A fusillade of gunshots shatters the evening stillness, silence a brief backdrop again before a cacophony of police radios and loud voices erupts in its place.
No longer cognizant of his surroundings, the young man who is the focus of the radio calls and shouted instructions attempts to rise and resume his journey.
Miles away, a mother stirs. She never truly sleeps until her son returns home.
Worlds away, a mother-deity stirs. She never truly sleeps until her children return home.
He tries to get up but his legs won’t move. It’s wet, where he’s lying. Where was he?
He’d been walking home. He hated being late, hated having a curfew.Wishing he hadn’t smoked weed with his friends. His mother would know. She always knew.
Looking back for the bus, he’d seen a car slowly approaching with its lights off. Nerves on edge, he heard shouts and car doors slamming and began to run.
It’s so cold.
Suddenly he’s bathed in light. Struggling to lift his head, he sees a lady. Mama?
“Yeye emo eja ? Yeye emo eja? Yeye emo eja!”
The mother sits up, heart racing, bathed in sweat. She’d dreamed of her son, face down in an alley, awash in blood. As he struggled to look up, a cowled woman appeared, kneeling in front of him.
The phone rings, stops, then a minute later begins to ring again. She doesn’t answer. She knows what has happened.
“Yeye emo eja!”
“Beloved”, she smiles. “Yes I am Yemoja, the mother of all. No matter how far from home, my children know me”. The cowled woman gazes with infinite love into the young man’s eyes. “I am here to guide you to Orun”. She extends her hand. “Come, your ancestral spirits await.You are going home“.
At her urging, the last of the mother’s family has finally left. Their love has carried her along, but she needs to be alone now. Making a cup of tea, she crosses the room to her favorite chair.
The tea sits untouched, grows cold. The room gradually grows dark. Still she sits, gazing into an eternity without her son. At some point her eyes close, and the sleep of exhaustion overcomes her. She dreams again.
Her son lies in an alley, awash in blood. He struggles to look up, and a cowled woman appears, kneeling in front of him. After a few moments the woman’s head turns. Her eyes are dark pools of infinite love, and something more. She gazes directly into the mothers eyes, smiling gently.
Yemoja’s hands softly caress the mother’s face. “Beloved – you have taken him to the edge of manhood. I will take him the rest of the way, to complete his journey. He shall live again. He will have much to tell you, when you meet once more“.
The cowled woman extends her hand. The young man grasps it, and both rise to their feet. He smiles shyly at Yemoja, who returns the smile.
A single tear makes its way down the mother’s cheek. There is a chill in the air, and a blanket with a pattern popular centuries earlier among Yoruba tribesmen appears, arranging itself around her. Pulling the blanket more snugly against herself, the mother whispers her son’s name.
This story was inspired by the beautiful painting featured above. You may view or purchase it at the Omiiroo Galeria, 400 14th st in Oakland, Ca.