“Don’t be scared, little one,” the first soldier said. My hand was in one of my father’s fists. I wasn’t scared, but I didn’t like how he looked at me as if I was a little boy. I didn’t go to school, but I wasn’t a little boy.
I was watching the second soldier, who stood at the top of the stairs leading to the roof. I knew how to count up to 10. I wish the soldiers weren’t more than 10. I was still counting. The third soldier stood by our shoes. I was worried he would step on my orange sandals with his big black shoes.
“We’ll take her, ask her a few questions, and bring her back soon,” the first soldier said as he stood in front of us. When he finished talking, mama stood up and went down the stairs to the landing where the fourth soldier was. Maman watched us as she stood on the landing. Her eyes looked the way they did the day I fell on the stairs holding the glass Coca-Cola bottles in my hands. That day, with blood everywhere on the stairs and floor, I was scared. But, Mama, with those same eyes, had come and carried me to the hospital.
The second soldier was still there when my hand fell out Baba’s. I couldn’t believe the first soldier who told me, “We’ll bring her back soon.” He made it up for me, I thought. “You all stay here,” Baba said. I didn’t listen to him. I had to at least see where the soldiers were going with my Mama. I quickly decided to put on my shoes, but my sandals weren’t in their place. The third soldier had knocked them down with his feet. I found each sandal on a different step and put them on. The soldier’s big shoes were so dirty that they’d made marks on my orange sandals.
Years later, some soldiers come to search our apartment. I didn’t know what they were looking for. I was paying attention to their shoes, their big black shoes. With their shoes on, they went into the guest room. When they left, I went back to the guest room. The hallway was stained by their shoe marks on the carpet, black and dirty, like the stain on my orange sandal that never came off.
Mom came back from prison after five years. We changed our carpet years after her return. Actually, we redid everything in our home. However, in various aspects of my life, especially at the beginning of the Fall season, I still feel stressed, anxious, and discomforted because it is the time of the year my mother was arrested. When my self-esteem was down, when my relationship with my mother was poor, when I was awakened and looked at my wet bed in my teenage years, I could strongly feel the dark and dirty shoe marks in my life. I tried hard and spent a lot of energy to turn this black sign into light. To this day, I still struggle with nightmares, and some days my stress disorder blocks my mind. But nonetheless, I am living my dream. I envision supporting children of imprisoned parents so they can fulfill their highest level of development, free from the any black and dirty shoe marks in their lives.