Mo-Mo is a person, a combination of people. Many of the people I have known and loved and argued with and admired and criticized over the years are combined in Mo-mo. I am not sure of who all is in there. I’ll figure it out as she and I talk. I don’t know exactly where the name comes from, Mo-Mo. I’ll ask her, but not tonight. Tonight I want to discuss a New York Times article with her.
“Hey. Sorry I am late. Traffic. I … hey, don’t look at me like that! Don’t give me the wave off or the hand.”
“Just kidding P.R.”
“I like that smile better.”
“Don’t be a weenie, P.R. Come here.”
She leans over to hug me. Mo-mo is tall, a couple inches taller than me. And young. When I was in high school, she was starting kindergarten. Didn’t know her then.
But high school is way in my rearview mirror now. I am 44. Mo-mo pops in and out of my life. Even when time goes by and I don’t see her much, she remains an extremely important figure in my life, a true friend, a sister who I have known over a decade.
“What are drinking?”
“Just a macchiato.”
“With a shot of caramel?”
“Always. How about you?”
“Pumpkin Spice Latte.”
“And what was on that plate while you were waiting for me?”
“Yes,” (sigh), “Again.”
“Relax P.R. We’re good. You need another hug.”
I smile and shake my head.
“I had a Blueberry muffin.”
“Was it good?”
“I am glad waiting for me wasn’t too horrible. It is loud in here though.”
“You don’t like crowds.”
“And you love them.”
She smiles and nods toward the end of the counter where a blonde-haired, nose pierced woman is leaning so close to her man in skinny jeans they seemed fused.
“They started out fighting. Awful language. Did not care a whit that the whole place heard them cussing each other. The manager was on the verge of throwing them out, so they shut it down. But they were still glaring, especially her at him. Within a few minutes the looks changed and before you know it they were all twinkly-eyed and sweetie.”
“I think they’re engaged.”
“You love the crowd – the show.”
“I see you have the Times. Did you read about Michael Dunn?”
“You mean, did I read about Jordan Davis?”
“Yes. Did you?”
“I did. Rob, this Jordan Davis’ story.”
“I am sorry.”
“Isn’t this what is supposed to happen?”
“A kid – unarmed – is murdered because a hot shot white dude didn’t like the rap music blaring from his car. The asshole should spend his life in jail.”
“Yes. And you’re right. It is the story of a 17-year-old being shot. His life should be the story.”
“But you said, ‘Michael Dunn.’ Half the time in these stories, the poor dead black kid’s name isn’t even mentioned. Even you, a conscientious person …”
“I am trying to break my habits, be aware of my privilege, Mo-mo. You know that.”
“Here, the story mentioned Dunn. It is about him being convicted. Most of the time, the white guy gets away with it, especially in Florida.”
“This is what is supposed to happen. He kills a kid. He goes to jail. It just …” (tearing up a little) “… why does the right thing have to be the exception? Why should this result actually surprise us?”
I sit and give her a moment. I am expressionless and breathing slowly, deliberately. I put my hand on her hand. She offers a hint of a smile.
“P.R., you feel the same way about loud rap music as Michael Dunn.”
“Who’s Michael Dunn?”
“You’re right. I hate rap. Hate it.”
“How did you ever survive that time at my parents’ house? All my cousins were there?”
“Oh my gosh, Little Tom, and that music. It’s so foul, Mo-mo! I can’t believe your dad let him play it as long as he did.”
“You stuck in there P.R.. You didn’t appear too annoyed.”
“I was shoving pigs-in-a-blanket in my face and talking to your uncle Willie.”
“Do you still email him?”
“We’re facebook friends. We chat sometimes.”
As we talked, our attention was drawn to the story on the TV in the café. An NFL player had punched his girlfriend in a casino elevator. The video was graphic. I was speechless. Mo-mo had a lot to say. I had put in hours and hours hearing her rants, teasing out her opinions, helping her refine her thoughts. I actually felt happy, not because of the story, but because I could sit with my friend as she talked it through. I felt happy to have this friend, someone so different than me. We were in the café almost two hours before she had to go.
I walked her to her car and then headed on my way. I had to visit the hospital where I would pray at the bedside of a cancer patient. She is 41, the mother of 3 kids. She is not going to make it.