Repost: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh

Tuesday, September 10, 2002There are these little boys that live in my building. Well, they aren’t little anymore. When my roommate and I moved in 2 years ago, they were little. There was no hint of facial hair and their voices still held Saturday morning cartoons and the sugar and milk after cereal. now, David’s voice echoes in his chest, Elias grows at least an inch weekly, and when Danny sees me, he says, “Hey, Bassey… can you see it? Look. I’m getting a mustache.’ and he is. And Jamal? Jamal gets his hair cornrowed by a different girl every week.

The same young boys that used to knock on the door most evenings, “Yo, Bass. Can we come in and chill with you and Maro?” Too young to go into the city, too old to spend their weekends at home with their parents. Maro and I would shrug, ‘sure.’ hand them the remote control and a few snacks and we’d go about our business.

We still refer to them as ‘our boys’. and they are. Quick to carry packages and run errands. Quick to knock on the door, their girlfriends waiting in the courtyard, ‘yo. we just wanted to say hello. we’ll see y’all later.’ They are good boys.

About an hour ago, I ran out of water. I drink about a gallon a day and I should stock up. That would make sense, but i enjoy the daily journey to the bodega next door. It’s the only bit of routine I can count on these days. Tonight, was no different.  I pulled on some sweat pants, found my slippers, grabbed my wallet and I was out. The courtyard was filled with the old men that live next door. They were sitting in their labor day lawn chairs; arms folded, their words flowing easy and Spanish between them.  I nod; say hello like i usually do. They say something friendly and easy… in Spanish after me. I smile and wave like I usually do. Don’t need to understand what they are saying to know that I trust it. Trust them. Tonight wasn’t that different.

Outside the gates of my apartment building, the street seemed a bit busier for this time of evening. The sidewalks were filled with people standing in little clusters. in pairs. in conversation. The bodega is right next door. Near the payphone, a man is talking to his companion. His voice rich with the patois of home, Yyeah, man. mi feelin sometin’ t’ick tonight.’ I walk by without turning my head. pretending not to understand what he said,but knowing  exactly what he meant. I ignore it. The bodega is filled with people stocking up. I say what’s up to Jay. the kid that owns it. ‘How you feel, bass?’ “making it.” smile. forget if you feel like it. grab my water. hear nothing. the men are still by the pay phone. “hear ‘dis. it happen again? i gawn.” it can’t happen again. it’s not that simple. keep walking.

My boys are in the courtyard. “what’s up, bass.” “hey, y’all how you feel.” “cool. cool.” but they seem different. My boys aren’t quick to smile or joke. They throw no ‘where’s Maro?’ my way. have no, ‘Bass, who you tryin to impress.’ They just standing. They just uneasy. Watch me walk to doorway. and then danny, ‘Hey, bass.” ‘What’s up, danny?” ‘Don’t go nowhere tomorrow okay?’ just stay home. i know how you always traveling.’ the rest of the boys half smile. nod. Elias says, ‘Yeah. don’t even go into the city. just stay home. We’ll come visit.’

Been fighting these remembrance tears and fears all day. So I just nod. say, “I’ll be home all day.”