"Yo, get up niggah!"
He pushes your shoulder and you roll over into something wet on the sheets below you. Little brother peed in the bed again. Oh well, it'll dry.
You didn't sleep much because your brother played Grand Theft Auto 2 on X-box til midnight and you share the room and the twin mattress. Mama and her boyfriend in the next room were up yelling and you heard a couple of smacks, so you know he hit her. Again. But now the only sound is the repeating theme song from Grand Theft Auto. The only light is the glow from the TV.
You peel your body from the twin-size mattress on the floor and hope that mama did laundry yesterday. You've already worn that blue shirt two days in a row. Lucky you, brother's shirt fits you and it's clean, cause he didn't go to school yesterday. You grab the shirt, crumpled but clean, from the pile on the floor and start to slip it over your head when brother comes back into the dark, cramped, stale room.
"That's my shirt!" he yells and grabs it from your head.
"I got it first. I need a clean shirt!" You reply back. Even though he's younger, he's bigger, and he rips the shirt from your body, smacking your head so hard it knocks you to the carpet. You can't let that happen so you ball your hand into a fist and pop him in the face. Arms, legs, hands entangle. Then a huge hand stings your face out of nowhere.
"What the f___ you doin'?" The large man, mama's latest boyfriend, favors everyone else over you. And she's asleep, so you have no armor to shield you. Big sister is still sleeping -- she doesn't go to school 'til 9 -- and mama is out. Out sleeping or out of the house, who knows. You've faced his early morning wrath before and choose to concede rather than the physical alternative. "Here. Suck this," You say as you throw the shirt to your brother and grab the only other uniform top you have -- the one spattered with stains from two days of school lunch. You are lucky again, because it's cold outside and you can wear your big jacket all day, even in class.
"Now get out the house, I'm tryin' to sleep. Go on." Boyfriend man pushes you and little brother toward the door and his voice gets louder as he's pushing. You're at the front door when you realize your homework is on the kitchen table and your backpack and coat are still in your room. You got cold last night and used it for a blanket.
"Wait I gotta get ..."
"DON'T YOU TELL ME TO WAIT, BOY." He's in your face now. "I've heard enough of yo' lip. You get to school. Now go!" He slams the door.
You feel the heat from tears welling in your eyes, but you cannot let them drop from your lids. He can't see you cry. Not again.
Little brother was able to sneak his jacket from the couch during the procession to the door, but you're outside with nothing.
"Hurry up, we gon' miss breakfast!" Brother starts running down the sidewalk towards school. You're out the door with a stained shirt, no coat, no homework. Again.
When you get to school and line up to go to class, Ja'Kendrick points out the orangey-red stains on your shirt. "Man, you stank!"
"Shut up fool, at least I don't f--- my mother," you reply back. Ja'Kendrick pushes you, but you've learned to go to the back of the line when someone messes with you, which is most of the time.
Your teacher stands at the door and you wait to shake her hand. "Good morning!" She sings. "I'm so happy to see you ..."
This is a mix of truth and fiction. Truth: I'm the happy teacher who stands at the door.
Fiction: The names have been changed.
Truth: I feign to remember almost every morning what these students have gone through before they come to see me at 7:45 a.m.
No wonder they are angry and rigid like cold winter trees when they shake my hand.