I used to date a boy from the West Side who went to our school on the East Side — we were both young and dumb, unattached to anything, still searching for our own scents and places to belong.
I hadn’t yet found the courage to tell young men, I also fell for — wanted — young women, but he knew. He saw me on the court, often — against girls, against boys, against anyone who thought they could cross me over and land a bucket.
My father taught me how to dribble. My cousin forced me to use my left hand — I’m right-handed. My uncle and grandfather dared the boys in their neighborhood to give me one shady look or it would be their ass … They had better let me on the court, and they did.
But back to the days of me tucking long shirts into Cross Colours shorts and lacing up Karl Kani boots while carrying a gym bag full of basketball gear — sweaty from a hustle on the court until streetlight o’clock.
He wanted me. I wanted him.
And so we were, for five years — off and on. He was the only one who could score multiple points on me; taller by a whole foot and two inches, my plan would be … relax in 3-point country and let it rain. Shooting was my saving grace.
We were the real Love and Basketball couple, scheming on and off the court. I’d lost a lot of things with him — a lot of firsts were torn down, spat on, and stunted.
I hadn’t learned that it only took 30 seconds to pierce his heart. It took 2 days for him to settle in mine.
Were we too young to be that much in love?
That was the question my parents asked us. But my father loved this boy — plotted on him marrying me, and was crushed when this did not happen. I had ruined it — that was inevitable.
He found someone else when we were in our 30s — kept in touch over the years until he proposed, then it was unholy to speak to me … I used to be happy he had finally gotten happy with someone else.
I used to be … As I got older, I just accepted it — neither happy nor sad, just aware that these things happen, and we had to lose each other in order for me to find myself.
I can’t run up and down courts anymore — my shins are bad, my lower back is garbage, and my knees have seen their last days swerving to box someone out for a rebound.
But I remember those 30 seconds. I remember those 2 days. I wonder — does he? Should he? Probably not.
Let me guess . . . You’ve been talking to Deidrick, this is why you’re here now, huh? I don’t mind talking to you if you don’t mind me snapping a few shots of this venue for a friend of mine. I dabble in photography — on the side. I graduated early — this past June. Deidrick’s coming out this year — late baby. I take a few art classes up at the rec center every other weekend. Other than that, I work at a local ice cream shop — you know, Dinnizzo’s Gelatos & Things? That’s my second home. By now, I’m sure you know, I’m Iesha . . . Iesha Selah Ndiaye.
My family is from Senegal. I’m the first one to be born here in the United States. Ugh. I hate saying that, but it’s like some base form of introductory etiquette, so it’s ingrained in me. The few things my parents wanted for me were to get an education, ascend to heights they could not reach prior to moving here, and become a doctor. Well, I’ve crashed all of those things, except for education. I excelled in all of my classes since elementary school and even graduated from high school with honors.
I am also taking classes online with a local university to get a degree in Early Childhood Education. I have fourteen months to go and I will have my degree in hand. After that, I have to do an internship at a school in my community for at least three months before I can begin working professionally full time.
“Everything happens for a reason,” people say. I met Deidrick when I was fourteen. It was my second year of high school, his first. We hit it off instantly. I’d like to tell you it was his charm that roped me in, but really, it was the way he always seemed aloof around me — sort of like he just couldn’t calm down long enough to simply be. I adored that about him — he didn’t try to macho up or subdue it.
He was natural — we flowed into each other from the start.
Of course, we didn’t plan on becoming young parents. I don’t think anyone ever really “plans” on becoming young parents. We’d always been careful when we were intimate, but the one time I forgot to take my birth control pill is, of course, the time the condom tore. . . and here we are. I never thought it would upset Deidrick — it never crossed my mind. He’s a sensitive young man, caring, understanding, and his parents did a great job in raising him.
I calculate my menstrual cycle. You get into the habit of doing this when you’re on birth control, so when it didn’t come on at least three days past its date, I worried. This was on a Wednesday. I’ll never forget it. Saturday morning I was nauseated. The smell of my mother’s Ndambé sent me running for the toilet. I panicked — heavy breathing, blood rushing to my head, the whole nine . . . I called Deidrick, and I told him I could be pregnant, but I was going to buy a kit from the store up the street and go through the motions later to know for sure.
He never floundered. He said, “Babe, if we are, then we are. And we will be great parents.” I was flabbergasted. I mean . . . I was happy, but I was also taken aback. Again, I never thought he’d be upset, but I didn’t expect him to be as calm as he was, either. I bought the test, took it, and well . . . you know the rest.
For the last few months, my mom and I have been attending my doctor’s appointments on schedule. I take prenatal vitamins; I walk two miles every morning, and I meditate and do breathing exercises. My mom’s a Doula, as well as a Herbalist, so . . . I am well taken care of if you can imagine.
Deidrick and I have been tossing names around for our baby girl. I’m dead set on Aida Lily-Grace Miles and he wants Aida Désirée-Grace Miles. It’s not too far off, but there’s just something about “Lily-Grace” that sticks with me. I can’t let it go. I have a feeling, though, I’ll be moved to compromise as time gets closer.
Welp, that’s the last shot. My friend is going to be pleased with most of these, I’m sure, but I have a lot of editing to do now. Then, I’ve got to work this evening. This was a nice chat.
Oh, so you’re back again, huh? Here to pick my brain some more? We’re one more week closer to the due date of my baby girl than we were before, and lemme tell you, I cannot contain my excitement! I told my girl, she better be glad we’re not having twins. Twins run in my family, you know. My mom’s a twin — her and my uncle Roderick . . . fraternal. She’s older by six minutes, and she loves to drill that home when my uncle Rick thinks he’s got a one-up on her in anything.
Because the two of them have always been close — naming me “Deidrick” was a no-brainer for my mom. She’s Deidra, her twin is Roderick . . . you see the breakdown, right? I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had to correct people on the pronunciation of my name. It’s simple, really, but some folks make it so hard. “Dee-drick.” Two syllables. Not hard, right? You’d think my name had like fifteen syllables in it the way people butcher it.
Not only are my mom and my uncle Rick twins, but my grandaunt Maureen and granduncle Maurice are also twins — Mom’s aunt and uncle. Yo . . . they are the coolest old people I know! My uncle Reece is the owner of a supreme vinyl and more store called The Last Days. You can find everything in his record store from Fleetwood Mac to Prince to The Average White Band to Fantasia, and it doesn’t end there.
This cat is so smooth, he smokes a pipe and wears a different Fedora every time I see him. And, he speaks in this lull type of tone — sort of like someone who is about to kick game to his crush, but knows what he’s doing. Think Gordon Parks — yeah, similar to him. I love hanging out with that cat. I can’t wait for my baby girl to meet him.
Now, Aunt Maureen is the female version of him. She’s a seamstress — owns her own place, too. A spot not too far from where I’m moving to she’s named Lines-A-Plenty. She’s big on fashion too — doesn’t leave home without a cashmere throw for her shoulders and keeps the finest yet simple skirts and blouses in her closet. When she smiles, the sun steps back to give her room. Baby girl is gonna love her.
What’s funny is Moms is a lot like Aunt Maureen and my uncle Rick is a lot like Uncle Reece. They took on the qualities of their father’s siblings instead of being much more like him.
Well, that’s a good thing cuz that cat is all sorts of trash.
I ain’t tryna disrespect my grandpa, but you know . . . I calls ’em like I sees ’em. He stepped out on my grandma more times than Moms and Uncle Rick can count and eventually, he just left her with twins who were six years old and a two-year-old who looked just like him — my uncle Mason. He’s shaping up to be just like my grandpa. I haven’t seen Uncle Mase in about two years and my grandpa — who knows where that cat is. I mean . . . it is what it is, you know?
Yo! Remember the car I told you, my homeboy, Amar asked his uncle about? It came through just three days ago. His uncle Khalil wants $7,500.00 for it — said he knocked off two grand for me cuz I’m young and tryna make my own way for my family. He said he’s willing to work with me on monthly installments, too, until the car is paid off. I told him I want to put $1,300 on it to get it outta his possession — then, I’d pay just under $700.00 for 9 months. My uncle Rick is a mechanic, so he’s going to check the car out for me — make sure ole boy ain’t tryna sell me a dud.
I think things are going pretty smoothly for us. Iesha is gonna work until the last two weeks before her due date — that is, if our little precious doesn’t make her entrance sooner than that. I told her she can take a little more time off if she feels like she needs to, but she’s adamant about working as close to her due date as she can. I have learned my lesson about tryna talk Iesha outta something she’s got her mind set up to do.
Nah, I don’t want those arguments.
I’m looking forward to that phrase, “Happy wife, happy life” because I am going to ask Iesha to marry me — probably in the next two years.
I’m the oldest kid in my family — gotta younger sister and a younger brother. Those two are excited about my baby girl as well. My sis just turned sixteen and my kid brother just turned thirteen. Those two are always at each other’s throats. I’m surprised my parents haven’t lost their voices from all the yelling they do at those bugaboos. I’ve always been a peaceful, real chill kid, you know? Moms and Pops never had any issues with me, and if I have anything to do with it, they never will.
Can you believe it, man?! I’m gonna be a dad soon. Like, really soon. Listen, I gotta hit the store up and pick up a few things for my mom. She’s making fried pork chops tonight — she needs cornmeal, flour, seasoning salt, and a couple of other items too. Duty calls. You know where to find me to shoot the shit.
Living with keratoconus and the treatment I’ve sought.
I had my follow-up visit with the Duke Eye Center for my recent diagnosis of keratoconus on Friday, October 22, 2021. The news my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist shared was good. There is no scarring and no significant change in my eyes — no additional con-caving or coning of my corneas. This is good for multiple reasons, but I’ll just mention two of them. 1. Negativeprogression of the corneas is minimal. 2.It keeps me out of the tunnel with surgery (a cornea transplant for both eyes) as the light at the end. If you remember, I mentioned not wanting to even think about surgery, so I am ecstatic about this recent news.
My ophthalmologist wanted the same tests done as my previous visit, but two more had been recommended as well. One process required a numbing agent for my eyes. The nurse’s assignment was to assess the pressure of each eye. She announced her need to get near me in order to do this — as she rolled on her stool closer to me, my breathing halted. I am not a person who cares for people in my personal space, however; I recognize sometimes; it has to take place in certain situations. As she dropped the numbing agent in the first eye, I stopped breathing and she held her hand up to go to the other eye and said, “I need you to breathe, Tre. This doesn’t work if you don’t breathe.”
I instantly exhaled and inhaled as I normally would. I apologized — informing her it was simply my body’s natural defense and reaction to someone getting so close. She smiled and said, “It’s absolutely normal and expected, but you still have to breathe.” And breathe, I did. After the numbing agent had been applied, she said softly, “Blink. Blink. Blink.” I did as instructed. She announced coming closer to me again and this time, there was a device in her hand (it looked a lot like this, I failed to ask what it was and I beat myself up for it when I left the building) and she rubbed the tip of the device on my eyeball rotating it in small circles. She did the same thing for the other eye.
The look on my face caused her to giggle. She said, “Wasn’t expecting that, were you?” I most certainly was not! To have someone rub some type of device which captures the pressure of your eyes on your actual eyeballs was clearly not on my list of to-dos that morning when I awakened. Afterward, I saw little black dots for a few moments. It took a few more minutes before I could see clearly again without the little black dots and swirlies, and then we were off to yet another room where I would wait for the ophthalmologist.
He was pleased with the numbers, and images gathered from the testing. The reassurance I received from him about my current status eased my nervousness and worry as well. I am in a good place to still be a candidate for scleral contacts, however, no surgery is needed at this time. The scleral contacts are supposed to help sharpen the blurry images and my need to squint (natural reaction) to try to see small writing or images far away. To have a sharper vision will be a godsend and I await it like the day awaits nightfall.
Taking into consideration the fact I am severely near-sighted, have astigmatism in both eyes, and have also been slapped with keratoconus, and my vision has not changed drastically in the last six months, was paramount. The news was the best I had received all morning, and I could not contain my elation. Before leaving, they had advised me to continue with the changes I have made, keep up the Pataday regimen, and take as much time as I can away from devoting my eyes to the blue light of electronic devices.
Listen, I appreciate the $5.00 off coupon the center gives for the Pataday eye drops. That mess is expensive for a teeny tiny bottle. But, I digress. It is necessary, and it works.
As it stands, I have an appointment with my optometrist on Friday, February 25, 2022, for my annual eye exam and the fitting of the scleral contacts. I will follow up with my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist on Friday, May 20, 2022. He wants me to have at least a few months under my belt using the scleral contacts before coming back for additional testing. The flip in visits between the two of these doctors for my eyes will take place for as long as my ophthalmologist deems necessary. Keratoconus is lifelong and currently, there is no cure (outside of surgical procedures), so I’d better get rather comfortable with the entire process of it all.
I am thankful for decent vision insurance — I could not afford this level of care without it. By stating this, I am not flaunting the value of my healthcare coverage, but the truthfulness of the aspect to the level of care of which I am receiving. The care is not an inexpensive one and my pockets do not run deep. Take care of your eyes, beautiful people.
She examines the tips of her fingers — her nails . . . she’d let them grow too long once again. Tonight, she’ll clip them. That’s what she’ll have on her schedule for a Friday night. Among watching whatever series her perusing eyes land on, courtesy of Netflix, and washing two loads of clothes — she’ll clip her nails. She lifts each finger closer to her eyes, scrutinizing them equally. The beds of her nails are splitting. There are hangnails on at least three fingers on each hand. What do they say about hangnails?
Most people experience hangnails when their skin is dry, such as in the winter or after being exposed to water for a prolonged period. A hangnail can become infected if exposed to bacteria or fungus. — Healthline
And this is what she gets for pruning in the tub several times this week. Mika’s body had been aching — her left leg shot twenty seconds of intense pain through her entire lower limb hourly. Her old high school athletic days were coming back to haunt her: iliotibial band syndrome, arthritis, headaches, and neck cramps. On top of all this, she and Zee had broken up just two weeks ago. She promised herself she would not sit around and sulk on her days off. But what is she doing? Sitting around . . . sulking . . . on her days off.
Just as she was thinking about Zee, her phone rang. The Rolling Stones’ Miss You blared through the device’s speaker louder than normal. She’d changed the ringtone three days ago. It seemed fitting at the time. She blows a huff of air out of her weakened body and answers the phone.
“Hey, Zee. Did I leave something at your place?”
“Hello, to you too, Mika. No, you did not. I called to see if you wanted to go to The Ladies of Neo-Soul concert on Sunday. Regardless of what we are now, we still love a good time.”
“This Sunday?! As in two days? Who’s headlining?!”
“Yes, Mika. This Sunday . . . Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Cleo Sol, Alex Isley, India Arie, and Amel Larrieux.”
“Are you shitting me?! Of course, I want to go! How much are the tickets?”
“The not-so nosebleed seats are $115.00 each. If you’re up for it, truly up for it, I’m on the promotional page now. I can buy the tickets.”
“Yes! Lock it in, Zee, please! I’ll get the money to you next week.”
“I didn’t ask to be paid back. I offered. You accepted. Let’s leave it at that.”
The tone . . . It’s always Zee’s tone that crawls up the spaces of Mika’s temples and crushes them until they throb. Why is there always a snide attitude? It’s not just with her — it’s with everyone. But it was also this same tone that attracted her to Zee — Zinobya Adamson. She fell for her within moments after meeting at a Funk Festival four years ago. At the concession stand, she’d purchased a corn dog, waffle fries, and an iced tea. She turned around to get some napkins after crowding her food on her chest and ran right into her. Iced tea, a mix of ketchup & mustard, and waffle fries’ crumbs landed on Zee’s The Roots’ T-shirt.
Mika apologized profusely, but Zee dismissed it simply with, “It’s no big deal. I have two more shirts just like it. I purchase multiples of my favorite things for this very reason. I mean . . . you just never know, right? I can change after I get my order.” Mika recalled that day just as it was yesterday. She jumps out of her mind and back to their current conversation.
“Zee, do you always have to be so dismissive? So . . . whatever-ish to people? I know you offered, but it is also good manners for me to offer to pay my half, especially since this isn’t a date.”
“So whatever-ish?! Mika, please don’t start. This hypersensitive shit is one of the main reasons we aren’t together anymore. For the love of God, you’re from Yonkers! You can take a few blows to the chest and give them just as well as I can. Let’s not act like you can’t.”
Mika sighs into the phone. Another argument. Out of nowhere. And it hasn’t even been ten minutes. She licks her bottom lip, sucks in a full breath — straight from the diaphragm, and quickly gets the details for the venue, time, and where to meet for the concert. She doesn’t want to waste her night seething in anger from this conversation.
“I’ll come to pick you up. The show starts at 7:00 p.m., so I’ll be at your place by 5:30.”
“Nah, Zee. I’d rather drive myself. So, we can meet up at the front entrance of the venue and I’ll spot you unless you spot me first.”
“What the hell, Mika? I can’t come to pick you up now? Wouldn’t it be wiser to take one car, get there, get parked, and already be with each other instead of looking for one another?!”
“Just the same, I’d rather drive myself.”
“Okay, fine. Meet me by the two columns in front of the center by 6:00 p.m.”
“Cool. I’ll see you there. Thanks for offering.”
She tries to remind herself what caused her to fall for Zee — it comes in and out. The reasons hover over her and she remembers: she’s confident, smart, independent, originally from Miami, FL, can cook like her late grandmother, and never hesitated to show her public affection. When she was with Zee, people knew it. They had been a beloved couple — there was no hiding — no sneaking around. They were free, and she loved that feeling.
Sunday arrives quicker than she imagined. She has belly butterflies, a nagging headache, and her sinuses decide today is a good day to be annoying. She will let nothing keep her from this show. A chance to see Zee again so soon after the breakup — a chance to be near her . . . she wants this. She even thinks she needs this. The headache and sinus issues will be combated. She is going to this show.
Mika steps out of her midnight blue SUV. Her multi-colored Dunks match her tie-dye Peanuts T-shirt. Her jeans are fitted with patched holes in the knees. She has medium-sized bamboo earrings in her ears and is carrying a rust-colored clutch. She spots Zee just as she locks her car. Zee struts toward her — body wrapped in a sky blue sassy romper with matching color stilettos. She is carrying a black clutch with accompanying black accessories. She looks amazing! Mika nearly trips over her own feet, walking to meet her.
“You . . . You look good, Zee. You look damn good.”
“Thank you. You look good yourself, Mika. But then again, you are always sharp in anything you wear. I like the Dunks.”
“Thank you. I like that romper. You better be glad we aren’t the same size cuz I’d be raiding your closet for that one.”
“Ha! Your words only. Are we gonna be civil tonight?”
“I think we can manage that.”
“Okay, then. Shall well?”
The ladies make their way to the entrance. Zee presents the tickets for scanning. Their clutches are briefly but thoroughly searched. The night is young, and the music settles into their hearts. Zee locks her arm around Mika’s and plants a kiss on her cheek. Burdened by their past, could they be stepping into a future?