Crossing Off the List
“Oh I know you ain’t here for some money.” Shar’ron stood frozen with the door ajar, her arm gripping a bag of groceries to her chest as she looked directly into the eyes of her big brother.
“Is that any way to treat your big brother after so many months?” Antonio still had that smug look on his face, that look he was known for, as he laid almost too comfortably on his sister’s couch.
“It’s been a year and a half! And we all thought we made it real clear that you weren’t to so much as even phone us again til you got your act together, boy. Any of us!”
“Uh huh.” Unimpressed, he pointed to a chair. “Don’t just stand there. Come on in and take a load off. You know, have a drink with me and shit.”
“You got to get out of here right now, Antonio! I’m not kidding. I ain’t mama. Yo shit don’t work on me. I know you, and you are what you are.”
“Aw Shar’ron. Come on,” Antonio said, “it ain’t like that no more. I done my time, paid my debt. You know, second chances and all that good bullshit.”
“I ain’t foolin, boy, you got to go! Mama already called me a half hour ago. She told me you was hittin her up for some money. She on a fixed income, Tone! That tells me all I need to know right there!” She crossed the room to set her groceries down, intentionally leaving the door open behind her as if to make a point.
“Hold up hold up hold up,” the ex-con sheepishly pleaded.
“No! You snatch cars, we take you back! You deal dope, we take you back! You beat up some old man just to impress your low-ass nigga friends, and we take you back! Now, you get out of jail and you try to steal from mama? I’m done with you, Tone! I’m done! Now you get going or I call the police! I ain’t kidding!”
The smugness that adorned Antonio’s face was now supplanted by a look of resigned annoyance. He sat up. “I ain’t got nowhere to go, girl. You want me to starve on the street like a dog, Shar’ron? Is that what you want? Am I dog now?”
“I want you to be a man. I want you to get your life together. I want you to stop hurting people. I want you to get and keep a job. I want you to stop stealing. But I ain’t the one for all that anymore, Tone. I’ve cried my last tears over you, boy. So now, all I want is for you to go.” She stood between the couch and the open door, waiting with a look that might as well have been a stone wall.
“Fine, Shar’ron. At least give me a couple of bucks so I can eat tonight. That ain’t too much to ask from your own blood.”
“I ain’t giving you a damn thing! I’m…..”
The sudden buzz of her cell phone interrupted the moment. “Hey, mama. Yeah, he’s right here, mama. He came over thinking…..What? Mama, stop crying. ….What? Oh no! Mama, you stay inside and lock the door! I’m calling the police right now!”
With rage in her eyes, she lumbered towards the couch, her fists and jaw clinched in a deadly seriousness. “Darrius Richardson just busted his way into our mother’s home, Antonio. Said you jumped him for some money and a gun. Tried to jump him for some rock except he was smart enough to give that shit up, unlike you, you dumbass low-down muthafucka!” She strained to hold back tears. “He was so mad he threatened our mother, Antonio! This is what you do. You use people up until they got nothing left! As long as you get what you need, right! Right?!”
“Fuck you, bitch! You is a ho anyway,” he proclaimed as he exploded to his feet angrily pushing his much smaller sister to the ground, causing her lip to bleed as it hit the wooden leg of a close by chair. “You don’t know me, bitch! You lucky I don’t fuck you up right here and now for saying shit like that to me!” He swaggered with seeming remorselessness past his sister still on the ground, taking her car keys off the hook that hung by the door. As he left, he could make out his sister’s sobs all the way into the driveway even as he shut the car door.
Antonio sat on the hood of his sister’s car parked beneath the oak tree near the park, the same park his extended family used to have picnics at when he was a kid. He stared off in a daze. His face was no longer marked by its notorious smugness.
He stepped forward a few feet and leaned on the big tree he had climbed so many times before as a kid. Without warning he vomited and when he straightened again, tears streamed down his face. He gasped for air in between sobs.
His right hand shaking, Antonio reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a single small notepad and a pencil. On the notepad was a list of names and places he had visited during the day; items on a to do list, all but one crossed out reading: “Visit sister.” And with a single swipe of the pencil, that item too was marked off the list. There was nothing left.
His tears slowed for a moment as he tried to compose himself. He set the notepad alight using his Zippo , erasing any hint it had ever existed. Settled, he produced a single photograph from his jacket and stared at it intensely, the picture of his mother, sister and brothers all together and happy years ago before he had gone down the wrong path. The tears began again.
“It’s all I can do for them. It’s all I can do,” he sniffled through the tears as the police sirens quickly approached from behind.
Drawing in a single zen-like breath, he grabbed the gun from his other pocket and donned the best smug look he could manage, swinging around to put on his final show.