“Okay Gloria, it’s time to go,” Mama said, breaking the staring contest between me and the old lady.
“But…” the old lady said.
“No, you have done quite enough this morning by showing up unannounced. Do not come into our home and expect for me to allow you to change things without even talking to me about it privately first.”
Mama stormed to the door and held it open for the old lady.
The old lady looked like she was going to argue with Mama, but then she kind of drooped her shoulders and hung her head down before she started walking towards the door. She stopped right in front of Mama at the door before she left and whispered something that I couldn’t hear clearly, but I think she said, “Expect to hear from my lawyers.” The the old lady stepped out of my sight and was gone.
I was still in the kitchen doorway all wide eyed with my mouth hung open thinking, “Did I just dream this?” But, when Mama slammed the door real suddenly and turned back towards me, I realized that this was no dream. Her face was a kind of mad that I had never seen before. I looked at her hands and they were shaking real bad. I saw a tear run down her face, but she wiped it off real quick. This side of Mama scared me because I think she was scared a little too. She went to her room real quick and closed the door. I was relived that I couldn’t see her anymore like that.
I went back to my room, turned on my TV, and started playing my PS3 games. Mama only lets me play for an hour on Saturdays, but I thought that she was a little too distracted to notice and I wanted to think more about Star Wars and less about the mysterious old lady that just upset my Mama so bad.
She was in her room for about an hour before she quietly came back out. Mama was acting like everything was normal, but I could tell that she had been crying real hard by her red nose, red eyes, and crazy looking spots all over her face.
She started cleaning up the burnt pancake mess in the kitchen.
I came in real quietly so I wouldn’t upset her. “Mama, can I go play with Tim?” That is my friend that lives two floors up in our apartment complex. We are in the same class at school. I like playing with him because he makes me laugh and he is the best basketball player that I know. But Mama doesn’t like me going over to his place because she says that she doesn’t know his “family situation”, whatever that means. So I was really surprised when Mama just said “yes” to me going to Tim’s place without calling his mom or playing twenty questions with me first. Mama almost sounded relieved.
I wasn’t going to hang around to see if Mama came to her senses. I just grabbed my basketball and a video game and ran out the door yelling, “Bye, Mama!” over my shoulder as I slammed the door and ran to the stairs.
Tim’s older brother took us out to the basketball court at our complex to let us play. There were a lot of bigger kids playing on the courts because it was a Saturday so Tim’s brother, Shane, told us to wait on the bleachers until a court opened. Shane ran off to play with the big kids.
“This ain’t right! I can play better basketball than half these guys out here!” Tim was insulted that his brother made him sit out, but the truth was that it was me that Shane didn’t want out there embarrassing him. I didn’t say anything to Tim’s outrage.
He continued, “I mean, my little sister could play better than that joker over there!” He pointed to a short, clumsy guy in glasses struggling to guard his teammate. I still said nothin.
Tim started to notice me staring off at the trees past the basketball court.
“Hey man, look at that girl with the boobs hanging out over there,” Tim said, trying to get my attention. I still kept staring out at the trees with no reaction.
Tim smacked my arm, “Hey, what’s up with you giving the stare down with the sidewalk?” He was trying to make me laugh.
I blinked out of my trance and just looked at Tim, “Do you have a father?”
Tim laughed out loud,”Yeah, I have a father. Why?” I just looked down at my hands and shrugged my shoulders. I was a little embarrassed talking about this with my friend. He was the one that I was most comfortable asking, but we usually spent our time laughing and playing. Not serious talking.
Tim just shook his head,”If my mom ever saw my dad on the street, she would chase him down and beat him bloody.”
“Wow, why?” I asked.
“He’s a deadbeat. He owes her, like, three years worth of child support.”
“The last time I saw him was at my sixth birthday. He had borrowed money from Mama to buy me a bike as a gift from both of them, but he showed up with a high five and a bag of pork rinds. He said that the bike was on back order. Mama made a big scene and threw him out of my party and I’ve never seen him or the bike again.”
Tim was smiling when he finished his story, but I could tell he was hurt by what his father did.
“Why are you asking?” Tim looked at me curiously.
“Well, I didn’t think I had a father.” I said, looking down at my hands again.
“Have a father? Sure, you have a father! Everybody has a father. How you think you got here?” Tim asked.
“Huh?” I looked up puzzled.
“Um, never mind. Ah hem, you said ‘didn’t thin’. Did your Daddy find you or something?” Tim asked.
“Well, non, we had this lady come to our door today saying that she is my grandmother.” I said just as astonished as I was this morning.
“She could be your Mom’s mom. Is she for real? I mean, do you think she is legit?” Tim says as he tries to put it together so that it makes sense for me.
“No, Grans is my mom’s mom. I don’t know who this old lady is. Mama seemed to know who she was but I have never seen this lady before.”
“Ah ha! So this is your father’s mom. I get it now.” Tim puts it together for me. “You didn’t know you had a father?”
I shrugged, embarrassed at how dumb that sounds now. “Yeah. I guess.”
Tim asked, “Did she say anything about your father?”
“The old lady didn’t. Mama just said that he wasn’t always nice to her.”
Tim nodded his head like he understood exactly what I meant. He stared out over the trees now. For a minute I thought that he was done talking about this with me. But then, he started talking while he was still looking so far away, “When my father lived with us, he used to hit me and my brother with a belt so hard it would leave marks. I wouldn’t ever know what I had done to make him so mad. Sometimes we would get home from school and the apartment door would be locked so we would be stuck sitting in the cold hallway for hours until Mama would come home. He’d be on the couch watching TV like he hadn’t heard us the whole time.” Tim’s face looked so hurt and disappointed.
“One time, Mama and him were playing a stupid card game. Mama had laughed when she beat him. He got so mad that he turned over the kitchen table and hit her in the face.” I looked at Tim and saw the tears roll down the side of his nose. “The police came and took us away for a week and a half. I had to stay with strangers.” Tim wiped his face with the back of his hands. I patted him on the back, the only thing that I knew to do and said, “Aw, Tim, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this up.”
Tim looked levelly at me and said, “Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to not have a father. I wished I had never seen my dad before either.” He hopped up off the bleachers.
“Shane! It’s our turn, man!” He yelled across the courts. Shane reluctantly waved us into the basketball game.
We played and laughed until it was dark and the Super closed the courts for the night.
When I came home, Mama was in her bed watching TV like a zombie. She only said, “Take a shower before you go to bed,” without even looking up.
When I went to sleep that night, I dreamed that I was stuck in a strange country and couldn’t get out.