Copyright K. Omodele 12-24-04
Basketball is on this boob tube. There is an incessant buzz of anticipation that periodically explodes into cheers for Lebron or Iverson. Even with earplugs, I cannot drown the babbling completely-laughter leaks through. A stifled shout slips into my thoughts here. Covert conversations crease my concentration there.
By the bathroom, Rasheed hangs up the phone. “Man, it’s cold as fuck up in Philly right now. What’s up with these warm-ass winters down South?”
His voice barely filters through my earplugs. From my table in the back, is like watching a sitcom with the volume way down.
He barks. “Yo, Fronz, grab the horn.”
Looking like JJ from Good Times, Fronz leggo the dice and hops on the phone. I’m sure he’s dialing Virginia Beach.
‘Sheed returns to his table in front of me. He meets my eyes and shakes his head, sighing with the weight of the world before plopping in his chair. I just nod in recognition. Holidays…always rough.
At the table to my left, Wolf and Bass hide hands from each other in a game of casino. Wolf is Grizzly Adams from the Mountains in West Virginia and Bass is this ever-cool, surfer dude. Whenever Wolf opens his mouth, he sounds like a Harley, idling. Smells like one too, exhaust fumes like stale Camels. Last week we made him take a fresh. He’s due for another shower any day now.
The Uptown Saturday Night hip-hop mix on Power 98 must be on because the younger Brothers have their headphones locked on while they catch the game or throw the dice or strategize over chessboards. From what I can suss out, Jay-Z and that new one…wha’ his name?…Young Jeezy must be on the airwaves. Anyhow, doo-rags bounce and heads bop. And, wha de fuck, I might as well pick up back smoking because the air is a mish-mash of Newport, Camels, and Tops smoke. My lungs vex, vex, vex. In a few minutes, I’ll have to suck some relief from my inhaler.Against a wall a microwave hums. Holiday packages ordered by families and loved ones arrived last week and I hear the chow hall-AKA Vomitville- is a ghost town with tumbleweeds right about now. The microwave might rebel soon. Every couple minutes the bell DINGS and somebody yells, “Next.” Popcorn, salmon, garlic, jalapeno, sausage fight a losing battle against the overpowering tobacco stench.The holiday spirit is a hollow barrel in B-Block. Beneath masks resides a longing only revealed in sunken eyes. Under a fragile facade of contentment, draped in nonchalance, lurks an angst- disconnection, seperation from the world-that is only communicated in raised eyebrows, grudging grunts, and even gnashing teeth.
Anything…everything…but no tears.And early tomorrow morning, in the absence of the distraction of the JVC lord and radio shows and bedlam, we’ll rise from our bunks. Methodically wash faces and routinely brush teeth. And one by one we’ll bleat, “Next” for the phone. Then, when finally our turn comes up, we’ll pull up a chair, burrow into the phone partition and carry on tender, covert conversations with our weeping families and children.
But always, with determination, we refuse to shed tears.
Never. Ever. Shed no tears.
Copyright K.Omodele 12-24-04
From the blog “The Abeng and My Conscious Pen”