A body in the river and a face on a billboard.

There is a billboard on the main road past our neighborhood.  The face of a black man is gigantic, towering over the road.  I’ve driven by this sign multiple times now, and I wonder how his family feels, knowing that his disappearance and death will likely remain a mystery.  Their loved one went missing, later found in the river that borders our state and the next.  To those driving by, this might just be another face, easy to ignore, easy to trust that detectives are searching and chasing leads, easy to be ignorant of the social truth that this face does not elicit urgency.  Years prior, it might have been just as comfortable for me to look the other way.  This isn’t another face though, and he never was.  His nephew lives a few doors down from us and he goes to school with our sons.  We knew his uncle was missing when he mentioned it during a game of front yard catch.  It wasn’t that much later that I saw that a body had been pulled, matched the name, and dreaded that my deduction might be correct.  During a walk home from school, his grandfather pulled up in his car and shared the news, confirming what I already knew.  I’m not sure any parent is prepared to explain to a child that someone may have killed their uncle.  It was hard enough for me and I was talking about someone unrelated to us, known only by acquaintance.  How do you share with your child that the police are doing everything they can, knowing it might be a lie, but lying anyway because what else do you say?  Maybe you tell the truth, tell your child that black lives do not carry the same weight, even though they should.  Maybe you tell them that this body in a river, this body you used to hug and laugh with, will remain just a body in a river because he was always going to be just a body in a river when he was found.  Maybe you hold your son and cry, telling him you’re so sorry his uncle is gone, because this is unequivocally true and avoids the other issues surrounding why this person is never coming home and why you may never know any of the “whys”.  


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