“sneaking”

we got roaches in our apartment
my momma cleans
with bleach, tilex and puts boric acid down
my sister cried last night
said they tease her about her clothes

“didn’t you wear that last week”

momma works, now
we let ourselves in
shoes in the closet
take off our good clothes
and start our homework
45 minutes or so till she gets home
there is bologna
bread on top of the fridge

“put the twisty tie back on the loaf”

or deal with momma when she gets home
tired and not in the mood for our foolishness
walking back and forth from our bus stop
we have been warned not to talk to “them boys”
standing around doing nothing

“they ain’t up to no good”

momma tells us
they look like the boys on the videos
momma would kill us for watching
sneaking
stole a tee shirt
from the hair store
for my sister to wear to school
snuck it under my jacket
and just walked out
right past “them boys”
walked quick home
you should have seen my sister’s
eyes when she saw it
never asked where it came from
but rushed it on under her hoodie
before momma could see
wore it to school and smiled
and laughed
kissed me
right in front of everyone
in the hallway when we passed
it felt good to see her so happy
I still pushed her off me,
my friends could see
but my eyes gave away
my love and she stole away
back with her friends

2 weeks passed until
I tried my luck again
grabbed a dress this time
the Asian man behind the counter
saw the bulge in my jacket
grabbed me & called the police
they called my mother
the shame in her eyes wore on me
like a concrete collar
the beating
leaving work because I was a thief
hurt me far more than it hurt her
but her eyes
made my heart heavy
my sister came in my room
wiped my face
kissed me
and consoled me with her eyes

“get out of that room he is still on punishment”

it was a month of solitude
a whole month
straight home call when I get in
and go to my room
my sister would bring me a sandwich
and caring eyes
it was 4 days before I would
sneak
out and watch TV
till right before momma would get home

it was a pay week
shopping at the dollar store
socks, a few tee shirts
value village
for a pair of “lightly” worn jeans
and 3 movies from the DVD man
our stamps had just came
so we got a big box of Krave cereal
jolly ranchers for my sister
gummy worms for me
sneaking
a box of now-a-laters
for when momma passed out
and we were alone watching
the rest of our bootleg entertainment
we sat in the car while momma
went into the liquor store
a bottle of “grown up juice”
and “them boys” staring at my momma
with their hungry eyes
the car wouldn’t start
one of “them boys”
Terrence
helped her get the car going
he came by later
we passed out the now-a-laters early
there would be no sleeping
sneaking
they went up stairs
he left hours later
gave me a $5 bill
called me “lil man”
that wasn’t my name
he wouldn’t be back

later that month
Terrance saw me
asked me if I had 50cents
on my way home from school
I didn’t respond
he said something
to the other “lil boys”
standing around doing nothing
they laughed
full of rage I kept walking
my sister eyes full of tears
we quickened our pace
to cross the street, shamed
sneaking
across the street
my sister was crushed by a car
the plastic gave in to her body
her body just gave in

40 minutes
it took the ambulance to make the scene
she was already silent
the lights flashing
all the strange faces
eyes I had never seen before
the drunk driver sat on the curb head in his hands
my mother arrived
screaming, cursing and more screams
the sounds
snuck
their way into my heart
I didn’t cry, I didn’t move, I couldn’t breathe
a marionette for months and years after
sneaking
in and out of life
watching the block grow more crowded
with more
“lil boys” doing nothing all day

momma never really
looked me in my eyes anymore
sneaking
me kisses from time to time
more stops to the liquor store
more alone in the car
no DVD’s
alone in my room was no longer a punishment
sneaking
away to the quiet corners was easier now
drawing pictures of my sisters eyes
snuck
colored pencils from art class and construction paper
sneaking
deeper into myself
alone and more alone

I turned 15 last weekend
snuck
some of momma liquor
her lifeless body
sneaking
sleep on the couch,
I wouldn’t carry her to bed tonight
wouldn’t argue with her heavy bones
up the stairs
pass the piles of clothes
wouldn’t wash the stack of dishes
would just
sneak
my “grown up juice”
it felt good to not feel
for a little while
slept hard
momma must have slept harder
I missed my bus
she had to go to work
was too late to take me to class

“just stay home don’t answer the door or
sneak
out the house”

must have been a hour after she left
I grabbed a hammer
and headed toward
the “lil boys”
on the corner doing nothing
walked up to Terrance
and hit him so hard
I heard his blood crack
he didn’t move for a long time
the judge called it assault with a deadly weapon
momma didn’t show up to court
became a ward of the state that Thursday
snuck
me to a foster home
there weren’t any roaches
and the lady was nice
enough to cook
us meals on time every night
she never yelled my name
never drank herself to sleep
when we did talk it was about chores
meetings with Ms. Jackson
my probation officer
or discussions about my grades
the tutor talked to fast
wasn’t very good at cursive writing
knew most of my multiplication tables
and could read
loved to draw but she said Ms. Jackson
wanted me to work on my “basic skills”
drawing wasn’t important
snuck
and drew anyway
charcoal, dark greenish yellow, and brown
drawings of our house
and roaches
I could always remember the roaches
and the smell of bleach
would be 18 soon
would have to find a place
and a job
maybe the community college
a GED or a trade
Ms. Jackson suggested
snuck
away 2 weeks before my birthday
was hungry
running from all the police cars
sleeping underneath the bridge
in the park with the man
the would pass me liquor
or share some of their
chips maybe a kind eye
or ideas about shelters
hadn’t drawn anything in what felt
like years
couldn’t ask my new friends for pencils
had a hard enough time getting chips
or the rest of their food

“you gon have to pitch in soon”

snuck
out that day to where the buses
rushed people to their work or school
where ever they went that made them look
so happy
happy about what?
then he smiled at me
his new suit
briefcase and hand full of pens
and two colored pencils
I didn’t even look
didn’t
sneak
I just started hitting him
kicking him
stomping him
there was so much blood
the man was a CEO of some start up
a internet company with a promising future
had graduated the top of his class
was on his way home
had left his car parked
because he had been celebrating
a profit margin & some word I didn’t understand
was drinking & did want to drive
home drunk and hurt someone
I plead guilty
the judge
said I had a history of violence
gave me 6 years

the first thing I remember
when I got to the grown up jail
they gave me a bologna sandwich
I wept well into the night…

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