Today I began calling all my boys who remain free. I need to confirm their participation in our Villages Without Walls appreciation dinner on Saturday. Mitch’s phone transferred directly to voice mail, which usually means that his cell is turned off. So I called AJ.
AJ answered, “Yeah?” I went through my customary check-in: how are you doing today, did you go to school, did you stay for every class, etc. I asked AJ if he would be participating on Saturday and he said, “Who else?” He paused, then said, “Mitch is locked up.”
My chest sank and my heart went despondent. Mitch was scheduled to present at the event. “Why? What happened?” I asked. AJ said, “I think he was arrested with a gun.” I hurried to finish the conversation. I needed to call Mitch’s grandmother.
“Praise the Lord,” I said, when Sister Hutchinson answered the telephone. “Praise the Lord,” she said. “Who is dis?” “It’s Sister Talia! One of the boys told me that Mitch is locked up. Is that true?” She was reluctant. “Who told you?” she asked, with a voice that reminded me of the boys and their paranoia. “He stayed da night with me and John-John on Sunday, and den he went out. Last night, I got a call from his friend, saying he was arrested.” Oh-I-don’t-know echoed behind her strong Jamaican accent. “Do you know what dey do to dem young boys in dose places?” she asked. “They hang dem and den say dat they committed suicide.” It sounded as if she just finished watching an episode of CSI or Law and Order. “I don’t know what me did wrong,” she said. “I tried to find where I have gone wrong in my youth, but I couldn’t find anything.”
The ole’ church mothers believe you reap what you’ve sown, and Sister Hutchinson was thoroughly looking for the rebellion she had sown in her own life. “Oh, I couldn’t find nothing,” she said. (“Oh” with a Jamaican accent isn’t just “Oh.”) She said, “My heart aches, my heart aches.” The ole’ church mother showed her humanity, saying, “I ask God, 'Why?'”