She’s Not Alone
I am an emotional waitress. Last night, I yelled at Ben because a table was rude to me after I was too slow helping them. I was the only person in the front after the other waitress was sent home, and a lot of people showed up needing time-consuming things (a growler filled, a to-go order, a sit-down meal) all at once. I was taking care of business, not just standing around texting. They complained when I got to the table, then didn’t even know what they wanted to order. And the whole time the food bell was dinging, dinging, DINGING.
I HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!
But that’s okay. All is well. One of my first customers today was a sweet woman who had come in before with her son and calls me cutie. She stayed after her friend left and chatted with me for a while, distracting me from folding napkins. She told me she’s a six-day-a-week mom who also has a psychotherapy clinic in Fremont. I told her about my new apartment and life in boxes. Once she learned I’m moving near Cherry St, she began to warn me not to walk around at night. She told me about local gangs, recent upticks in shootings, websites with maps that show crime.
I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I enjoyed the attention and advice. She told me she would be my mom away from home and that she was looking out for me.
But on the other hand, I like my independence and value doing what I want without fear. I appreciate knowing about dangerous spots to avoid, but what am I supposed to do if that spot is my block? Luckily, the places she was telling me about are on Cherry but closer to work. I’m a good 15 blocks west of there. I’ll just take the bus right through.
Further, she was specific in saying that the rich white neighborhood of Madrona is safe, while its outskirts, where historically black Madrona’s occupants were pushed, contain gang violence. Young African-American men are causing problems. I felt uncomfortable talking about race at all. I am uneasy contextualizing conversations about race, and in differentiating racism from discussion.
Is it racist? Is it true? I’m new around here.
After work, I was waiting for the bus downtown and picked up a Seattle Weekly to pass the time. Its cover had a different photo of the same girl at the top of this post and the words, “The best night of Nicole Westbrook’s young life ended when a stray bullet struck her. She’s not alone.”
The article was about Seattle civilians caught in gang gunfire. Nicole had been living in Seattle for under a month when she was killed. She was 21, the boyfriend she moved here with was 29. They were really in love and talked about having kids together. He’s back in Maine now.
So now I keep on thinking about that article and reading that article and crying. I first read it when waiting for the Lit Crawl to begin and starting crying, sitting alone in the audience, waiting for a comedy reading to begin. I cried while waiting for the bus. I ran home with Nicole’s newspaper over my head, shielding me from the sudden pelting rain. And here I am.
Other victims are mentioned in the article. The shooting on Cherry St that my nice customer told me about is detailed. He was a white dad in an expensive car with his two kids and two parents with him. But Nicole’s story was the one that resonated with me. She was new in town with her boyfriend, trying to figure things out, just like me. And they sounded even more in love than Ben and I!
That was April. Now it’s October and I’m alive and I don’t know what else to say. This is a quote from the mother of one of the victims, Desmond Jackson, on television appealing for information about her son’s murder.
“The African-American community is very small. So people know who did this. People, their family, aunts, uncles, they know that these kids [suspects] are in trouble . . . in and out of jail, in and out of juvenile. They need to start thinking about asking their kids some questions. As a community, we need to get together, step forward, and take back our streets. We cannot have this many murderers in Seattle, in the African-American community. Gregory Wayne Anderson was murdered by an African-American. Nicole Westbrook was murdered by an African-American. Desmond Jackson was murdered by an African-American. And Danny [Vega] was murdered by an African-American. We cannot have this many murderers running our streets. They have to be connected. The south-end gang we know was involved in Desmond’s murder. The families who live in the south end—you need to collect your family members so that we can clean up our streets. Your kids can go to jail, but at least you get to talk to them. Families in this city, in New Mexico, in Texas, are suffering. And we need justice. We need justice.”