Bro, I miss you. Please come back.
It was a warm summer afternoon in Kansas. I was sitting on the front steps of the house of my best friend, Lightning. I just had to get out of my house. Things are pretty rough at home. And by “rough” I mean “horrible.” My stepdad, Oscar, got drunk again. Whenever my mom’s not around, he tries to make me his slave. I have to cook for him, clean up after him...today he tried to make me get on my knees and apologize for not greeting him when he walked in. That was the last straw. I picked up one of the empty beer bottles that he left lying on the floor and chucked it as hard as I could at him and it barely missed to shatter on the wall next to his head. When I say he got mad, that's a big understatement. So here I am, sitting here waiting for my friend to answer her damn doorbell. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my brother’s old ID card. It was the only thing I had that belonged to him. I brushed my thumb over the name printed on the plastic: “Du-Shaunt Stegall.” Everyone in the streets knows him as Fik-Shun. It's been two years since I've seen Fik. As I looked at his tiny picture that was beaming up at me, tears started to brim in my eyes. Then I heard the door open and I quickly wiped them away. “Hey, Kida,” I heard, “What’s g--” she stopped talking when I turned around to face her. I already knew where this was going. I put my hands out in front of me. “Look, just stay calm...it's not as bad as it loo--”
“WHAT IN THE DEVIL’S NAME HAPPENED TO YOU?!” Well, I tried. She continued, “A black eye?” I scratched the back of my neck and looked at the rose bush to my left. I forgot about my eye. It was no doubt swelling up by now. Before I knew what was happening, she was lifting up my shirt. She gasped. “Kida, you have gashes all over you…” Her voice was soft and she had that worried look in her eyes that I didn't like. She honestly looked like she was about to cry but I felt like I should be the one crying here. Suddenly her sympathy turned into anger and she punched me in the chest. Which hurt. A lot. “Agh, now how does that help anybody?!” I said, incredulous. I tried to hit her back but she dodged. Her stupid self defense classes are paying off. Her eyes went back to that sympathetic look and she hugged me. “Did your father hit you again? I'm so sorry, Kida...are you okay?” At that moment, all I wanted to do was melt into her hug. I wanted to hold her and cry and let all my anger go so that maybe I wouldn't be in so much pain. But as the picture of my brother’s smiling face flashed in my mind, I was reminded to never let anyone see that I was hurting again. If Lightning tries to help me, I may just lose her too. I can't let anyone fight for me. Not again. So instead of returning the hug, I shoved her away.
“Man, get off me,” I said, “And you really need to get some professional help for those mood swings...witcho bipolar lookin self.” When I saw the hurt look in her eyes, I had to look at the goddamn rose bush again. It's sad to say, but she's used to me hurting her like this. I use the fact that she'll always come back as a means of keeping her at a distance…because it’s better that I hurt her and still have her than I let her in and she leaves me...right? “Look, I just want to make sure you're straight...you don't look like it…”
“Chill with the interrogation! Yes, I'm straight. Just don't trip out, that's all I'm sayin…yo, are you gonna let me in?” I asked, gesturing to her open front door with my hand. Lightning looked at her door as if she was contemplating it. I clicked my tongue. “Man, you buggin,” I mumbled and let myself in. She walked in after me. “Well, as long as you're here, let me fix you up--”
“I told you I'm fine. Ain't like this never happened before.”
“No, get over here and take off your shirt.”
“Nah, fam, I'm good!”
“Don't ‘nah, fam’ me! Boy, get over here,” she said in her “end-of-discussion” voice and dragged me over to the bathroom. She made me take off my shirt and sit on the floor while she iced my gashes. Like a mother, the more she looked at me, the more worked up she got that I got hurt. She started grumbling, “Out here gettin cooked. I swear, the next time I see you tryna get killed, I'll kill you myself. And why do you have to start something all the time. I mean who do you think you are, Mike Tyson? Maybe you should learn how to fight. Better yet, don't start trouble in the first place!” I rolled my eyes. Lightning always did worry too much. In that sense, she's pretty much the opposite of Fik. He was always a lose cannon. If he thought of something crazy, he would always just go ahead and do it. He used to take me on his crazy adventures. One time we went all the way up to New York City with nothing but a couple hundred dollars and some Kellogg's snacks. We did a street performance for the passerby's of the city and they loved us. By the time we danced through the first song, a huge crowd of at least a hundred people had gathered around us. Everyone gets captivated whenever Fik dances. He's like real android. It's hard to believe what you're seeing because the way he moves is so unreal. That's why they call him Fik-Shun, after all. He taught me everything I know about hip-hop. That night with my big brother was the best night of my life. And only a week later, I experienced the worst night of my life. The night he left. The night my stepdad forced him to leave. Like I said, Fik was always a free spirit. He did what he wanted when he wanted. And no matter what life threw at him, he always smiled. And he didn't care if our stepdad had power over us, Fik was constantly battling him...for me. Our stepdad hated us, but he hated me especially. I don’t know why, but he just did. He would beat me all the time and I would cry and run to Fik like a little chump. And when Fik saw me he would get so angry that he would go right up to Oscar and try to fight him. Keep in mind that Oscar was a grown man in his 30s and Fik was only 17. I was 10. I always stopped the fight before things got too bad. But one night...this one night, Oscar got a little too drunk and Fik-Shun was not in a good mood at all. Fik was at a memorial for his friend that had died in the crossfire of a gun fight that day. Oscar had gotten home earlier than Fik, drunk as helll, of course. And he came into my room and promptly started knocking stuff over and spilling out my drawers. He was looking for his pack of “special” cigarettes. I just stayed silent and let him do it. I was not my brother. I was so ashamed of that fact, but I was too afraid to move. Too afraid to do anything. Until I saw him reach out to knock over the glass baseball which Fik got me as a souvenir when he visited the Cardinals Stadium in Missouri. Then I got up and pushed Oscar away. I grabbed the baseball and hid it behind my back. A stupid move, but there was no time to hide it anywhere else. As soon as Oscar got his bearings again, his furious eyes glared at me with dark, malicious intent. He grabbed my wrist which was the arm I held the ball in. I can still clearly see Oscar’s clammy, pale hand wrapped around my wrist. He held my hand high above my head and I squeezed my eyes shut, bracing for some kind of hit. Then he grabbed the ball out of my hand and smashed it on the wood flooring and I watched it shatter into a million pieces. I stayed silent because I was about to cry. At that moment I hated my life. I hated Oscar. And I wanted to die. He was still holding my wrist above my head. He was holding it so high that I had to strain on my toes to keep my shoulder from dislocating. Oscar picked up one of the broken shards of the baseball and pressed it firmly to my trapped wrist. “I'm gonna kill you, you insufferable little nigger,” he slurred in my ear. His breath reeked of alcohol. He dragged the glass shard through my skin from my wrist down my forearm. Now because Oscar was a bumbling idiot at everything he did, his cut didn't go that deep but I wasn't about to tell him that. He let go of me and I fell to the floor as blood started to pool around me. “Shoulda done this the day I met you...I hope you suffer as you bleed out,” he cackled. That was when Fik burst through the door. When he saw me lying on the floor and bleeding, I could've sworn his eyes turned red. In a flash, he slammed Oscar into the wall. He kept hitting him over and over again. Oscar kept trying to block and hit back, but Fik was way too fast. Finally, Oscar yelled out in frustration and shoved Fik away. Then unsurprisingly, Oscar pulled out handgun from the back of his pants. He pointed it straight at Fik. “I'm getting real tired of your insolence, boy,” Oscar growled, “As long as you live under my roof, you're gonna follow my rules, you understand me? Now it's clear that you don't wanna live by any rules and give me the RESPECT I deserve! So pack up your shit, and get out of my house. Or I'll cap you right now!” Oscar shook the gun to show that it was fully loaded. Fik was about to take a step forward, but I screamed, “Fik, just do what he says!” Fik stopped and looked down at me with, for the first time, fear in his eyes. But he wasn't afraid for himself. He was still worried about me. He looked like he was being torn apart. I had never seen him like that before. He's never been worried about anything. But I had don't that to him. I made him feel that way. And for that, I'll never forgive myself. “It-It's better if you leave...you can't die here. Please, Fik...do it for me…” i watched as tears started welling up in Fik’s eyes and my heart wrenched so hard I winced and had to hold my chest. “You'd best listen to your brother there, boy. Don't want to end up like him,” he said, waving his gun at me. Fik-Shun glared at Oscar with hatred in his eyes then he looked at me. He sighed and put his hands up. “Fine,” he said. I let out a deep breath of relief. “I'll leave by tonight. But I don't care what you say, I'm taking Kida to the hospital. Right now.” Fik made a move to pick me up, but Oscar stepped in between us. “Now we don't need the government gettin involved in this. Remember who has the gun here. If it'll make you leave faster, then I'll call up a family doctor to come here and patch him up, how's that?” Fik-Shun just looked at him with disgust but stayed silent. “Look, you have my word. Besides, the kid’s gotta stay alive for me to get my free meal tickets, hehehe.” Even though it was a despicable reason, that seemed to convince the Fik. “Imma go stop the bleeding while you call him then,” Fik said. He picked me up carefully and turned to go. That night, he was gone. Now I was silently lying in my bed and staring up at the ceiling as I ran my fingers along the stitches and the bandage wrapped around my forearm. Then I heard a knock at my window. I turned my head to see my brother smiling with a duffel bag hung across his torso. There was still blood on his shirt from when he picked me up. I scrambled over to the window and opened it. “What are you doing here?” I whispered. He gave me a look as if that was a dumb question. “Had to say goodbye to my favorite bro!” He said cheerily. It looks like he was back to his normal self. Then suddenly his eyes lost their spark. Spoke too soon. “Listen, Kida, I don't have much time...I just wanted to let you know that you're not gonna see me for a while--”
“How long is “a while”? Where are you going??”
“Somewhere...I don't know yet. But listen--I'm gonna make it big, okay? And then I'll come back to get you. No matter what, don't think I forgot about you.”
“Fik, let me come with you! We could do it together!”
“You can’t. Oscar will come after us. He’ll say that I kidnapped you or some BS like that. But hey, take this. Sorry, it’s not much, but it's all I have to give you right now.” He dug in his pocket and brought out his ID card. He handed it to me.
“Your ID? But won’t you need it?”
“Nah, I know someone that's makin me a new one that's up to date. So hey...don't forget about me, okay?”
“How could I, man?” I punched him.
“Haha...okay then.” He sighed. “Looks like this is it…”
“Hey, promise me something, Fik...don't die. And don't give up.” Fik smiled. “...I promise. And…” he put his hand on my shoulder, “I love you.”
“I love you too, bro. See you soon.”
Fik gave me one last smile and then jumped off the side of the building and into the darkness of the night. And I haven't seen him since.
“Hellooo? What's gotten into you, Kida?” I looked up to find Lightning snapping her fingers in my face with one hand on her hip. I was still in her bathroom. I guess I had zoned out. Lightning pushed her large-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose. She must've put those on to work on me. She looked at me with her big brown eyes that sparkle when she smiles. Her mohawk of box braids was put up into a neat bun at the top of her head. “Sorry…,” I said, “I was thinking about my brother.” Lightning straightened up. “Oh…” she said. She sat next to my on the floor and held my hand. I smiled. “You know, you're awfully touchy-feely today. Don’t tell me you got a crush on me now,” I teased. She gave me a flustered look and pulled her hand away and scoffed. “Ah, the tables have turned, hahaha” I said. She rolled her eyes. “Ugh, you play too much, Kida.” I looked at her. She's funny when she's annoyed. She crosses her arms and gets all sulky. It's cute. I honestly used to have a huge crush on her. I tried to ask her out once but she turned me down. She said that it was too soon for her or something like that. I was too depressed to hear the full explanation. As a matter of fact, I was depressed for a week. But she kept coming over to assure me that we were still friends. Lightning is really something else.
Suddenly I started feeling a sharp sting all over my chest. “Ow! The hell did you do to me, Lightning?!” She grinned. “That must be the peppermint oil and hydrogen peroxide kicking in! Don't worry, the sting just means it's working.” Of course. Lightning wants to be a doctor one day. She also doesn't believe in real medicine which makes no sense. She's always concocting some new remedy that she claims will cure one illness or another. If you saw her room, it would be like a science lab in there. “Dammit, are you a witchdoctor or something?!” I said and winced as the sting started growing stronger, “How many times do I have to tell you not to test your potions on me?!”
“You're the only person who’ll let me though,” she smiled again.
“That's the thing, I'm NOT letting you. You just do what you want!”
“What can I say, it's a gift.” She bowed dramatically. I couldn't help but laugh. I shoved her playfully. “Man this is abuse. You owe me now.”
“What?! I don't owe you jack diddly squat! Witcho ungrateful self...didn't I just spend the last half hour fixing you up? If anything, you owe me! Matter fact, we're going to the ice cream store right now. Your treat.”
“Hey, hold on now--”
“Too late.” Lighting slung her arm around my neck and started dragging me out. “Abuse!” I yelled, but in the end I let her walk me all the way down to the ice cream store and I bought her a seven dollar cookie dough milkshake.