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By Valerie Wilson Wesley

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Your car. ” I tried not to sound like a disappointed kid. ” I looked him in the eye for the first time since I'd gotten out of the car. “I can't afford this one, Larry. ” I told him and for the briefest moment, disappointment flashed in his eyes, but he recovered quickly. ” “Yeah, maybe, a little bit. ” He was right about that. We went further back even than the leavings of my fish sandwich on his lapel, and the irony of confronting my history with Celia struck me again. He had been one of three popular seniors headed places most of the kids in my school would never see.

I called my aloe an orphan because years ago I found it, dusty and stunted, on my doorstep. Nobody—not Annie, my best friend who owns the building, nor Wyvetta from downstairs—claimed to have put it there, so I became its adopted mama. My orphan aloe had aged like me and everything else in my life. I smiled tenderly down at it as I poured water into its roots. It was then that I saw him. He was dressed in a black, heavy coat that fell to his ankles. I couldn't see his face, but I knew that the light from my office made it easy for him to see mine.

No, Ma. ” He did a half-ass imitation of somebody high on something that made me smile despite myself. ” “Yeah, how well I know,” he said with a smile that told me that despite his attitude he was glad I was. ” “Ma, just be careful, okay? ” he said with so much concern it made me smile because they were exactly the words I always said to him. After our talk, I decided I'd better make it my business to attend Cecil Jones's funeral later on that day. I was certain his friends—this Pik guy, DeeEss, and Cristal—would show up, and I needed to check them out, for Jamal's sake as well as for my own.

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