Updated: Mar 7
October 23, 2015 2:37 a.m.
It started with the pull of a trigger.
Pull, aim, shoot.
I took my first life.
Pull, aim, shoot.
I didn’t flinch. I couldn’t flinch.
Pull, aim, shoot.
I ran until I couldn’t hear the sirens trailing where the firearm shots could have come from. The residents of the apartment complex prodded lividly as they inquired who was shot this time? It could have been someone’s little brother. Or cousin. Or even mines! No! I can’t turn back now. What’s done is done. I can’t regret popping him. All I know is, he deserved it.
Pull, aim, shoot.
The wails of the sirens were still close on the streets, and I knew I needed to get outta sight. I ran towards the back entrance of the apartments, so I could stay as low as possible until the commotion died down. I slid down behind a dumpster, and tried to justify the retribution I sought for my brother, Jay. I tried to calm my shaking hand that held the heavy iron draped in the bandana, but the trembling prevailed over my body. I wanted to believe my brother was smiling down on me, and thanking me for capping the fool who killed him. But, I felt like he was just solely looking down.
Pull, aim, shoot.
The scene kept replaying over and over in my head. Me walking up on the fool that shot my brother. Me shooting him in the parking lot. Him crawling through a pool of blood to escape his fate. Me kicking his body over to unmask myself. Me standing over him with the barrel pointed to his face. His final words replaying in my head.
“My--.” He coughed blood in between his words and dragged his body along the pavement. “My--.” He coughed blood again, “--please.”
Pull, aim, shoot.
My head was throbbing from the ringing, or the replaying, or the sirens, or just a combination of it all. The noise of the sirens grew closer, as I rocked back and forth questioning him, “Was this right, Jay?”
October 21, 2015 7:23 a.m.
“I wish that all mornings felt like this.” I said.
“Amya, whatchu’ talking ‘bout?” Jay said unraveling the Black & Mild from the package.
“Like this dummy,” I said and held my hands out to the street, “just listen, don’t you hear that?” The streets were quiet. For the first time in so long I hadn’t heard Mechanicsville this quiet. There were no children on Huffy scooters, no mailman dropping off junk, no dogs barking because they see cars —just us and the sun. Jay’s white tank top and satin durag even had a glow. I knew underneath his durag was the most perfect set of waves that resembled a Black Sea.
“It’s a little too quiet if you ask me, shit makes me paranoid.” Such a mood killer. He sparked his Black & Mild, and his once shaking leg ceased at the smoke inhalation.
“Whatever.” I said, still embracing this peace. It’s rare for Jay to sit out on the porch with me while I read as the sun comes up. It was rare for Jay to not be moving. His constant movements would scare me sometimes because I never knew when the day would come when he would cease to move. I just felt like our time was limited. Summer was almost over and I’d be in a whole new city —away from my family. I know they say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but Jay is more and more distant these days. We used to be so close because we were the youngest, but now that he’s so worried about bills and keeping his set safe I hardly see him. I feel like I’m trying to get to know him as much as I can before I go.
“So when you gone give this up, Jay?”
Jay cocked his head at me with a “this again” look in between the puff of his Black & Mild, and I cocked my head back at him with raised eyebrows, pressing the question again.
“Girl, what you talkin’ bout’?” He returned his gaze to our neighboring houses becoming silhouettes from the Atlanta sun, rising just above our city. He deeply inhaled the rolling clouds again.
“You know what I’m talking about, Jay, and don’t call me girl. I’m not one of your little hussies.” I nudged his shoulder and he slightly tilted in Mama’s rocking chair. His durag shook in the motion and Jay quickly put down the cigarillo on Mama’s ashtray to retighten it, flexing his biceps.
“Aight, Amya, what are you talking about, again?” He asked, now relighting the ashed tip of the cigarillo.
"This,” I said, holding my hand out past the porch balcony, and pointing to Mechanicsville, our block --his streets. “When are you going to give this up? Mama needs you Jay, and it’s only a matter of time before you piss off the right person and they put a bullet in your ass.”
“On that note,” he took another quick puff then ashed his Black & Mild, “this conversation is through.” He began to rise from Mama’s rocking chair and walk back to the front door, but I followed him and pushed the door shut —staring him in his eyes four feet below his six feet stature.
“I’m serious, Jay. It’s only a matter of time before you piss off the right person and they bust a cap in your ass.”
“Listen, Mya. I just wanted to enjoy my morning with you. You woke me up this early to tell me about this. It’s never gonna happen. I’ve told you and Mama many times before, now let me through.”
I pushed my hand harder to close the front door then blocked it with my rounded hips entirely.
“Mya, why are you really doing this? Can’t a man just wake and bake with his sister and enjoy that?” I couldn’t believe he was serious. He raised his shoulders and squinted his eyes as though this conversation was really paining him.
“You know I don’t smoke that stuff, Jay, and you know why I’m telling you this again and again. You’re twenty-three years old, you’ve still got time to change. You know and I know that you’ve got way more talent than those fools that follow you to make it off the streets. You got recruited not just because you were good at ball, but because you’re smart.”
He rolled his eyes and turned his face towards the roof of the porch. “Uggghhh, here we go with this again.”
“Why not take what you were blessed with and make something outta yourself for Mama and me?” I sound like Mama, except not this Mama, our current Mama doesn’t nag Jay. I sound like old Mama, when she used to nag our older brother Marco. Mama lectures less since Marco died.
“Listen, Mya, books weren’t my thing, and you also know that. That’s your thing.” He says gesturing a finger towards my chest. “And you keep your head in them books instead of worrying about me and my business, because I’ll always be here to take care of you and Mama.” I exhale and turn my face away from his because I feel where this conversation is going.
“You know what I mean Jay.” I cut him a side eye, “Don’t either of us wanna see you get hurt --God doesn’t work on our time, Jay.” I say, still staring away from him.
“Ain’t nobody gonna touch me, Mya, and that’s it. If somebody wanted to touch me, I would’ve been dead a long time ago after what they did to Marco.” I got quiet because this conversation just turned into that conversation, and I knew he was bound to win at any moment.
“I know you and Mama worry about me, but I’ll always be good and I’ll always be there to take care of you.” My body was completely turned towards the streets now. I needed to drown him out. I imagined kids on their rusted Huffy scooters speeding down hills. Mothers fanning themselves as they walked their kids to the bus stops. Men mowing their yards in the afternoon heat as police cruised by. “Mya, don’t I always take care of you?” I snapped out of it, but I didn’t respond. I wondered if not now, when will I ever speak up about what he’s doing and the reality of what could happen from doing it.
“—and don’t I always come home every night to check on the two most beautiful women in the world to always make sure y’all are straight?”
“Yes, Jay. You put food on the table, clothes on our backs, but that still doesn’t make me feel any better. I’ve been having this really bad dream recently where —“
“Mya, I don’t have time for any of this. I’m a grown man. I promise I got myself just like I got y’all. I would never leave my two favorite people in a world without me.” He kissed my forehead and held my chin in his hand. His smile was so reassuring, his pearly white teeth contrasting his purple skin. How could I think God would take away a smile so perfect in our lives. “Now you need to get back to those books. Your teacher said that a lot of those outta state universities are looking to scout you and give you some money. You know you can’t live off me for the rest of your life. Go ahead and get that work in, so they can pay for your tuition.”
He smiled again at me still holding my chin, and I didn’t even realize how hard I was smiling as well. Just almost forgetting the severity of our conversation seconds ago.
“I just really love you, Jay. I feel sometimes useless without you— like I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to you.” He dropped his hand from my chin and moved his index to my face, while lightly placing one hand on my shoulder.
“Ain’t nothing gonna happen. And I’ll tell you what you will do if anything ever did happen, you’re gonna keep getting that medicine for Mama.” He moved the wagging finger, but the shoulder grip remained. Not so rough, but just gentle enough.
“Oh shit! It is today!”
“Yup it is. I’ll give you the co-pay and just go pick it up. I’ve already called in to make sure it’s there and they said that it’ll be ready for pick up by 11 a.m. She also made a grocery list and stuck it to the fridge so pick that up too.”
“Okay. I’ll go get it.”
He released me, and I started towards the screen door to get ready for my assigned chores.
“And Mya,” I turned around after opening the door, he pulled his car keys out of his pocket and handed them to me alongside a roll of cash. “you can take my car. I gotta dust off Rosie today.”
My pissy attitude instantly resolved, because he knew he had me. He knew that he would reel me in by letting me drive Daisy, and as always — I took the bait. Daisy was his mark of approval throughout the hood, and everybody knew him when they saw the lavender purple El Dorado cruising on its gold 40-inches. I’d be lying if I said my brother didn’t know how to ride clean. The tinted windows with the dusty purple glitter sealed the 70’s look for me. I tried not to sweat him so much as a teenager, because as a kid all I did was dress like him when he first got Daisy. The crisp 3x t-shirt with the egg-shell white Adidas were my favorite steals from his closet, not to mention his lucky Yankees hat that I would twist just above my right ear.
“You’re welcome, my love. Now go ahead before Mama gets mad at both of us.”
I tore the canvas sheet off the cadillac, and stared at my reflection in the freshly waxed coat. Jay’s roll of cash was in my left-hand, the car keys to Daisy in my right, and Mama’s co-pay tucked away in my coat pocket. He slid me “extra change” for her co-pay, but I knew it was the exact co-pay amount. Mama’s co-pay or any other chore around the house, is just another time restriction for Jay that he pays me to do. He pays me a hefty service fee in fact. I would always try to guess how much was in the weekly roll each time he would give them to me. I would guess $150, or $200, but I was always wrong. Jay never gave me less than $300 since I was eight.
I revved the engine with the destination of Leno’s spot in mind. I’ve memorized every street, every block, and every corner from the time Jay started teaching me how to drive. Take a left turn down Ralph David. Intersect on Fulton street. Cross onto Whitehall, and there was Leno’s one-story house sandwiched in between two duplexes.
I always loved Miss Sophia’s house, Leno’s mother, because she kept the flowers in their front yard watered, and Leno kept their lawn trimmed. Me, Leno, and Jay used to “scavenge” for berries in the wild since their small house had the largest backyard. Instead of berries, we’d find poison ivy, and we’d end up pushing each other down in it. Games like that eventually stopped being fun for us. In the spring season, Miss Sophia would make me, Leno, and Jay come outside to plant her favorite yellow daffodils alongside the curb of the street. She would even make Marco help before taking me and Jay home. That’s the funny thing about being kids, grown-ups can make you do anything. Since the death of her son Ray, she never missed a Sunday at church, and to not hear her fuss, Leno makes sure he doesn’t either. As a teenager, I respectfully decline her and Leno’s Sunday offers to congregate with them at church. I think that it’s a family thing though. Mama is Christian but has never taken Jay and I to church, and Jay doesn’t believe in organized religions. Me, I’m still figuring out my spirituality.
When I pulled up, Leno was already sitting on the front porch, with his mother’s windchimes coupling with the breezes. I parked behind his black Honda Accord as he stayed in the chair and rocked back and forth with a still face. It remained unmoved, until I stepped out of the car and I could see his cheeks blush into a subtle smile.
I always expected the welcome from his cologne and lips before he ever spoke a word. He wrapped his arms around my waist, then let one hand crawl up to my cheek --held it, and pressed his lips against mine.
“Sit down,” he finally said, letting the air return between us. He weaved my fingers through his skeleton tattooed knuckles and guided me to sit down in his mother’s rocking chair. I tried to catch a glimpse of the bookmarked novel he was reading on the table. “I wasn’t expecting to see you this morning.” He said, still holding my hand across the mini-table.
“Are you not happy to see me?” I replied, raising my eyebrows.
“You know I am.”
“Well, good. So why are you up this early? I wasn’t expecting you to be waiting on me outside when I pulled up.”
“I told you I wasn’t expecting you to be in the car, but for some reason I felt as though I was expecting something. My ma’ had caught a ride with her coworker this morning, so I was just up alone. I decided to come outside and enjoy the sunrise to get some clarity.” He sighed at his last words and turned to look back at the streets. His face returned to stillness as though he retreated to his thoughts again. “Why are you drivin’ Jay’s car?”
“It was his cop out to get me to shut up talking about something he didn’t want to hear.”
“And you took it?”
“Yeah. . .I took it.” There was another silence between us. The coolness of the Saturday morning began to break as the sun rose to its highest. Leno’s honey skin glowed a light amber in our summer heat. His purple chest tattoos were more vibrant at this time too. They canvassed his body more than the plain white tee. “Jay’s got me running an errand for him.” Leno quickly turned his head to me with a look of concern, or anger? “Not those kinds of errands. Just one for my mom. You know he wouldn’t do that.”
He sighed and returned to his thoughts.
“I came by to swoop you up to come with me though.”
“That’s cool. I’ll go get ready.”
I trailed him into the house towards his room, mentally re-photographing the walls of memories with Leno, his family, and his older brother Ray. One picture showed the two little tan boys standing in front of their kiddie pool. Leno’s crying uncontrollably with