It seems too easy to point out the irony of a legislature so tone-deaf to the needs of their state -- refusing to hear the cries that are so much more important than protecting the unborn, like instead helping those who are here now -- trying to force women to hear a heartbeat.
And yet here we are, sonograms and all, and I'm thinking of all the heartbeats that, living in this state, I already must hear.
Zekarius is one of them. His heart beats strong, but I hope he is stronger. He lives in the housing project across the street from my house and comes over to see my dog, who he calls Charlie Brown. He rides a borrowed bicycle and gets free lemonade at a nearby church on Sundays. He usually has another little boy in tow. I'm not sure of the other one's name but he can't be more than five years old and has never said a word other than "Charlie" in my presence. The little one has a gaping smile that reveals only four silver teeth. I'm not sure if the others haven't grown in yet or if the money just isn't there to put the other ones in.
One day there was a knock at my door and a crew of neighborhood boys stood on my porch. "Miss, do you have a Band-Aid?" one asked as he pointed into the street at Zekarius, who was standing in a daze on the sidewalk in a puddle of water. I squinted at him and realized he wasn't standing in water but blood, dripping from a hole in his hand.
This was not something a Band Aid could fix.
I asked Zekarius where his mom was. At home. It was my first trip into the housing projects and as I walked Zekarius along the sidewalks that wound around the buildings, I noticed that no one seemed to look twice at a bleeding, stunned little boy.
We got to Zekarius's house and he pushed open the screen door. It became clear why Zekarius liked to come sit on my porch. His home was a cinderblock room, where at least seven other kids sat on the floor watching TV. I stood in the doorway, unsure of what to do, until his mom, not much older than me, came around the corner carrying a baby.
I mumbled something about Zekarius's hand, over which he held a rag I gave him that was already soaked in blood. I told her the story they had told me: he had fallen and a metal rod had gone through it, and that she should take him to the doctor. His mom thanked me and I walked away.
Zekarius was back in an hour, still bleeding, still looking for a Band Aid. I tried to clean it, but it wouldn't stop bleeding. I called my mom, and my sister who is a doctor. I told Zekarius he needed to go back home and have his mom take him to the hospital. He left. In a fury, I called CPS. I hung up. I heard my heart pounding in my head and I sat on my couch and cried and cursed at people who believe in life but not in the living.