My Dad was a good dad. He’d always put my hair into a little bun in the morning or sneak in an extra cookie for me during dinner. But above all that, Dad always played basketball with me. When we’d play, the net was so far above me, out of reach. But Dad would always pick me up to where the net didn’t seem so far. All I had to do was shoot. And I’d take my shot. Then Dad would take his. One after another. More and more….until he was fully stoned.
“Yo Queen! Still in there? Don’t leave me now!”
There I stood on the beat-up concrete of the old basketball court, Zoe trying to shake the life out of me. Two other girls stood behind her, waiting impatiently.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. Chill,” I grumbled to Zoe, shoving her hands off my shoulders, “Shake me like that again and I’ll quit playing.” As the sun-soaked the neighborhood in golden daylight, kids played hopscotch and marbles along the chalk smeared sidewalk. Black faces spread out across the neighborhood, enjoying the bright afternoon. It’s always been like that on Dad’s anniversary. Warm and happy.
Zoe had said to meet up at the basketball court after school, mentioned something about wiping the floor with some kids around the block. But Lord knows I wasn’t in the mood, and Macy would definitely call me out on going. You’d never play again you say? You’d never revisit the court you say? Just thinking of her smart Alek voice made me cringe. Shrugging off the thought, I turned to the other girls who stood arms crossed and feet tapping.
“So are you guys ready or what?” boomed one of the girls, glowering above my head. She was so tall mountain climbers couldn’t reach her large afro if they tried. I laughed sheepishly. “Um, sure?”
“Finally!” Without warning, the other girl started to run, the beads in her hair clinking at the ends of her long braids. She passed it to the tall girl, wait, no she didn’t. Beads kept running. Zoe tries to block…Come on girl, come on!....couldn’t. Beads is getting close. Okay, okay. She gonna try to break my ankles now. I just have to watch her. Alright, dribbles through the legs, now out the side, around again…..Got it! I ran down the court, crossing over Tall Girl and heading for the net. C’mon Queen, it’s right there. C’mon, Queen, C’mon!
“Let’s get it, Queen!” Zoe hollered, clapping as if we had already won. It was only a simple layup but seemed like a full court shot. Play after play, three after three, we eventually caught up. After each shot, thoughts would sink into my mind over and over again. If only Dad saw that. If only I could show him those dark days are over. You’re our dad, Dad. A really great one.
The score was thirty to twenty-four and the game was about over. Breathing hard and heavily, I weaved my fingers together and rested them on my head. Beads girl laughed.
“What, Y’all tired or something? We aren’t even trying and you guys are still getting a run for your money. Straight up trash.” I tilted my head to the side, bombarded with bewilderment. Did she just say that?
“Um, I’m sorry, but we’ve been winning for the past thirty minutes. Try actually making a shot and you won’t be as butthurt,” I said, Zoe ‘oooo’-ing in the background.
“Play better?” Tall Girl huffed, looking at me from head to toe like I was some sort of joke. “You say that like you’re special. Like you a real queen or something.” The two girls snickered. Zoe stepped up, rolling her sleeves up to her elbows.
“Naw, it’s fine,” I held out my hand to stop her before our game turned into a cussing rally. We played, we won. It was over. The last thing I needed that day was a fight. “Let’s go.” Zoe and I walked from the court, heading towards the street. Both girls continued to force out laughter, their blaring voices catching the attention of the neighborhood.
“Yeah, you better run. Go crying home to your Pops.”
Like a bullet shot directly into the heart. Vicious winds cut through my sore limbs as I whipped my head back. The neighborhood was no longer happy or warm. No, it was tense, as if it were the scene of a crime. History truly does repeat itself.
“Listen.” I stuck my finger right beneath Beads’ nose. “I don’t know what your problem is. But you better watch your mouth before it goes off running like that again.” The girls stood completely paralyzed by my stern tone, frozen in place. Crying home to Dad? Little did they know he wasn’t coming home anytime soon. Without another word, I walked off that stupid court.
“Hey, Brooklyn, or should I say Queen of the Court?”
My aching legs carried me into the sweet fragrance of sunflowers and lavender coming from our apartment. Macy stood by the door, smiling slyly. I laughed, the weird one you give when you see something funny on your phone. An ‘mmph’.
“Mmph, just Queen is fine.” I winced. “So, you’ve heard already?”
“Yep. I’m only younger by a year. I hear things,” she sighed, helplessly. For real, sisters know every little thing you’re doing. But by the look on her face, she hadn’t heard any of the details. In fact, Macy seemed relieved. Before I could say anything about it, though, she pointed at the cooler. “Ma’s working late today, so she left us some pop. I’ll go get some.”
“Cool.” As Macy went towards the cooler, I went outside and sat on the steps of our front porch. The sun was starting to set, saying a few goodbyes before the moon came out. Four years ago, March 1st wasn’t so pretty. Dad almost shot a man after getting drunk and was locked behind bars. Clueless and tired, seven-year-old me woke up to Ma crying herself a flood on the couch. What’s wrong Mama? She turned to me, frightened, then pulled me close to her chest, crying some more. Shutting my eyes, I let the swift breeze carry me away from the forbidden memory.
“Here.” Macy handed me the cold drink and sat beside me on the wooden steps. For a while, we sat silence there, listening to birds chirping overhead and of couple cars roll on by.
“The girls didn’t hurt you during y’all’s game, did they? I heard about them calling you and Zoe trash.” I glared at her, suspiciously. Who tells her these things?
“No, don’t worry. We beat ‘em and they got petty, that’s all.” Macy smiled warmly and took a long swing of her coke.
“I’m glad that’s all. You know, I was worried those kids would try something, like the ones Dad hung out with.” The streets became quiet as children returned home and the sun finally came down. I set my soda down beside me.
“Dad didn’t have good parents. They did the same thing he did, drink all night and come back the day after. That’s what led him to those bad friends. I’m okay Macy, those girls couldn’t lay a finger on me if they tried.” Strange. Nothing came out of her, not even a giggle. I glanced over to see a stream of tears sliding down her face.
“I know...B-but it wasn’t only those kids. It was his parents’ fault, too. And since Dad did what they did, I…. I didn’t want you to leave me too...”
I stared deeply into her round innocent eyes, then gazed up into the starlit sky. When Dad got arrested, he left a broken trail behind him. A wife didn’t have her right-hand man beside her anymore. Two girls no longer had a father to help them through difficult times. And those mistakes he made were inherited from the ones of his parents. Was I going to inherit those same mistakes?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I slapped my hand onto Macy’s shoulders and turned her towards me, a blanket of sorrow lay on her face.
“Macy, listen to me. I will never go out of my way to leave you or Ma. I know Dad has done some bad things, and even now I wish I could tell him he’s still loved. But no matter what, we still family and I’m still your sister.” I pulled Macy into a tight hug, one we’ve both been longing for for a while. Then I whispered, “You gonna leave me?”
Macy backed away and shook her head vigorously, wiping away the remaining tears. I wrapped my arms back around her for a second hug, my own eyes starting to grow hot. If only Dad were there. But even though he wasn’t, a future still lay ahead of me, and I had to lead my sister through her own. Now, the past has gone by.
All there was left to do was to move along.