Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fiction Series: Free Verse: Part 11

I spent the morning pacing; in the clusterfuck, I called an apartment. I’d never been cognizant of its small size, until now. The box, filled with my father’s words, filled with Damali’s intentions, sat amongst all things I was familiar with: the side table, the laptop, the flat screen television, the cable modem. It stuck out, like a weed, in a garden of things that made me feel at home.
It called my name. First, it was a whisper, as I shook myself out of bed groggy and tired. Saturday morning ran rampant through my thoughts. Malaki wanted to place me on a shelf; somewhere everyone could see his prize. He gave off an air of superficiality but cared just enough for me to ignore it. Damali was down to earth and genuine; characteristics I waited to arise in Malaki but still couldn’t see.
I wonder if Damali felt more real to me, because of his connection to my past. Every time something of Brooklyn triggered my tragedy, I now thought of where Damali was at that moment. Was he immersed in youth development? Was he at a picnic table writing? Did he hear the collision from his window? Was there a cracking sound or shiver of his spine, when he got the call?  
Finding out that he’d known and cared for my father, so immensely, forged a closeness to him. I was feeling a fire that needed dousing, something that would consume me if I lingered on it for too long. It was this feeling that pushed my feet towards the box; that helped my hands pull open the flaps and grab the first journal I could see.
            My name was on the first page.
            “Dear Jai,

I am hoping that you’ll stumble on these words. I will leave them for you, but I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me. When you’re consumed with guilt, when you realize that there are things that you cannot protect your only child from, you break. I said all the wrong things. I uttered words that I’d heard the women of my family tell the younger girls who were free but often misconstrued. Once the words left my lips, I knew it’d take a while for you to forgive me. I knew you wouldn’t be able to speak to me for a while. But never did I think you’d leave this way. You haven’t called. Your dorm director says you’re always out performing. I’m excited that you’re still writing. I hope you’re finding salvation in the words. I’m sorry that we couldn’t be your salvation. We took something from you, but we were trying to give you something in return: your childhood. I hope…"

            The sound of my cell phone interrupted my reading. It was Damali. His voice sounded rushed and upset, “Can you talk?”
            I put the journal down, “Yea. What’s going on?”
            “My brother is home.”
            Damali hadn’t said much about his brother. He said he’d left home when he got older to live with a woman. His book had prose about him, and you could tell he admired him, as younger brothers usually do.
            “Okay. Isn’t that great?”
            “He’s home from jail. I haven’t seen him in years. Mom just called to say he walked through the door. We didn’t know he was getting out. We haven’t kept tabs on him. We were so ashamed…”
            I cut Damali off. I thought of my parents, of my father, and what I’d do if I had the chance to see them again, “It doesn’t matter what he did, Damali. You should go. Don’t let guilt ruin something good. The man who went in could be someone else entirely.”
            Damali sighed, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
            He sat silently on the phone for minutes. I let him process his thoughts, while I paced my home, eyeing the box filled with journals. How many words, in that box, were for me?
            “Will you come with me, Jai?”
            “To see your brother?”
            “Yes. I know we just met again, and I know it’s sudden, but my mother wants me to come over for dinner tonight.”
            I thought of the storage space, Damali’s story, the way in which my father loved him and I answered, “Yes. Absolutely.”
            It was 8 pm when Damali arrived for me. We drove through Brooklyn in silence, taking in its new shape and sound. Gals without melanin walked hand in hand in bars that’d sprouted from the ground suddenly. Our faces cringed, everytime we passed a place we did not recognize. The new structures were dandelions; aesthetically pleasing, but clearly out of place waiting to be blown away with the next trend.
            We pulled up into the parking lot of the housing projects, on the other side of Fort Greene Park. My father’s community center was nearby, but I was never allowed to visit. I tried to envision a younger Damali, looking up at my tall father, conversing nearby. Damali got out of the car and let me out, too. He grabbed my hand, sending a chill through my body, “Are you ready?”
            I smiled at him, “Are you ready?”
            He nodded. We walked inside the building. The insides were always the same: plastered in a dull blue, the color of dreams forgotten, linoleum floors, an elevator that still worked but creaked all the while. It was as if someone planned to design something spectacular, a metropolis for those who could not afford more open spaces, and gave up on the design halfway through.
            We took the elevator to the eighth floor and walked down a hallway, its light flickering. Damali grabbed my hand tighter. His breathing quickened, and I squeezed back, trying to comfort him without words. He took the key out of his pocket, clearly having done this a million times, but still nervously shaking.
            “They should be home. When I called earlier, mom said Benny would be back in a few minutes. He was making his rounds, seeing folks he hasn’t seen in a while.”
            I nodded and placed my hand over his while he finally turned the key. We stepped into the apartment, the living room almost barren except for a television and a sofa in the center. His mother lay on one end, barely looking up to say hello.
& suddenly I couldn’t breathe either.
The walls were fading.
& I could smell sweat and the sun.
It was as if sand filled my mouth, as Damali trying to welcome me inside.
There was salt on my tongue.
& then the man on the other end of the sofa spoke and extended his hand, “I’m Benny...I mean Benjamin. Damali’s older brother.”
He needed no introduction. Before his hand met mine, I was ascending the stairs of the building, clutching my chest.
Everything felt like sand. I was heavy, and I could feel myself eroding. My feet finally hit the floor of the lobby, and I fell into a corner, crashing like a wave against the shore.


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Anonymous said...

Girl, you have me all Vivian Greene right now, with this emotional rollercoaster. I can only imagine the myriad of emotions Jai is going through. Write On!

Erika C. said...

Oh Sh*t!!

Anonymous said...

need more!!!!