Before I Kill This Boy
Rashaun J. Allen
Mom is beaming more joy than the bills on the kitchen table can take away. She’s wearing a blue cardigan and dress with her hair pressed and nails manicured. I’m in my room putting on my cap and gown. By the time I straighten my ’99 tassel she has her camera in hand. “Sweetie, let’s take some pictures.”
I head to her from my room, but my mind is thinking about what Macho said the other day. “You’re only the class representative because I have too many awards.” My speech was written on index cards in my pocket. But was he right?
Our sixth grade teacher adored him. And he stands to get more awards than I care to count. All I had was perfect attendance, school safety and this one. The one that matters. Mom rubs dirt off my face and usurped the doubt. We take pictures from our apartment to P.S. 260.
I line up with the boys in blue caps and gowns and see the girls in gold on the other side of the auditorium. The piano starts and we march to our seats. I don’t know who is who just that the crowd is all loved ones. Once we’re sitting, Mr. Hutchinson, the school principal, calls attention.
The crowd is clapping and I head on stage to face them. There’s a sea of people and I try to imagine them naked (I had heard it calms nerves). But it doesn't.
The first part of the speech is easy. I breathe. You know that deep breath that releases anxiety and stress. Then, I go, “Welcome faculty, family and friends joining us for this special occasion…” Each index card is a few lines so when I change cards I scan around. I see Mom. There’s no way I could miss her. “We would not be here graduating without your unwavering support…” This time I spot Granddad sitting somewhere in the middle and Grandma Arlene is among the late comers who couldn’t find seats in the back. “This is not the end for us but a new beginning as we go forth to junior high school to find new opportunities. We need you now and look forward to you being by our side in the future. Thank You.” I take one last look on stage but I don’t see Jamel.
Back with the graduating class, we sing, “Lift Every Voice” and march out to, “Goodbye, Goodbye. We hate to say Goodbye. But now the time has come to depart…” The music teacher who orchestrates it all is Mr. Heck who had kicked me off the choir every year I tried out.
We meet all our family in the gym. Everyone says they’re proud of me in their own way. Mom kisses my cheek. Granddad shakes my hand. And Grandma Arlene pinches my arm before she hurries back to work.
All us graduates start sprinkling off, out in front of P.S. 260 where the big steps are. I notice Sha-sha and his family are going to a restaurant. I look to Mom, “Can we go eat?” Of course, Mom saw this coming. She just didn’t know when I would ask. “Let’s talk about this when we get home,” she says.
I’m cool. No problem. We’ll probably figure out where we’re going to eat by then. We get home. I don’t even think Mom puts her purse down. And I ask again.
“Shaun, I don’t have the money. Don’t ask me again.”
I ask again. No, I start yelling. “It’s not fair I never get what I want.”
“Keep that up and you’re not getting anything from me anymore.”
“It’s not like I get much anyway.”
That was probably a moment that made going to church important. We weren’t every Sunday church people like the Allens. We were more special occasion folks who went every resurrection Sunday.
Mom would get me a new outfit and I’d feel good for the day. We’d watch a service at the Christian Culture Center and we’d get our praise on. No shouts of “Hallelujah” or getting struck with the holy ghost. But subtler. God, we’re here in your house, don't forget about us.
Mom kept the “Serenity Prayer” in our home. She either was reciting a line from it or I found myself reading it in passing. Most of the time when I put on this show, she sends me to my room. I storm off swinging my door shut with enough oomph to show I’m fuming but gentle enough not to slam it.
But all while I’m doing that she’s not even talking to me. She’s talking to God. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…” She puts her personal spend on the end. And based on what she says is my odometer to measure the distance between her patience or pissed.
“God give me patience.”
“Lord give me strength not to beat this boy.”
“Before I kill this boy.”
But now, I hit a nerve. Mom stuffs her face in a pillow. I don’t see her cry. But the sound she makes reveals I hit somewhere I never wanted to hurt.
Rashaun J. Allen: "I hold an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook. I am the author of independently published poetry books: A Walk Through Brooklyn and In The Moment. I have also been published or am forthcoming in TSR: The Southampton Review, Tishman Review, and 4th Genre. Currently, I am seeking an agent for my memoir Christine's Dream: A Memoir of Love, Loss & Life and a recent recipient of a Fulbright to Barbados. Find more of my work at www.RashaunJAllen.com."