their sticks and their hate and their anger. They came with their malice and their fear and their greed, and they beat us down and beat us down, none more than George. I remember – I remember so well – the sound of that stick against his head.
And he just stood there, with a look of peace on his face before he slumped down to the cobblestones. Just stood there. And in that second I realized what it was he was trying to teach us, what it was we needed to learn.
I held her back as she tried to rush into the wall of uniforms. I held her against my chest and felt the sobs wrack her body. And I whispered words of comfort in her ear.
Don’t cry, I told her. Don’t shed no tears, woman. I was glad she couldn’t see the hypocrite tears running down my cheeks in the fire lit darkness. But I told her, over and over before she ran to him and held his lifeless body in her arms and cradled his broken head against her bosom.