It started off like any other Saturday night on U Street. With the hottest week of the summer on deck, a light storm began the evening, leaving a rare rainbow over Northwest before the sun fell for good.
On 18th and Florida, the bros celebrated Bastille Day outside of L’Enfant. Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care” was blasting from the speakers on Vernon Street NW, while a white limo sat out front of Jack Rose. The walk down Florida Avenue showed the day’s damage: Muddy full length sundresses and ruined flip-flops, for those who managed to keep them. Brunch must have been epic.
On U Street, the air was even hotter. The melange of people was more notable than usual. You had the hipsters navigating their night. Other guys were focused on the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta, in town celebrating their 100th anniversary. “Why do you need go change? Negro, just chill with what you got on,” one man said to his buddy on 12th Street. His friends laughed. At Tabaq, just down the street, the Deltas were holding down two full floors.
“I like this place,” a lady in a full-length red dress said at Ben’s Next Door.
“It is nice,” her sorority sister replied. She showed her friend a text message, asking a third party where to go eat in D.C. “Yum’s chicken wings with mambo sauce,” came the reply.
But there was a looming situation. Two of the five television sets were broadcasting on the expected news of George Zimmerman’s fate. All the black men of a certain age kept an eye on it while they partied. You know them well: The brothers who still look young enough to be considered dangerous to a certain generation, just for being who they are.
Then, the verdict. Stunned faces, all over the crowd.
“I ain’t surprised though, this America. It’s been like this for years,” a man who said he went to Howard University said.
The three women standing in front of us all had tears in their eyes, but chose not to sob openly. I didn’t have the heart to ask them if they were mothers. Truth is, it didn’t matter.
By 12:12 a.m., young men were rapping on the corner of 11th and U. A cipher, as it’s known, had developed, and Trayvon’s name was in a lot of those rhymes.
On the way, home, a bit overwhelmed by all of it, I stopped into my local for a beer. “You’re the last person I want to sit next to me,” a friend said. “Because I don’t want to talk about Trayvon Martin.”
Neither did I.