by Dawyn Henriquez ’19
She was never the quiet type. Her voice was always the one booming through the jams at parties, the one to say hello as though you were a football field away when you were only a couple feet from her, the one who needed to be told that she was yelling in the middle of class (when she was still enrolled at Parkton High).
That morning was no different. The sun had barely shed the sleep out of its rays to climb over the horizon. But hearing her, one would think it was the middle of the day. The landline was pulled most of the way into the kitchen by its curly cord. She spoke as though each word was being chased by the last and as though her jet engine of a voice couldn’t wake anyone, but it did.
“Angelita mamaguebo, I have to go,” she said into the phone as she finished off the last of the groceries on a sandwich.
“Muchacha gimme 10 minutes. I have a son too, you know?” Angel said from the other side through the muffling sounds of getting a shirt on a sleepy 7 year-old.
“He’s already waiting for me outside, yo no tengo diez minutos.”
She wrapped the sandwich in plastic wrap and scrawled “morenito” with a heart over it and placed the would-be breakfast on the counter.
“Don’t be a b-i-t-c-h…aunque sea dile bye al niño. Just wait for me, I’ll be there soon.”
She placed the phone back on the wall in the dining/living room and went back towards the bed on the other side of the ratty studio. A packed suitcase sat beside the nightstand. She looked over at him, guilt trying to push itself into her esophagus. He lay there as though lifeless, the black tee he wore to sleep once hers, but now his since the moths took a liking to making holes in it. In the semidarkness she could see him lying there, the blanket still halfway on his small body, resting on his side with his hands tucked under the pillow, his eyes alert as though they’d been open for an hour.
He looked just like her, right down to the high cheekbones and the dark skin that made people call her Haitian on the island as though it were an insult (of course that is how she took it). All he got from her were her looks; who he was came out of the ether fully formed and nothing like her. He was quiet, cried for less than five minutes at birth, cried only when he was hungry or needed to be changed (and never for too long), and as he grew older, he cried less. At that point she hadn’t seen him shed a tear for almost a year. His almost black eyes took the world in and let none of it out. His great aunt used to say “él nació críado;” he was born raised.
“Go back to sleep, morenito, I’ll be back soon,” she soothed.
He didn’t say a word, just kept staring into her as though he was the parent and she the child feeding him bullshit they both knew wasn’t true. She knew he wasn’t buying it; she could feel it as she stooped down and got eye level with him.
“Your auntie is gonna be here soon to pick you up and take care of you for a bit,” she said as she knelt.
“I love you, morenito. Tu eres mi alma…you’re my soul,” her eyes began to water.
She reached over into her suitcase and pulled out her Discman and the CDs she knew he liked: Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (that she’d just recently bought) and ATCQ’s debut.
“Here, hold these until I get back,” she said.
She placed the black saucer and headphones in his small outstretched hands, leaving the CDs beside him on the bed, and placed one kiss on his forehead before getting up and hurrying out. He listened to her footsteps run down the three flights of stairs and got up once he heard the door slam on the first floor.
In quick succession, he threw on his thong sandals and a pair of shorts that were lying around and ran after her. He wasn’t sure what he was doing. He just knew that he didn’t want her to be gone. Didn’t want her to leave him forever. He ran out of the heavy white door of Fort Knox, what the two of them had taken to calling the heavily surveilled building they lived in, and saw her getting into an all-white semi with the slogan “You Want It, You Got It” in a yellow bubble plastered across the length of its haul. Its wheels were as big as him and the engine roared louder than her voice ever could.
“Mom!” He yelled, the loudest he’s ever spoken.
The passenger door to the haul gave an audible thunk in response. The semi growled and hissed as the driver, some white guy in his late thirties from the look of it, put it into drive and started to take off. He ran behind it, yelling for the first time in his life, tearing his vocal chords raw, flexing an inheritance he had not yet learned to control. He could see her face in the side mirror, her angular features making her look mean even when she didn’t mean to be. Her high cheekbones, that made her big eyes small when she laughed, took some of the threat out of her look though. She was radiant. He could see her looking at him in the side mirror. The same blackened brown eyes she had given him, staring at him in the reflection, seeing him run after her, but not saying a single word to stop the truck’s movement.
He couldn’t catch up. His legs much too short and his lungs too empty. He could all but stare as the semi turned out of Saratoga Lane. His voice was shot, his throat stripped and throbbing, and the thong of one sandal torn out. His dark eyes were wet but stayed focused on the slogan “You Want It, You Got It” emblazoning the black script and yellow circle into his memory. Before long, tears streaked down his cheeks.