by Deyonne Bryant
Before the sickle cell made her sick, my fourteen-year-old cousin Roxie visited my mother—and me. We met Roxie at the bus station in El Monte. I hadn’t seen her in years because when my grandmother died we stopped going back south, and, too, after my parents divorced, I started spending summers between L. A. and Oakland, where my dad lived. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Roxie stepped down from the bus, looking like a black debutante. She wore one of those long, circle skirts teen girls wore back in the Fifties with a tight-fitting, white blouse and low-heeled ballet flats. Her hair was pressed and curled like Mrs. Coretta King’s. How would Roxie fit in with my clique in our frayed bell-bottom jeans, Black Power t-shirts, and Afros? What could she tell us? Was she capable of the stone-faced stares we had perfected to an art, or our insolence?
Roxie lived in a constant state of nostalgia for the Fifties—a past she had not lived through—and she was uninterested in my friends. She preferred being with my mother, yearning for bygone days that, incredulously, did not bear witness to any hatred of us. So one day I showed Roxie my collection of lynching postcards. She wept.
Photo by Craig Adderly c/o Pexels
What’s-her-face stands at the kitchen sink pretending to wash already-clean dishes. I know, because she’s washing the same Batman mug for the third time. Which is cool, I love Batman, but does she love Batman or did the mug belong to an ex-boyfriend, and when they broke up, he left it in a haste to move out? Are they even broken up? Is he going to catch me here having breakfast with his girlfriend and try to kick my ass? I look around for a way to escape in case he crashes through the front door looking like Bane. There’s an open sliding door that leads to a cluttered balcony. We’re on the third floor, but if I tuck and roll when I hit the ground, I might be okay. I’ll go with that.
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