Fiction

The Price of Ignorance

In just five hours, everything can change

Lumumba Shabazz
Human Parts
Published in
19 min readJul 8, 2020

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Profile view silhouette of businessman double exposed with city at night.
Photo: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images

At 4:00, every morning, the old woman stirs from her slumber. At 10 past the hour, she ties her white turban over her salt-and-pepper locked hair, kneels in the direction of Lalibela’s rock-strewn temples, clasps her hands, wrings her fingers together so they cannot escape, and she prays for him.

It does not matter that soon after finishing, her knees ache and her head hurts from the mishmash of thoughts clashing against the other in violence. It does not matter that her life flashes before her eyes, so disorganized that in one minute, she thinks herself three years old and needs an attendant to wipe the shit oozing from the side of her diaper, and in the next minute, she is 35, free of her wheelchair and headed to the kitchen quick-sharp to boss the workers around.

No, at 4:00, every morning, her memory sits on the edge of a sling blade. There is no dullness then, no shadows cast in opposition. In those moments, she renders her soul naked, sacrifices herself at the altar for his sake, whispers her sacred incantations seven times seven, and calls to the saints to surround him, to protect him.

At 5:00, his alarm awakens him from a night of restless sleep. He should have been tired, but the excitement pressing against his chest and the new responsibilities awaiting him make him more alive than ever. “Today is the first day of the beginning of my life,” he thinks to himself, and he has her to thank for everything.

She rescued him from the streets and the foster homes where he was molested. She leaned outside the eight-story window of the MLK projects just as the streetlights were coming on, screaming, “Sean Eric Taylor, boy, if you don’t get your ass in this house!”

She was a strange woman: a moving, living breathing contradiction. She would cuss out a teacher for limiting her boy’s access to gifted classes and in the next moment offer what little she had to anyone who needed it. Saints have an imperfect walk, he smiles and tells himself. They don’t pretend to be what they are not. They are nothing more than redeemed sinners with a history of shame hung around their necks. But there is a power in that shame, and a power in that imperfection.

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