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.

15 Response to "Heartbeats"

  • Pathways Soul Coaching Says:

    Thanks, Rachel.
    --Laurie Larson

  • Pathways Soul Coaching Says:

    Thanks, Rachel.
    --Laurie Larson

  • John Says:

    Heartbreaking. That's my first thought.

    My second? Maybe you should have called Dan Patrick's office.

  • Logan Says:

    You are soooo dramatic!
    It's not the legislature's responsibility to fix the people who pop up kids and don't care about them.
    Next time call 911. He will get good and FREE treatment!

  • missris Says:

    Oh Rachel, you are soooo dramatic! How dare you expect our elected officials to care about their constituents and do what's best for them? Next time call 911 and he'll get good free treatment, probably at one of the poorest and most understaffed hospitals in Austin. The treatment will be free to him but will end up costing taxpayers thousands of dollars when it could have been prevented by access to quality healthcare. How dare you expect that all Texans, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or party affiliation are treaty fairly and humanely and taken care of by their government when they cannot take care of themselves? Drama queen indeed.

  • Anonymous Says:

    @Logan But it IS the legislatures responsibility to try and guilt a woman into having a child that may not be taken care of?

    Why don't politicians realize that abortion is the FINAL step in horrible, broken process? What if they put a lot more money into education and healthcare for these kids in the projects NOW... so when they grow up, they will not get themselves into situations where abortion becomes a solution... or at least make better informed decisions and have more options available to them.

    Damn, conservatives can be major assholes sometimes.

  • M.L. Says:

    This is heart rendering. Maybe it isn't the legislature's responsibility to fix the people who pop out kids, but is it too much to ask to expect the legislature to care about the children whose parents can't seem to give them the care they need, especially when these children's lives were so important to our elected officials before they were even born? It isn't dramatic to have empathy for fellow human beings or to expect the legislature to provide decent health services to the constituents, especially the children whose lives they profess to honor so much.

  • Katie Says:

    That's so sad. I don't think you're being dramatic in the least. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous Says:

    You really should have called 911 even if it's just to say that there's a kid bleeding in the middle of the street. I'm not sure how you expected the mother to take him to the hospital and leave all the other kids home alone. In that case, the mother would have gotten into trouble; so damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

  • Kathi Thomas Says:

    These folks care a great deal about potential life, but not actual living children or other people.
    I honestly believe it is more about "punishing" someone for getting pregnant than it is about "saving a life." If they really cared about the children, they'd be working very hard for the children post-birth.

  • Tammie Says:

    There r no winners here.

  • Teddy Wilson Says:

    @Logan - It's not free. If his family does not pay the bill the cost is past on to you an me in the form of higher health care cost.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Good heart and good tears. We need a bill to make the Republicans hear these little boys.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Many of us have the means, but lack the conviction or understanding, to help a kid like Zekarius. Not "kids" but "a kid." As in we see the macro too clearly and the "oh s#$*, only someone with a Warren Buffet bank account could make a dent" reaction kicks in.

    Not true.

    If Zekarius was your cousin, would you do more? What if he was your nephew? What if he was your brother?

    If you have enough money to spend a night on the town, you have enough to help a kid like Zekarius beat the odds. So think about it: pick one kid with a good heart and a bit of potential and see if you can't provide him or her with some of the resources that their more affluent peers don't just have but expect.

    If you help one such kid, you haven't just given him a chance, you have given him a chance to help others in his community in ways that the rest of us lack the understanding to do.

    So the next time you are at a bar or Starbucks spending $5-10 on a 12-ounce drink, consider how you can maybe set aside a few bucks to buy some school supplies or shoes for a kid ... or how you can offer to tutor her with homework ... or help identify a physician who will see an underprivileged kid pro bono.

    We like to think that hard work and determination determines our lot in life, but frankly, that only goes so far without the resources, access and support of those around us.

  • Bonnie Says:

    Crying. Thank you for giving a voice to at least this one voiceless little boy.