Otherplace

Here’s a short one for your reading enjoyment. It was something once but fell away, and feels like it will be something again someday.

When you’re born like Calvin into a castigating home, they start by eating you from the inside out. What you see on TV is just a fairy tale fake world for better people. It’s not for you and you are not welcome there. You are not soft and sweet but broke, broken, and worthless. Now go outside and play.

Go outside down the porch steps, past the winos, to the park. Never mind those guy’s with blue bandanas clustered on a picnic table. Never mind that woman there, pushing her chest back into her top, still leaking from her mouth. Meet the boys on the court and hoop with no net, the foul line worn down under decades of feet, juking and shuffling, focused on game.

Boys with a basketball, hot shoes, and shirts. No blood from the one they jumped to grab those Jordans, that jacket, that other shit hid in the closet you can’t touch until Channel 5 shuts the fuck up about it.  That kid was a dumb fuck anyway, broke, broken, with a grandma out in that made for TV world full of houses without bars and neighborhoods with unused alleys. Pass, jostle, juke, on the court keep your eye on the ball until those bandana boys scatter and run, then suddenly, in the grass is a hot piece and the sound of God’s popcorn is popping in the air.

Have you ever really smelled the hot asphalt that close up? Old shitty ass asphalt – rained on, spit on, pressing to your nostril, with your dry hands over your ears hoping to fuck that loud pop was the basketball and not somebody’s skull. Breathing hard, eyes open, blank mind fading to fuckfuckfuck in the after when sometimes there is silence and sometimes there is crying or screaming or just the thunder of your own breathing.

Go outside and play. Pretend this is just cops and robbers, bangers and dealers.

They had to make a mythology and put it on Channel 5, send it out to that fairy tale land to make sense of days like this. Perforated Swiss cheese Saturdays all full of holes, and absence, and heads shaking like the noise knocked something loose. They had to make it a story to explain what’s going in in the Otherplace. This place with caged houses and bars around everything and everyone.

Playtime over, back up those steps into that house, knocking a little black asphalt rock from his cheek. Moms passed out on the couch, asleep open-mouthed with her pregnant belly sticking out, abrupt, perpetually pregnant with unfulfilled hopes drowned in chemical sedation. Calvin put his hand near her mouth to check for breath, wouldn’t you? And he covered her with the old afghan, just enough to cover that bump.

“…some of them not even seven years old riding about with AK-47 assault rifles…”

The TV is talking about some dusty country with skies so blue they are almost gray. The tow-headed reporter in his khakis and white button down is surround by young boys without hair, without shirts, bouncing on the back of a tri-colored jeep. They were little shits, just like Calvin, no bigger than him anyway, hugging on rifles with cigarettes dangling from their lips, so relaxed as they responded to the reporter in a rapid bubbling language he couldn’t understand. They drove past lean-to’s and small swellings, they drove past crusty pale buildings with chipped walls. He didn’t see bars anywhere. There they were, his age, with all that power and no fucking bars.

That’s when Calvin knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

 

That’s when Calvin knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

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