Here I am, sitting in front of Principal Karen again, getting one of her famous “You know better” lectures. She’s redder than usual. I must have did it now.
“What am I going to do with you, Gregory?”
“You tell me, Principal Karen.”
“You’re not a bad student by a long shot, you’re one of the top students in the whole 7th grade, you join organizations, why are you – “
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
This is the usual. She’s always on my case.
Anyway, I only get caught 50% of the time. Nothing really happens: a call home, an ass whoopin’, a “Don’t do this again” from Mama. Same old, same old, if you ask me. I mean it’s hard keeping up with sixteen different kids as a parent. In my eyes, being the baby, well second to last, is a plus. Give my “I’m sorry mama,” with my puppy dog eyes, and I get the world handed to me. Some say I’m spoiled.
I am actually. I get all what I want, even if I don’t ask for it. But school is my downfall. I get bored waiting on everyone else getting done with their assignments long after me. So of course I’m going to entertain myself, by any means necessary. That’s where trouble comes.
“You fighting that boy was unnecessary.”
Blah, blah, blah, blah. Huh? I almost forgot the reason I’m in here in the first place. Aha: that fight with Christopher Cox. He’s like 5’2”. All talk no action. His mouth runs rivers buddy, I tell ya. His skinny ass been picking with me since my 6th grade year, and every time I try to fight him, my friends or his friends stop me. It never fails. This time I got him in front of everybody. Right before the bell rang I left class early.
“Mr. Kane can I go to the rest room?”
“You can hold it.”
“No I can’t, I can’t hold it.”
“Okay, take your stuff with you and go ahead.”
Ha, I love it when I have my way, I thought walking straight to Christopher’s locker as Janitor Jones walked by.
“Need any assistance, Gregory?”
“Yes, sir. I need you to cut off my lock. I forgot my code.” No, I didn’t.
He cut it off, and I opened it
“Thank you, Mr. Jones.”
He walked off, and the minute he turned the corner, I trashed Christopher’s locker. I threw his books and folders down the hall, his pencils and paper raining. Before I knew it, his locker was empty. I walked to the camera and said, “That’s right I did it.” Then the bell rang and it was show time.
Murmurs of “Oh, shit” and “It’s about to go down” was all you heard when students flooded the hallway. Christopher walked to his locker, and I watched the reaction on his face when he realized it was his shit that was all over the place: Aha, priceless. I should’ve provided him with a trashcan ‘cause his face surely did break. He looked around, towards my way.
Yes buddy, come on, find me.
A couple of seconds later, we made eye contact. He ran track alright because he ran up on me faster than I expected. It was cool though, ‘cause I’m always ready.
“Who did it? Did you do this?” Christopher said, tryna get loud and make his voice deep like I’m supposed to be scared.
“I did,” I said. I raised my hand like he was a teacher asking me a question, and I knew the answer. I turned and started laughing
I wasn’t expecting the massive blow to my right jaw as he threw the first lick. I stumbled a little bit and instead of running, I walked up on him. He backed up and threw yet another lick to my left jaw and before he could throw another one, my arms went into over drive as I started swinging. His 5’2” had nothing on my 5’4”, 200 pound frame. Everyone formed a circle as the fight went on. Not the teachers, nor the officers, could get through. I was on top of him just swinging, aiming at his face. He swung back but just kept missing. The fight ended as I banged his head against the locker. I got up, and the officers grabbed me, just as Chris got up like he wanted a round two. The officers escorted me to Principal Karen the 3rd time this week. All I heard was: “Oh, Chris got his ass whipped” and “You not only got done up, he walked up on you and whipped yo ass, bruh.”
“Was it worth it, Mr. Wilson?” Principal Karen asks me in the office.
“Huh?” I always daydream whenever she speaks to me.
“Was it worth it?”
“Yep,” I say with my “I don’t give a fuck” look on my face.
I really didn’t. Why should I? I hate school. Just as I make my last comment she looks up and grins. I slowly turn around, and my stomach feels like it fell out my ass as I see my father walk through the hallway. Shit, I say in my head, as I quickly turn around and melt in my chair, I should’ve listened to one of those “blahs.”
Now here’s my daddy, Vince “ShortDawg” Wilson. His 5’2 muscular frame strides through the fore way. He’s a natural breed hustler, definition of the term “Thug,” protector of his own. “ShortDawg” was his nickname because he was not to be underestimated by his size. He did what he had to do to provide for his family: whether it was flipping burgers, security at clubs, even selling dope or bootlegs, whatever means necessary. Papa is a rolling stone, alright. On his side I have thirteen brothers and sisters, I’m still second to last.
He has one eye, always wears a patch. I got teased about it last year: “Oh look it’s Pirates of the Carribean comin’. Greg get yo daddy.” Nevertheless, he was respectful, very loving and caring, but if you fucked with his family the wrong way it was either an ass whippin’ or a bullet wound
“Mr. Wilson, come on in and join us,” Principal Karen says.
He sits directly beside me. When she starts explaining what I did, I can’t do anything but keep my head down. I notice Papa’s eyes are blood shot red. Dammit, He’s salty. When she finally finishes, Principal Karen says, “I’ll leave you two alone.”
She leaves and the room grows silent, so quiet you can hear my sweat drip from my forehead to the ground.
“Look at me.” That Germantown Memphis accent coming out
I do as I’m told
“How can I leave here knowing you’re doing this bullshit? Fighting in school man? How will you be able to take care of your family? Your sisters? Your mother? Making decisions like this? I’m very disappointed in you. I expect better from you dude. You can do better than this. Man, you lucky I’m tired because I would whoop your ass right now, but I’m going to let your mama do it for me, so go on back to class. I’ll be checking in on you.”
We leave out the room together, and he goes out the fore way. And just as I’m about to leave the office, something tells me to turn around. As I turn and look, my father and I make eye contact. For a long time we stare into each other’s eyes. I want to run and hug him, tell him I’m sorry and I love him. Instead I turn around and leave. Funny what being mad makes you do
I leave the office upset. “Disappointed,” he said. I don’t care if you’re mad, sad, or anything else at me, but to be disappointed hurts me to the core.
Later that evening Mama picks me up. As we pull out of John Early’s parking lot, she doesn’t say a word to me the whole ride to the house. When we arrive home, she parks the car, and we sit there for a couple of seconds in silence. I already know what’s up when she says, “Get in the shower and when you’re done, get out and bend over on the couch.”
I do as I’m told. Usually whoopings don’t really faze me. Sometimes I even laugh. But this time is different. When I say she whips my ass that night, I mean it was hard to sit down.
“Go put some clothes on and start dinner.”
“What you say?”
“That’s what I thought.”
She gets on the phone, and I can hear her bragging to my daddy.
“Vince, I told you I wasn’t no punk. I whipped his ass.”
“No, you didn’t. Put him on the phone then,” he probably says.
“Greg!!!! Come get this phone!!” she yells.
I walk in still shook up. “Hello,” I say as my voice trembles.
“Oh yeah, she gotcha alright. Well, we’re going to Memphis this weekend, so your grandmother can talk some sense into ya boy, you hear me?
“Now put your mama back on the phone.”
I give her the phone and go into the kitchen to finish. “I told you” I hear her say, as I leave the room.
Ten minutes later, Mama comes and joins me. It doesn’t matter what it is, me and Mama go back to being close, laughing, the works. The smell in that kitchen is beautiful. Hues of turnip green, corn bread, fried chicken and more. Well, in the midst of us getting dinner ready there’s a beating at the door, like the police.
“Stay here baby, and finish this for Mama.”
She opens the door, and Grandmama runs in screaming. She lives two doors down. And usually, if something is up she’ll call us, but for her to actually walk over, something serious had to be up.
“Vince just died!”
I leave the kitchen to see what’s going on. I must have heard her wrong, ‘cause she couldn’t have said what I think she said.
“What? He can’t be I just got off the phone with him no longer than 30 minutes ago,” Mama says as I walk in.
Grandmama gives Mama the cell phone so she can talk to my stepmom. Tears fall in her eyes, as she looks at me and just keeps repeating, “I’m sorry” over and over again.
“What? No…” is all I can say, as a waterfall of tears fall from my eyelids. A rush of my family fills my two bedroom duplex within minutes, hugging and holding me, trying to make me feel better. It’s no use. I let out a scream that stuns everyone. I run and throw everything around the room. I go to run out the door and my Uncle Garfield grabs me and holds me, I could really relate to him because he’s gay and I am, too. Neighbors come outside to see what’s going on, but before their nosey asses can ask questions he brings me back into the house. He shuts the door, and my Aunt Joana hugs me. We all get ourselves together enough to load up in our cars and head to Vanderbilt.
When we arrive at the hospital my brothers and sisters, aunts, cousins and uncles, and my grandparents sit quietly with tears in their eyes, while my stepmother gets up and hugs me tight. I can feel the heavy tears hit my shoulder. I understand why she’s crying. I am his spitting image.
The doctors walk in and hesitate. I’m sure seeing a room piled with black people isn’t what they expected. Finally, they let us see him, but I can’t because I’m not old enough. No, I never got a chance to say goodbye, now I can’t see him? I start screaming and everyone tries to calm me down. I knock the pictures off the walls; I hit family members and all.
So my auntie LeAnn takes me outside and holds me. Then we go home, and I look into the mirror on my wall. Though it’s just me, I swear I can see my daddy.
So I tell him sorry.
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