When it rains it pours. Firstly, the clouds turn grey, they then gather closely together like sponges of sullied cotton. They swell up, their shade degenerating to take a darker hue, as the day wears on to a grim mien. It rumbles and thunders. Folk mill and trot about trying to beat the storm to their homes. The ones at home scamper to their hanging lines to unhang their clothes. Deft business people will pop from the blue like they were waiting for a cue (effortless bars) and make a kill selling umbrellas and heavy rain coats; no one has the time to haggle. Unscrupulous ones drag about so as to nudge their desperate clientele to say things like ‘keep change’. Some do. Some do in the form of an ‘eff you’ because, New York City. The streets become a hubbub of urgency. The first drops are meant to rev adamant legs. Then it rains torrents. He is caught up in this melee, albeit to him it’s more figurative than literal. He is stoic, a man of valour; he has been through the wringer. Even served time at some point. It’s all he’s known his whole life, the pouring not time. It’s what his reality stems from. The pouring wasn’t something you thought could keep him awake at night, only you were wrong, it was. Unbeknownst to him, one of the most renowned photos of him would have him holding a rifle, peering through his curtains in wait for potential assasins.
Later that night he retires to bed. Supposedly, like most people he lies there staring vacantly, as sleep evades him for a while and thinks about myriads of things. From imperative ones like ‘what next for the people’ to inane ones, or maybe not, like ‘do these walls have ears’ He tosses and turns trying to find a snug spot, where the sheets are a little colder. He doesn’t remember falling asleep, no one ever does. It usually is a fleet of blur. You close your eyes and whoosh, it sweeps you off. He wakes up to a ringing landline on his bed side table.
“Hallo,” he says.
“Is this Malcom Little? Oh, sorry, I hear you’re Malcolm X now, ho-ho,” someone says, chortles and hangs up.
He sighs. He’s used to such calls. Random obscure numbers calling him to ruffle his peace. Most of them are threats. Some call and utter not a single word, they stay silent – letting their demons speak for them. They don’t have to say anything, he knows why they’re calling. Silence makes the loudest noise. They are faceless folk calling to disturb his rare tranquillity. Which is a pathetic way to earn some dough. Imagine your kids asking ‘Dad what do you do? Why do you make a lot of calls at night?’ and him replying, ‘It is my job, to make calls to some guy we’re trying to shake off. A pain in the ass’. And his wife deservedly giving him the could shoulder, for spending the night making stupid calls and cursing before the children. Malcolm tries to sleep again, sometimes he does. At times he doesn’t. He can’t recall the spot and poise that gave him comfort, so he starts from scratch, thinking about things.
One of these nights. On a Valentine’s night (no importance to the story), on 14th February, 1965 as him and his wife sleep. The children sleeping in their bedrooms. Two firebombs are hurled into his house. He wakes up hurriedly, smoke permeating the air, he rushes to the children’s bedroom and carries them out with his wife. The house engulfs in flames as they stand outside, still in their night clothes. Against the chill of cold. His children wondering why they are out and why their house is burning deep in the night, this was expected to happen in movies not to them. They watch their house burn, thoughts running through his mind; What if one went through the kid’s bedrooms? What if he had found their doors locked from the inside? What if one fell on his bed? They escape physically unscathed, emotionally – there has to be a wound, even worse – fear. He isn’t surprised, he has been expecting an attempt on his life, he knows it. It isn’t the first sinister thing that has happened to him, but it could be the salient one, yet.
A week later, he is set to speak in a ballroom. He commands a large following. Unsurprisingly, the place is packed. Heaving. With folk dying to hear this great man talk. A prolific orator. A man favoured by the god of Talk. Words blossomed to him like flowers. Maybe, kissed his ass.
He stands at the hoisted podium, debonair as wonted. If you google his name, the pictures available are of him, always in a suit and tie. He has a knack for style. His words and snazzy suits compete for attention. Wherever his words are, his suit is. His signature. The throng cheer him on, fangirling him. He pacifies their excitement and acknowledges their presence. A ruckus breaks after someone yells ‘get your hands out of my pocket’.
Instantly, multiple shots ring out and everything goes wild, except him. 15 shots pepper into his body. His 39-year-old tall frame is sent slumping down to the floor. It is chaotic, folk are trying to save their skin. Chairs are sprawled. A couple of guys rush to the stage to check on their leader. In one of the pictures of him on Pinterest as he’s down, someone loosens his tie. Another man can be seen trying to administer mouth-mouth resuscitation. His wife can be seen beside him too, fraught in her face.
I wonder what went through his mind whilst he was down there, staring death in the face, helpless. Cognizant of the macabre tangent his life was about to take. Pain riddling through his body. His lungs and heart relenting. I wonder if he wanted to say something to his wife, but couldn’t because blood choked his throat. Did he think about his family’s welfare, his children, perhaps. Or did he not have enough time to even think of anything. Was he dead before he realised it. I picture him down on the floor. Resigning to watching life ebb away from him. His pulse waning by the minute. Every time he blinks, his eyes take longer to open. Him grunting on the floor. Knowing he has died many deaths but this was the one he had been waiting for. He knew it would pan out this way. The writings were on the wall. He didn’t mean for his kids to see him go this way but well, there wasn’t anything he could do about that. He is human.
I wonder what his wife thought. Clasping his hands in hers, his grip weakening. She probably had her goose in a line after she married this man. They were supposed to have kids and grow old together, side by side. Then years later they were to sit in their yard as their grandkids frolic about on the grass, one lamenting he got a raw deal of a small toy. Him napping by her side, because old men always nap, his tea cold from being disregarded. He was supposed to be the granddad to pass lore to the kids. He was supposed to die of something that kills old people, like coughing. Or laughing his life away. Instead he died from the bullets of a hitman. From a coward’s muzzle. Someone who relished the idea of killing a man before his family.
He is near her, on the floor he ought to walk out of to alive. Did she feel like he failed her? Those impulsive promises we make; I’ll never leave you. Yet he did leave her, with kids to take care of. Was it worth it, him fighting for the people. Was it ever worth the sacrifice. Was it vain, she being collateral damage. Maybe she’ll forgive him for leaving her, maybe, just maybe she won’t. He won’t be there to bear the brunt of her cold shoulder.