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Wear Your Afro Like Your BackBone

A special reunion short story. Inspired by Jacob Banks Slow Up

I could tell Mama was nervous as we waited among the other Army families at the airport terminal. Peter was coming home. We wanted Peter to come home. But we were warned. His barrack was closest to the danger zone. Lives were lost.

My mother’s hands trembled as she clutched onto her handkerchief in her left hand and I gently took her right hand in mine — this took her attention away from the flights on the board, and she turned to me and smiled.

“Sweetie, your brother is coming home.” The tears were in her voice before they even reached her eyes.

“I know mommy.”

I assured her I was strong enough to handle it. Whether he did come home, or an officer headed over to us to give us the news that he didn’t make it. It didn’t matter which one was the answer, I just knew that I was ready to see him, either way, he would walk out. Either way, he would be remembered.

I held onto my mother’s hand tighter and we watched as the first soldiers wearing army green arrived in the arrival hall. I didn’t even look at the men walking in, and I couldn’t really hear the squeals and shouts of joy and excitement as family members were reunited. Instead, I just looked up at my mother’s face, I watched the anticipation, the fear, the worry all painted in fine lines and creases, I watched the frown form on her face as minutes passed endlessly.

After maybe thirty minutes, I watched tears form in my mother’s eyes. We were one of the few families left. Fewer soldiers started coming out and my grip on my mother's hand was more of a stranglehold.

He’ll be fine. I breathed this mantra over and over with each heavy breath I took. I stood on my tippy toes, straining to see past the tall soldiers coming out. These would be the final few. He had to be among them. He had to be there. I closed my eyes imagining my brother walking out with flowers for my mom, but my dreams were cut through by a shrill cry.

My mother cried out in horror as the last soldier walked out into the arrival hall and we were the last ones there. The soldier had a solemn look on his face.

He was not my brother.

My bottom lip trembled uncontrollably, but I was trying desperately not to cry. My mother had crumbled to the ground.

“No — No, No!” She screamed.

“Ms. Lance!” The man said. “Ms. Lance!” He begged again, he tried to help my mother up but she pushed him away.

“Ms. Lance, Jason is alive!” The man pulled my mother off the ground, his hands kindly gripping her shoulders. My mother was shaking.

“He -? He’s what?” She asked, wiping the tears still flooding from her eyes.

“He’s alive, Ma’am.”

“W-what?” My mother started crying again — and this time I joined in, the tears slipping from my eyes and down my face.

“He’s coming last. We had to uh — make some adjustments.” My mother screamed again as she looked past that solider to my brother who was walking towards us in crutches, walking slowly, but confidently, with a big smile on his face.

His Afro as big as ever.

He kept it as he promised mother and I that he would.

“I’m home, mom.” My brother said as he crashed into her arms.

He noticed me with the corner of his eyes and grinned at me.

“Hey junior! You took good care of Ma while I was gone?” He asked me. I nodded.

“Looks like you took good care of your ‘fro too. I’m so proud of you.”

I grinned up at him.

Lois Orekoya

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