‘Round these parts

I know that tree. My cousin’s dad used to play dominos and cards under that tree with all the other older men in the neighborhood. He’d sit there, in that white fold away table, one leg crossed over the other in the same shirt he wore every Saturday since 1985 – I know because I have a photograph of him in that shirt at my first birthday party.

That park? There? That one? Yeah, I scraped my knee chasing another cousin while we were playing tag, It was after some party or game or another and our families were piling into our respective cars and neither of us wanted to go home being “it”. After I scraped my knee he came over, helped me up, said I could tag him and when i lifted my hand to do so he jooked me and jumped into his mama’s van yelling “SIKE” as they pulled off. It’s also where that dude in the Chevy, the box, with cornrows and a grill on his bottom teeth spotted me my first summer home from college. Told me he’d missed me and was glad to see me. Then his girlfriend’s sister pulled up in her Toyota, looked me in the face and said I see you Ed, then pulled off. Laughing it off we sat on the hood for another hour or so – even as the sister came home and eased us, because my best friend and his best friend were also making up for lost time.

That store, Sto’, where I first learned to count change and had my first, and last, pickled egg and where one of my favorite friends from school still works, was also where we used to meet my sister so she would come over to our house for the weekend. Her mom and our dad pretending they were old friends rather than two people who had parented a child together.

On the corner there? That was my Uncle David’s house, back when he was with his second baby mama. And he was with her for a while. I used to go there every afternoon he and my father wanted to go have a drink, or a smoke, somewhere. I’d play in the backyard and wait for Michelle to come out of her backyard and since neither house had a fence – it was a community after all – we had a whole lot of playing space.

We never actually lived in Perrine, no, my folks and I lived in a cheap duplex on the good side of the high way. That I was at nearly every Saturday jam or MLK day festivities means nothing. That my grandfather, the only one I’d ever know, was the guy everyone went to for motor issues and sugar canes, lived there and his was one of the many houses I knew like the back of my had means even less. These and the fact that my school was ridiculously disproportioned and my high yellow, almond eyed ass was about the only black in my advanced classes and so I never really saw these kids at school make me foreign around these parts. This neighborhood is tied to so many firsts, and lasts in my life, it raised my father, and holds a special place in my mind.  But still, when I come here – formal English and features that hide my African blood almost completely- I am a stranger.

Storytime Sunday – “The Shot Heard Round the World” – Non-Fiction.

I had prepared for your reading pleasure, a short about the Lillith. However, in light of the jury’s decision of Not Guilty for Zimmerman I have a really, REALLY short story to tell you.

My mother and father worked odd hours, and sometimes whole days, and sometimes, even, whole weekends when I was a small child. This called for me to spend a great amount of those years at my Aunt’s home, which was full of children so I, the ever lonely only child, didn’t complain. My cousins then became like my brothers and sisters. And for all intents and purposes I will refer to them as such.

Deon and Fay were my oldest boy cousins. They’d discipline me as if they were extended hands of my father. If there were girls who got caught in the company of boys, doing a little thing we used to call hunching, Fay and Deon would locate me on the playground, make sure I wasn’t one of those kids and then spanked me, to make sure I would NEVER be one of those kids. I’d sneak into their room with their little brother, Larry and we’d play Mario or go through their things (which I can only now safely admit).

The girls, Nicole, Toynell, LaShonda, Robin taught me how to dress myself, tie my shoes, speak up for myself, count the change I got from the man at the corner store, taught me that change could be dollar bills, too, not just coins and they taught me to be a lady. To not curse, to close my legs, and to not give a worthless boy the time of day.

These are the people who really raised me. But this was a time not meant to last. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew swept through Miami, in particular Southwest Dade County, where I’m from. There was nothing left, in our family, maybe one or two homes were safe for dwelling. We had to separate, and I lost daily contact with my cousins forever.

But months later, to my extreme happiness, Deon was coming to live with my parents and I in our new apartment, 20 minutes north of where  most of our family was now settling. I was excited to have him near. He was the coolest and most annoying big brother a girl could ask for. He’d never let me do anything alone if he could prevent it when he was home: play a game, watch a television show, or eat chips, he always stole my chips. He even listened as I talked about my favorite books, and convinced me that he actually cared about Dawn and Kristi’s problems within the Babysitter’s club. When his girlfriend came over, he didn’t shoo me away he allowed me to sit on the couch with them. And when I was scared to fall asleep, he’d sit with me and my Grandmother eating Reeses chocolates and watching shows my parent’s didn’t allow me to watch like In Living Color or Martin.

This didn’t last long either.

One night, Deon was out partying and my mother and I were in the living room watching television. My grandmother and father were both sleeping. There was a sound I’d heard before, but never here, not where we’d moved to, not with all these old white people. A gunshot.

My mother told me to stay put, she dressed and was out the door in a flash. I stood by the window looking out, police lights trickled in through the green of the trees and bushes, a crowd gathered and I could hear their mumbling.

My mother returned sometime later. “They wouldn’t let me close” she said when I asked her what had happened. “But they say it’s OK. They got the bad guy.”

The next morning we found out that the “bad guy” was 16 year old Deon on his way home. Shot dead, point blank range, by a white off duty officer, who wasn’t charged for a thing in the murder of my big brother.

RIP Trayvon.