I thought of him as my teddy bear, but I couldn’t tell anybody that.

He was a grown man for crying out loud.

But it was true and he kept me from crying out loud multiple times over consecutive days.

We worked together, but he was my student first.

I learned his name and exactly how to pronounce it.

Ask any of my students and they’ll agree, getting their names correctly meant the world to me.

It was non-negotialble. They couldn’t say “it’s okay” when I butchered a Guisela or Tatiania. 

I forced myself to learn it, so it could roll off my tongue like it rolled off their mommas.  

All of them mattered to me, but it was during the summer when I was most like their momma. 

I fed them and we all lived together. We were bridging the gap between high school and college.

We were growing up, but those summers I had Coleveion I could let myself be a little young—

I just couldn’t tell anybody. 

Everybody else called him CJ and I learned that his artistic name is King Mello.

I call him Coleveion and we’ve stayed in touch. 

He sang to me leaving out the profanity, but he didn’t have to. I follow his work. I know his brilliance. 

I believe in his right to curse. 

He was my safety; my protector from the incoming.

His ears were like gold the way he’d lean in to listen. 

He was my teddy bear with the strength of a lion.

The day he graduated, I cried to see him go.

Coleveion, who will call you by your birthname now?

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