The first time I saw him he had just been bought by my father. He pulled up in the back of a caravan along with the other slaves. His pitch black hair reached his contoured jaws, covering half his face. He wore what you can only guess was a formerly white shirt, and pants far too big for his slim waist. The horses came to a halt with an abrupt tug. The man controlling the caravan got out, his jewellery singing tales of the rich as he moved. He swished his golden blonde hair back and with a demanding voice ordered the slaves to get out. The men raised and lined up. All of them except him. He raised his eyesight and looked at me. His eyes matched perfectly his skin tone, an intense walnut color. My father used to say that the eyes are the windows to one's soul. If that is so, then it didn’t seem like he had any. His eyes were empty, as if he wasn't aware of his surroundings, or just didn’t bother to care anymore. I glanced away, incase anybody saw. After one more demand, he complied and joined the rest.
I continued making my way into the house to meet my tutor. I had always been home schooled by one of the finest teachers in the country. Each day I looked forward to these hours. Albert was different than the rest. He would teach me about all sort of news, making me question them. I recall perfectly the first time he did this, when I was just 8 years old. Albert told me about an African American fellow that was shot and hanged in a public square by some white folks for staring too long at a white woman. He then asked me what I thought about it.
“My father tells me that those people are bad. So I guess that that is okay”
“Why are these people bad?”
I opened my mouth to say something but words wouldn't come out. I stood there in silence trying to come up with an answer to what seemed such a simple question.
“Well, my father says they are” I finally answered.
“I did not ask what your father thinks. I am asking what you think”. This baffled me. It had never occurred to me that what my father thinks and what I think were different.
From that day forward, Albert would continue to bring news about African Americans, present laws that women were subjected to, and many more small but endlessly meaningful details. We would discuss these subject on the apple tree on the south end of the property. These were not topics to be heard by my parents, or anybody else for that matter. If my parents found out a simple thing just as how he calls them “african american” instead of “n*****s”, he could’ve gotten fired, or worse, way worse. But I was glad and endlessly grateful that he was brave enough.
The next day I found myself going into the toolshed, a place where father didn’t like for me to go. I would look for tools when I needed them, but my dad always used to say “a toolshed ain’t a place for a women.” And never failed to add “It's always infested with n*****s anyways”. Neither of those arguments I felt compelling, and so I sneaked in quietly one morning in search of a hammer.
That's the second time I saw him. He was in the back, searching for something as well. I approached him slowly.
“Good evening” I commented. No reply. I pushed my hair back and stepped a little closer. He took one step back.
“I was just wondering where the hammer is”. He looked at me hesitantly, and pointed at the top shelf. I thanked him, reaching for it.
Not quite sure why, I asked.
“What is your name?” To which he responded.
“I am almost certain that your father has named me Christian.” I was shocked for a second when realizing he had a better vocabulary than most.
“But what is your real name?”. He looked at me dumbfounded, not expecting such words to come out of my mouth.
“I'm not quite sure I remember anymore”
The following days we would meet up at the same place, at the same time. It wasn’t something we talked about, it was just something that happened. We would never sit down, afraid that that would be too official, too scandalous if someone were to walk in. Standing up on opposites side of the shelf, we would discussing ideas, events and anything there was to talk. He told me how he was born into a rich family in Missouri, (or Minnesota, he doesn't quite remember). With parents who loved him and sisters to fight with. he had an ideal life. He was homeschooled, just like I was, that is until he was 14 years old. At age 14, one day while walking on the park, he was taken. A brown bag put over his head and disappeared. Never saw his parents again, never saw his sisters again, never saw his once picture perfect life ever again.
I loved our talks, especially his stories. I like to think he liked my stories too. In a way it was like we each gave a piece of the puzzle and together we would join them until we saw the image it created. It just never seemed to be an appealing image.
One day our meet ups started getting cut short when my father noticed the absence of my presence to be around the same time each day. He started getting suspicious, bantering me about my whereabouts, to which I only answered with “Father, I am just continuing my studies”. I've never been a person who enjoys lying. This way I did not have to.
Yet my dad was not entirely convinced. Which is why one day he decided to follow me. I should have been more careful. I should have known he would do something like that.
He bursts in, slamming the door against the wall, making the whole shed tremble. In his hand he holds a shotgun. Its wooden frame shining along the carefully detailed drawings carved into its metal. Such lively beautiful features in such a deadly object. Seemed silly.
“You mother f***in’ n*****, you trynna hit on my daughter, is that what you is doin?”
I tried to say something but no words came out. Instead only incoherent babbles poured out of me, attempting to stop what I knew was going to happen. With just one pull of a finger Christian was on the floor, bleeding out. His blood pouring out so rapidly, spreading through the cracks on the wooden floor. I wanted nothing more than to look away, but my eyes were fixed on his eyes. Still expressionless, still empty. His body was jerking on the floor, struggling for breath. My eyes started watering, and I realised that I too was trembling. I leapt to the floor and held his hands.
“Get the f*** away from that n*****!”
I ignored my father, knowing he would never lay a hand on me.
His eyes slowly made their way to mine. His mouth twitched its way into a smile. Struggling, he said the last words he ever spoke.