The streets were empty. It was a late night, and a young black boy strolled casually down the middle of the lanes, walking and weaving in and out of solid black stripes painted over golden asphalt as he dribbled a fully inflated basketball. The mood was grim. If you didn't know it was Heaven, you would swear it was Florida.
The young man crossed the ball between his legs, passing it from one palm to the next as he walked down the dark road. The night wind was cold, although the temperature was as humid as could be. He tucked the leather ball between his arm and the side of his torso, and with his free arm he reached into the pocket of his hooded jacket for his bag of store-bought candy.
He heard loud music in the distance. No cars were approaching, but he could hear the bass-heavy sound of hip-hop getting closer as he stood still on the street. He recognized the drum beat. It matched the pulse of his heart.
The sound grew louder, and the boy saw oncoming headlights from far away moving slowly but steadily toward him. He smiled. He knew the car.
An SUV rose with the road ahead, with only a hint of evident light until it cleared the top of the hill before him. It was a familiar sight, although he'd never seen this particular vehicle before in his neighborhood. He didn't need to wonder who was driving the car; he'd heard that a new kid was in town.
As the shiny automobile slowed upon approach, the walking teenager stood and waited. The car stalled and halted. The cabin light came on, with soft light eminating from inside outward. It almost glowed in the night, bright enough for the kid on the street to see “JD” on the vanity license plate attached to the front of the car. From less than 50 feet away, the ball-dribbling teenager tilted his head up and down quickly to acknowledge his guest.
The door opened softly but audibly. As it swung open, a long, slender leg stepped down onto the pavement. As the driver's tilted his body to get out of the vehicle, the music continued to rattle the car. Obviously the car's sound system was not cheap or “factory;” this kid had put money into his music. With the windows still down on his SUV, the driver closed the door softly, but firmly enough that a conclusive thud overshot the sound of bass and snare drums coming from the door speakers mounted on the interior of the car. He reached into his pocked and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, withdrew a loose stick, and placed it between his lips. Putting the pack back into his jean pockets, he pulled his hand back out with a small lighter, raised it to his face and flicked its gears with his thumb.
It was the first time the kid with the basketball realized who had joined him. It was Jordan Davis. He could tell by the full-lipped smirk that was only now visible due to the flame that briefly illuminated the smoker's face from below. As the lighter went out, the cherry of the cigarette became bright due to the pull of breath Jordan took. As it dimmed, the black kid on the street saw a streaming cloud of smoke from the other young man's lips, pushed from a deep outward breath.
“What up, my nigga?,” said the SUV driver.
“What up, Blood,” the hooded kid replied.
They stood, staring at each other for a few seconds, and both slowly allowed their faces to relax and show smiles of acceptance. They knew each other well, even though they had never before met.
As Jordan walked towards the other kid, he extended his arm. The other kid pulled his hand, which had been parked in his pocket since reaching for Skittles, out towards him. They embraced each other with a hug only separated by each others' arms, which met between them when their hands joined. Dapping each other up, they both laughed.
“What the hell are you doing out here?”
“I've been here,” said Trayvon. “Just getting used to it all, I guess. Seeing what's good.”
“So they just let you roam around?”
“Yeah,” Trayvon replied. “I mean, it's been a year. People see you when you get here, and they welcome you and all, but then they just kinda forget about you. You become just another black kid that made it here however, you know?”
Jordan looked at Trayvon's jacket. “I see you only have one hole there. Damn, your boy George was up on you like that?”
Trayvon looked down at his hoodie. He realized for the first time that there was only one bullet hole in the chest area of his jacket. “Yeah, he was right over me when he pulled the gun. You know; it happened fast...”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“So, what about you? That cat Dunn hit you with three shots? That's what they're saying up here...”
“Yeah, but you know. It was a straight bitch move. I mean, we were just sitting there, regular as hell, not even tripping. And here comes dude, with his girl in the car, acting like we was... yeah, you know... same ol' shit.”
Both boys waited for the other to finish or continue, but there wasn't much left to say about how they'd both arrived where they stood. Jordan sighed. Trayvon let his basketball drop and dribbled it in place.
“So, how's your family doin'? Are they all right?”
“Nah,” said Jordan. “It's all new shit, you know? They're being asked to come on TV, show up at rallies, speak up about this whole 'Stand Your Ground' shit – all that. It's that same bullshit... I mean, what about you? Everybody was talking about your shit when it happened. Is your fam OK?”
Trayvon looked up and away, catching the ball between his arm and side again to stop it from bouncing. “I hope so. I mean, I don't really know, but I know I miss them. I miss everybody; I miss everything. Like I said, after awhile, you're just here. It's just another thing. Now you're here, and it'll be the same. People will talk about it for a little bit, and you'll feel like they care, but then all of a sudden it's American Idol season, or football is back, or some kids getting shot in another country... people have other shit to get excited about, or not. You know?”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Jordan, as he took another pull of his cigarette. “You want one?,” he asked, as he reached into his pocket for his pack.
“Nah man, and don't be going into your pockets like that—niggas get shot for shit like that!”
They both laughed out loud. Jordan reached his hand out again, and Trayvon caught and clasped it. After a moment, they let each others' hands go, although they knew there was a bond between them that went beyond a handshake. They weren't immediately related, but they were connected by blood. They were family.
“Anyway dude, it's getting cold. I'm heading over here to shoot. Not guns or anything...” They laughed again. “Shoot some ball at the court. Man, one thing I gotta say: they have the best courts I've ever seen up here. NBA-level shit. Cats out here can ball. They aren't letting me get all the way in yet, but I get to practice by myself at night. I'm always up late, just practicing.
“I don't know; just practicing. Shots, I guess. Gotta get better at that. Aye, what was that you were playing when you rolled up?”
“Oh, that's was that new Future.”
Jordan looked down as he finished telling Trayvon what he'd been blasting from his SUV. Trayvon thought for a second, contemplating the irony. Here was another black boy who had been shot and killed in Florida, who he'd never met before but would probably share a neverending bond with, now that they'd established the basis of legal bullshit and the bullets that bound them. Future was the one thing they both didn't have, although they'd both made history in the most unfortunate way possible. Two innocent young black men, killed by men of other races who found legal cover on the basis that they were in fear for their lives, allegedly. Both killers had walked. Both victims had died. The future never seemed so silent.
They both looked away, in opposite directions, as the night wind blew.
“Yo, I've gotta roll. I'm supposed to see some people they told me were waiting on me.”
“Yeah, I remember that... that whole orientation shit. Good luck with that. Hey, you ever want to shoot, I'm around all day. Holla at me.”
“I will, bruh. Stay up. All my love to your family.”
“Yours too. Peace.”
As Jordan stepped back into his SUV, turned the starter, and began slowly pulling away, he threw a two-fingered “peace” sign to Trayvon.
Trayvon returned the hand signal, reached back into his pocket for another handful of Skittles, and let the ball fall again to the street, as he walked into the distant night toward the court. He was both glad and sad to have a friend who would forever understand him without having to be exactly like him, and without saying much at all about their unbreakable bond. They were brothers, even if no one else would ever notice again or care.
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