Going to a baseball game with Detroit every Sunday, starting in July, during the summer of 2019 was exciting. We would leave Bedford Stuyvesant at 6 p.m., and get down to Yankee Stadium by 7 p.m., and grab a few hot dogs with sauerkraut and Gulden’s mustard, then gobble them up. Yankee’s stadium hot dogs are so delicious. They are long and skinny and crisp, and they crunch when you bite into them. The hot, tasty juices fill your mouth like adrenaline, and they are an unforgettable moment in time, transforming me into Detroit’s sidekick for the two hours that this game is played. I don’t even hear him talking aloud to the players, “Great hit!” he screams as the ball flies into the air, way up into the stands, and the people all gasp, and either flee from getting hit or stay, and try to make that famous catch with the TV cameras pinning them to TIME and LIFE magazine covers making them famous for eternity. I always daydream when I’m with Detroit. He’s such a dreamy guy with big biceps and a dark brown shiny DA, that flips back over his forehead, so he looks like a gangster, but he’s not. He’s an honor roll student, with five offers to go to college: Harvard, St. Johns, Penn State, Cornell, and New York University. Harvard offered a three quarter partial scholarship if he’d play football with a chance to have a full ride, once he fulfilled the commitment to make twenty touchdowns in the four years that he was there. If that happened, they would reimburse him for the quarter percent tuition fees he paid out of pocket. Penn State offered him a full ride if he would be the captain of their baseball team, and make every year a gold star experience, which included keeping a B, or higher, grade average, and winning at least ninety percent of their games. St. John’s and Cornell offered a full ride, including housing and tuition with options to be either the swim team, baseball, or football captain.
Detroit was an all over athlete. Everybody wanted him to lead their players to victory because he had that kind of build where men and women just stared when he walked into a room. He was the Sun God, and Hercules, all rolled into one. If you saw him, you would never forget the way he looked or the way he moved when he walked. His walk just said, “I am the man of your dreams.” You couldn’t say he wasn’t downright threatening to most men, just because women often stared at him, with their tongues hanging out. There was no doubt, Detroit was hot. I sat next to Detroit almost in a dream state, feeling the eyes of everyone in the stadium on me as they wondered who I was. I am his only sister, with darker skin like an African angel, and aspire to finish high school, and maybe to become a dermatologist. I have struggled my entire life with acne, and read every book on how to cure it, from putting lemon juice on my face, to mixing egg whites in a bowl, and then beating them to a froth, then laying the paste on my acne while sitting in the sun. This was the concoction that my friend Daisy had given to me back in eighth grade. She had yellowish skin, and uneven skin tones, and was always coming up with a beauty remedy to fix something. She was a bit plump, but still attractive, in spite of her yellowness, and was determined to be somebody. Her passion was to give beauty advice, and to spend hours researching beauty remedies. One of her other remedies was to cut your hair short so it would come back in shinier and curlier, with more bounce. But hardly anyone took her advice. It was easier to wear a wig. My hair was a curly mass of red ringlets, like the kind you could get from jumping out of the shower and just letting it go wild. But I am a good height, 5’7, and I secretly love going out with Detroit and being seen with him. It was also a thrill to escape the ghetto and be under the bright lights of the stadium flashing over me like an alien spaceship.
Within seconds of arriving there, an embodiment of new faces and voices bombarded my senses, and the assortment of colorful clothes and jerseys that kids wore representing their schools was amazing. It was like being at the United Nations, with the versatility of nationalities and foreign languages, mixing with English, making Spanglish, Franglais, Germanglish, Urdish, and other pigeon languages bouncing off the bleachers. And I knew the voices would eventually settle as soon as the game started.
Soon Detroit would hardly glance at me as he focused on the pitcher, and the batter. And I didn’t really mind yet, because my thoughts were elsewhere thinking about the players and how cute they were, and then how disgusting the pitcher was who would spit out a mouthful of tabacco like a nasty five-year-old. Why didn’t the pitcher have any class? Who would want to come watch a grown man act like an idiot? That’s what he looked like anyway or maybe it was just stupidity on his part for behaving so brazen and tough, that all of a sudden, all the players, seemed like an army of mental patients dressed up in funny pajamas. It was all becoming just a blur. The memorable sounds of the game, like the whip of the bat cracking the ball far outside the stadium were not present, and I longed for the crowd to get excited a bit. Behind me, I could envision the conversation between food sellers and customers, and see the exchange of goods for money. The American dollar bill with its symbols of white supremacy, during the civil war was emboldened in my mind with pictures of slaves, and it boasted about, how great it was to have free Black labor. I imagined one of those bills slipping into the pocket of each of the white food sellers, who probably secretly wished slavery days were here again. This was America 2019, and Donald Trump was still in office. Fifty-six percent of white woman had voted for Donald Trump, a man who never held any political position.
The norm was not normal anymore. Death and tragedy were on everyone’s plate. It was hard to disassociate life from politics, because everything was based upon the nut in the whitehouse making bad decisions with American lives, and the lives of our allies. Life rotted. Just to escape to the game was a refreshing experience, even if these guys were dumb, they still seemed to be reminiscent of the good ol’ days, when playing baseball was akin to being a proud American, like eating hot apple pie. And I still loved the candy bar, Baby Ruth, named after Babe Ruth, and my mother was addicted to them. Any candy gooey and carmelish with nuts, my mother loved them all. She was a vegetarian, and by the way, so am I, but I loved the distinct odor and taste of grilled hot dogs, and it brought back the memories of eating at Chock full O Nuts, a restaurant that hired predominantly African American workers. They were always very clean, and wore hair nets to cover their heads, and used gloves when handling your food. Those were the good ol’ days.
Nowadays, me and Detroit eat at Duncan Donuts for breakfast before school starts. We get free coffee and donuts because Detroit’s friend Eddie works there, making the donuts in the evening, and everybody knows all the late night donuts get shoved into the garbage, so Eddie leaves a box of vanilla creme and dark chocolate donuts, with our name on them, under the counter, and we each get a complimentary cup of Joe.
The manager doesn’t know it, but Eddie hates coffee, and never takes his free meal every day so it literally is ours for the taking. Oh, the perks of having a friend work in the food service industry. And my goal in addition, to being a dermatologist, is to one day own a business, and make it something famous like Sylvia’s Restaurant, but more of a mail-order business, catering to individual households and restaurants. I learned in my French class, how to make this fabulous Quiche that everyone loves. It’s not the typical Quiche with bacon, but it has my own special concoction of condiments and cheeses, and a variety of vegetables. I’m thinking of getting Barbara Corcoran, to one day, go in on a business deal with me, after I get the business to flourish.
Soon Detroit will be in college, and I’m going to finish school too, but I have to think about the bigger picture, besides being educated. Sure I’ll get that college education, one day, but first I want a piece of the pie. The big American Apple pie. No joke. Remember George Floyd, how he tried all his life to make it with opportunities to go to colleges, but couldn’t finish because of all the responsibilities of being on the college athletic teams? Well, they failed him. Essentially they used him to win tournaments, and make a name for themselves. They didn’t care that he wasn’t making the grade or try to help him learn, but used his Black body for winning sports events. That’s not going to happen to me. I can swim well, and play golf, but I won’t let these colleges use me. I’m not in the top of my class, like Detroit is, but I’m smart in other ways, like inventing things, and I’m going to be somebody, as soon as I figure out how to create a website and start selling my food online. It will be called Kendra’s Magnificent Quiche, and I’ll sell to Ophrah, and movie stars and they’ll have my Quiche at all their cast parties, and on every movie set for all the actors to enjoy. And who knows, maybe I’ll be written about in Forbes Magazine one day. I can see it now, a Kendra’s Quiche truck in every town in the USA, and orders coming in from as far away as Madagascar. I’ll be an international sensation! Soon as I get home, I’m going to start creating my Website, and you’ll see, I’m not afraid to succeed. I may be from the barrios, but my head is in Black Enterprise.
It’s been almost an hour now, and Detroit doesn’t even notice me at all. He hasn’t turned his head, to notice or even care, that I’ve left my seat. I’ve been gone now for thirty minutes to the bathroom, and I’ve returned to watch him from another seat before I leave to go home. He’s still sitting there glued to the players, and ocassionally jumping up from his seat, to roar with the crowd, then sitting back down, not noticing that there is another person sitting in my seat. I’m kind of pissed off, that he hasn’t offered me any advice on how to win a college scholarship or even tried to fix me up with one of his collegebound friends. I don’t know if he even sees me as a person or just a baby factory. In our culture many girls don’t get educated, but wind up having a lot of babies, to keep their parents happy with grandchildren. Girls are nothing much. My mother even gave Detroit a small security box, to save all his part-time tutoring money in his room. Who in the hell is going to encourage their child to do this? Does she think somebody in the family is a thief? I bet if I stole it, he wouldn’t even think to ask me if I did it or not. He’d assume someone broke into the house, and stole it when everybody was out. And thinking about it, Detroit doesn’t deserve to go to any of these fancy colleges. He never thinks anybody else is as good as he is, in anything. I’ve never heard him compliment anyone on doing a good job or being smart or offering any words of encouragement. But today I’m going to change all that. I’m going to go home and rob that do good, motherfucker of all his cash, and act very cool afterward, like I don’t know nothing about it. As soon as I get home, I’m gonna crack that safe wide open. I saw where he dumped an extra set of keys yesterday, when he wasn’t looking to see who was around. He stuck them in the big flowerpot in the living room, next to the yellow pull-out sofa. The one papa sleeps on when my mama and him get into a fight over petty stuff, like who drank all the milk or who didn’t flush the toilet. One day, Detroit will get it, I’m just as good as he is and I want to be somebody! So wake up gorgeous brother, you’re not the only one that matters.
Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is an adjunct professor of poetry, short story writing and screenwriting at Westchester Commmunity College. She is the author of five books of poetry. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and was a 2016 writing fellow at Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Her latest poetry book “Dear Blue Harp Strumming Sky” is forthcoming from CyberWit.net. and you can visit her poetry blog at : lisarhodesryabchichpoetryblog.WordPress.com.