A scene from RUSH:
I need to stress that this is an edited photo. I wanted to duplicate a scene from the book, so I manipulated purchased images to do it.
Most days I only went to school when I felt like going. Sometimes I went just to keep warm and to be in the mix with kids closer to my age. The city had built a new high school that could hold two thousand kids. We had security cameras and computers in just about every classroom, but we were still the lowest performing school in the county.
Sometimes I’d pass a couple of them Somali kids in the hallway, but I could never get ’em to look me in the eye. I wasn’t sure if the girl I’d seen would be in with the ones at my school, but one day I was going up the stairs and a bunch of ’em were coming down, and while the ones in front were chattering away I saw her, the same girl who’d been playing in the snow.
Her eyes widened as if she recognized me, but she turned her head away. Maybe if she’d been looking my way she would a noticed there wasn’t enough room for me, her, and her friends on the stairs. Because they were girls I didn’t holler at them to get the fuck on outta the way. But my shoulder made contact. My leather jacket brushed against her arm and one of my buckles snagged part of her head scarf. It didn’t fall off her, but she had to stop to fix it. Only she stopped on the stairs, which wasn’t the smartest thing to do since another group of girls almost plowed into her back.
“Oh no this bitch didn’t almost cause me to fall and not say excuse me.”
“Damn, I hate when these foreigners come over here and don’t even know how to walk down the daggone stairs.”
I kept on walking up but I slowed down, just because.
The other group of girls were still loud talking even as they all made it to the ground floor. Mama Bear’s daughter, I forget what her name was, she tried to smooth things over. She spoke directly to a girl named Keonette. “She’s new here. Please forgive her.”
“Fatuma, you better keep your girl in check,” Keonette warned.
Fatuma kept smiling and nodding, promising that she would. “Aaliyah meant no harm or disrespect, my sister.”
“Your sister?” Keonette snorted and looked back at her friends. “Girl, we ain’t hardly sisters. Y’all tryin’ to come up to our level.”
“But you are black, and we are black, yes?”
Keonette’s eyes narrowed, as if it was some kind of trick question. “Yeah, so what?”
“Then we are sisters,” Fatuma said.
“What-evah.” Twisting her hand in the air, Keonette pivoted away, cutting the discussion off. “Unless my mama had more kids that I don’t know about, you ain’t no relation to me, boo.”
I watched from the landing as Fatuma and the other Somali girls kept looking towards the ones who thought they were hot shit. Keonette and her crew walked further down the hall, still loud talking.
“You shoulda beat her ass.”
“Naw, naw. For all I know the girl is slow.”
“She was kinda cute though. Did you see how big her eyes got when you got in her face-”
Fatuma waited until they were out of earshot and then she lit into Aaliyah. “Look what you’ve done now! Keonette was my friend, now she is angry with me. She is a very important person at this school.”
All the other girls were giving Aaliyah pitiful looks, and they switched from English to another language when one of them said someone could be listening. Instead of walking with the group Aaliyah hung back, almost like she figured she wasn’t good enough to associate with them.
I knew the feeling.
But at least they weren’t hurling insults at her like Turk and some of the Suicide King’s used to do to me. When I was younger I’d catch hell for walking too slow. Then when I got a bit older they’d holler at me to shut up and sit my ass down. They were lousy babysitters.
I don’t know how long I just stood there feeling sorry for her and remembering how I’d felt something like that. Before I could react Aaliyah broke off from the group, and she was headed back my way. At first I thought she was upset and crying but when she glanced up there was real anger in her eyes. Our stares locked, and instead of turning away she kept right on looking at me.