When I was 5 and you were 6, I moved in on Blossom street, right across from your house. My parents had been too lazy to potty train me so I still was using a diaper. You were riding your red tricycle in circles on your driveway, and somehow, found your way riding your tricycle in circles on mine. The most vivid thing I remember was your smile. It was bright and beautiful. I thought if I could ride the tricycle it would make me smile like that too. I asked if I could have a turn, but you looked down at my diaper and said no and called me a baby girl. My first instinct was to get angry, as it always is, and after finding no way to defend myself (because I was, in fact, a baby girl), crying.
My dad came out and saw what had happened. Once hearing out the situation through my sniffling voice, he laughed and kindly asked you to apologize. You looked down at your shoes and whispered an apology. Getting annoyed that you couldn’t look me in the face, I yelled, “I’m not a pair of shoes!”
After hearing that, you smiled, with a goofy, warm smile, looked me straight in the eyes and yelled, “I’m not sorry at all!” My dad forced you to at least give me a hug, and as soon as you did, you darted back into your house, and left your tricycle on our yard. You later came back with embarrassment in your dark eyes and came to retrieve it.
When I was 7 and you were 8, we were well into third grade. We had become friends over baseball and potato chips at my house, and watching the weekly game was like a religion to us. We communicated by walkie talkie so that we could tell each other what time you could come over to watch the game. My dad called me a tomboy because I decided to wear overalls 24/7 rather than the dresses that my other girl friends wore.
I remember that our third grade teacher wasn’t very nice to you. We made fun of her behind her back, but still she continually picked on you more than anyone else.
I remember you being upset when we were drawing portraits of ourselves in class. Our teacher handed out markers so that we could draw our faces. I was given a peach colored marker, which looked rather orange to me. You were given a pitch black one. You looked around the classroom for any other kids with black markers, but all of them were peach. “I’m not that dark,” you said, “I should have a brown marker.” Our teacher sourly apologized saying that she didn’t have any brown markers at the moment, and that it was close enough to the way you looked.
I could tell you were upset because you colored the same line at least 10 times making a tiny hole in the paper. I patted your shoulder and tried to make you feel better at the expense of my own marker (saying that my marker wasn’t good either, I don’t look like an orange!) You still felt upset, and I couldn’t cheer you up. You colored your face with the black marker, but you also colored over your eyes, and mouth and nose, so you looked more like a shadow.
On the bus home you still didn’t talk to me. There were marker stains on your hands. After school that day I picked up my walkie talkie and said, “Don’t you worry one bit, you hear me. Not a single bit! That mean old lady has a soul as smelly as a wet dog, but you’ve got it all going for you. I promise!” I’m still not sure if you heard me or not, but I’m praying that you did.
When I was 9 and you were 10 we had reached 5th grade, . We were now the leaders of our elementary school, and you especially felt adultlike because you had recently entered into the double digits of age. You decided that you would bring in a cake and share it with the class that afternoon. You wore that goofy, lopsided smile of yours that entire day. You made a paper crown for your head with the words “10 YEARS OLD” written on it.
When the learning part of school was over and the recess part had begun you announced that you had brought cake for everyone to eat. All the kids seemed excited, but our teacher, Mrs. Abellard, didn’t.
“No” Mrs. Abellard said. We all seemed confused.
“No, you cannot bring out your cake.”
“Why not?” you said, “It’s my birthday.”
“I said, No.”
“Why? I’m 10 years old now. It’s my birth--”
“No. I said, no. We will not celebrate your birthday. You don’t belong in my school, not in my town, and definitely not in my America.”
You were shocked. Your paper crown fell from your head even though you were frozen still. After a few seconds you couldn’t bear to hold in the tears anymore and you cried. But silently. Not even blinking, the tears came out itself. And Mrs. Abellard, she smiled. And I was filled with anger.
“You are a no good, fat, stupid, slob, and you should be fired from everything and go to hell!” I yelled. With that, we were both sent down to the principal's office. After an apology, they let me leave. And they tried to get an apology out of you too, but something in your head had clicked. You wouldn’t speak at all. You just sat silent, not saying anything, with tears streaming down your face.
When I was 13 and you were 14, you started to drift away from me. And I guess it was because we went to a bigger school, and we weren’t in the same class anymore. You made new friends, and so did I. But I still missed you. A lot.
At the beginning, you still came over to watch the ball game every Sunday, but I remember the day you stopped coming. I saw you hanging outside with your new friends while I was watching the game by myself. I asked you why you didn’t come, and you said because I was a girl. You said that it’s weird for girls to watch sports, and that you didn’t want to watch the games with me anymore. I reacted angry first, yelling all sorts of profanity at you, and then crying, just like I always do. But I later on forgave you. And when I turned 14 you began to hang out with me more again. You got your mother to take us out to places like the movies, and the mall, and countless diners; and I also remember thinking I had become quite a bit prettier than before. I distinctly remember one time. We went to a diner, called Side-of-the-Road Diner, it was your 15th birthday and you were grounded, so you snuck out of your house with a 20 dollar bill and we rode our bikes down the street the nearest place we could find. We got two malted milkshakes and a bucket of fries. With the napkins on the table and the crayons that they set out for little kids, I drew you a crown, placed it on your head, and wished you a happy birthday. You looked at me, and your eyes were filled with tears of happiness. Then you pulled my hair back behind my ear, and kissed me.
When I was 16 and you were 17, you seemed to act like the ocean. Hanging around me, and then seemingly acting like I didn’t exist, and then coming back again. I missed the times when we were younger, and everything was simple. Homecoming was arriving, and I wanted to go, but not with just anyone, with you. I remember knocking on your door, and you invited me in. I immediately asked you to take me to homecoming. I was excited, but you weren’t to happy.
“No,” you said. I was confused.
“Why not? I don’t understand.”
“I won’t take you to homecoming.”
“But we’re friends, it won’t be awkward I promise.”
“No, just trust me, no.”
“Please. Why no--”
“I said, No!” I hadn’t even payed attention to the tears welling up in your eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered.
“What do you mean what’s wrong? Look at me! I live in the wrong body! In the wrong town! In the wrong America! I am black!” He took a moment to wipe away his tears. “People hate me and there is nothing I can do about it. So just...just leave me alone.”
At that point, I was the one with tears streaming down my face, but I had also finally understood why you wouldn’t hang around me. And I realized that everyone you were friends with was black too. And whenever we hung out, it was almost like a secret. But I didn’t want it to be that way. I tried to talk to you more but you forced me to leave. I wanted to be angry at you so badly, but I was angry at myself. I hated myself, because I loved you, I hated America because they didn’t love you, and I hated you because I wanted you to love me back.
When I was 17 and you were 18, we were almost strangers. Almost. I hadn’t talked to you in the longest time, so I put my head low whenever we happened to cross paths. One day at school, however, you stopped by my locker and started up a conversation. I seemed paralyzed when you looked at me. You were wearing that goofy, lopsided grin of yours, and happiness seemed to be emanating off of you. I hadn’t seen you like that in a long time. You asked to come over and watch the ball game that upcoming Sunday. I couldn’t have been happier to say yes. We agreed that you would come over at a late 9:00 pm when my parents wouldn’t be home.
When the day came I was so excited. I started getting ready at 12:00 pm. I fluffed the couches at least 7 times, set out a bowl of potato chips, and then bringing them back and replacing them with a different kind (because maybe you don’t like that flavor) and then changing my mind again and bringing out the first bowl.
9:00 pm seemed to come slow as a snail, and I waited out on the steps to my front door at 8:50 pm waiting for you to walk over. You came over at a late 9:02. Instead of going inside immediately we decided that we would sit on the steps to my front door for awhile and talk. I remember, you looked up at the stars and pointed to the constellations with your right hand, while your left hand was wrapped around me. And I remember the feeling of it all. It was warm and dark, and my lungs seemed to be filled with love. And everything was how it was meant to be.
And then a police officer arrives.
He walks up to us, not even looking at you, and asks me if you were bothering me. But I couldn’t answer. When I looked up at the officer I seemed to freeze. You answered no and looked at me for reassurance, but the officer wouldn’t leave us alone. No, he wouldn’t leave you alone. The police officer seemed to have it in for you, he didn’t like you at all. He searched you, questioned you, and finally asked you to put your hands behind your back because he was going to handcuff you. But you refused, and insisted that you weren’t doing anything wrong.
“Tell him,” you said to me, “I’m not doing anything wrong,” but for the life of me, I can’t remember if I said anything back.
The police officer proceeded to slam you into the wall. You began to fight him back, and I yelled at you both to stop.
“I’ve done nothing wrong!” You repeatedly yelled. My brain couldn’t perceive that this was really happening. It wasn’t hard to see that you were much stronger than the officer, and soon you had him pinned to the floor and you were pummeling him. I looked at the police officer on the floor, his nose was spilling blood and had turned purple. His eye was swollen from your beating, but you kept on going until,
“STOP!” I yelled. Tears started to pour out of my eyes and I ran over to you. You looked down at your fist and saw the blood on your hands and stopped, realizing how much you hurt him. I felt your arms wrap around me.
“I’m sorry,” you said. “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”
“It doesn’t matter, but we need to call an ambulance to--”
Two loud bangs, and your body went limp in my arms.
I let go of you and your body fell to floor, lifeless. Your forehead was dripping blood from the two holes shot through your skull into your unblinking eyes.
The full impact of what happened hit me a few seconds later, and everything inside me broke. The police officer got up on his feet, his shadow covered your face.
“What have you done?” I sobbed, and the officer, having nothing to say, and acknowledging the sin, drove away.
I lay my head down on your chest.
“We haven’t even watched the ball game yet, please wake up”
I lay down on your chest until you turned cold. Both bullets pierced through the same hole in your temple, but I was left with all the pain. I didn’t even need to blink for the tears to fall. I held you close to my chest. I couldn’t think of doing anything else.
When I was here and you were gone, everything seemed to be a memory of you. A certain aura that you had taken with you to the grave had left me gray and sad. The worst part of everyday is walking down my driveway. I remember you pedaling your tricycle in circles like there was no tomorrow. But my most vivid memory is when my dad forced you to hug me. I remember feeling the heat of your body, and the beat of your heart so steady. Even at that young age, I didn’t want you to stop hugging me, but you quickly darted back to your house. However, even though you were running away from me, I remember you looking back every now and then, smiling at me with the bright glow of the morning sun.