Fate's Favorite Genre
In the movies, bad days were characterized by sleeping through alarm clocks, spilled coffee, and an angry boss that couldn’t seem to leave you alone. Maybe the protagonist discovered that their life-long partner’s been cheating and was confronted with the dilemma of divorce. Or if it was a teen rom-com, an awkward talentless white girl would show up to school in an extremely short skirt because she had woken up late and had absolutely nothing to wear, thus inadvertently drawing unwanted attention from the famed bad-boy and the entire school.
But the thing about life was that it never fell into a specific genre. Sometimes life was a horror movie, a romance, a fantasy, dystopian, a comedy, a dramatic soap opera, and mystery all at once. Each day would be a different genre. And if you were lucky, it might be the genre you’ve been looking for.
Today was not that day.
Tremondre and Samir found themselves shooting hoops at a nearby park, each silently taking turns to do half-hearted throws which bounced off the rim. A few on-lookers snickered behind their back, but the two young men couldn’t care less.
“You guys suck!”
Tremondre repaid the stranger’s comment by raising the infamous finger over his head. Before anything got out of hand, Samir quickly came to his friend’s defense and made a hasty apology.
“He didn’t mean it!”
The stranger fled the scene. When the stranger was just out of sight, Samir set his sights on Tremondre.
“Dude, what’s wrong with you? You know you can’t do that here. We live in San Francisco! What if someone mistakes your little bird for a gang sign or some shit?”
Tremondre shrugged and went after his ball. His basketball was the only thing he had from his previous life in foster care, a final gift before he left the system. The off-colored ball had managed to lodge itself in a nest of grass at the edge of the basketball court, and Tremondre carried it back, clamping the ball underneath his pit.
Samir watched his friend warily, noting the nuance in his strange demeanor. He seemed quieter than usual. Most people took quiet as a good sign, as a symbol of tranquility. But Tremondre was the only person Samir knew who could make quiet a symptom of hostility. Something was bothering him, and the love he had for his friend made Samir all the more eager to find out.
“Alright. Let’s talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Tremondre grumbled, and shoot his shot. Just like the first thirty-times they played, the ball ricocheted off the board, sending waves of frustration pulsating through him.
“What do you mean? There’s a lot of things to talk about. Let’s start off with the fact that you’ve never dated a girl in your life.”
Tremondre scoffed. “Well that’s easy. I don’t like women.”
“So you’re gay.” Samir punctuated his answer with a lilt in his voice. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Tremondre chased down his ball and threw it, aiming at Samir’s belly button. Samir foresaw the attack and side-stepped, causing the ball to shoot across a picnic table, interrupting an intense chess game played by two elderly women. A hasty apology later and the women still haven’t quite forgiven them.
“I ain’t gay,” Tremondre said adamently. “I’d fuck your mom if I had the chance.”
Samir feigned a dramatic gasp. “Not my mama!”
“Yes your mama. And your sister if you had one. But I’m not going to because you’s my brother.”
“Gee, that makes me feel so much better.” Samir rolled his eyes.
They played a few rounds. With each round, Samir’s chest tightened and his heart knocked against his ribs, pleading for mercy. Unlike Tremondre who effortlessly moved around the court while dribbling, Samir’s movements were akin to the inflatable tube-men that flail their arms on corporate curbsides. He much preferred soccer to basketball. At least with soccer, you didn’t have to dart around and jump as much.
“So you never fell in love?” Samir panted.
Tremondre shook his head. “Nah.”
“Not even once?”
“You ain’t ever gonna catch me simping. Not like you. Falling in love with a new girl every week.”
Samir wiped off the sweat collecting on his brow and laughed. With every jest, Samir thought he could brush it off, but this particular comment stuck to him. It became a concern.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tremondre shrugged. “You’re a simp. Plain and simple as that.”
“I’m a simp because I have feelings?”
“No,” Tremondre said in a graver, more patronizing tone. “You’re a simp because you give your love for free. Like an emotional whore.”
Samir sucked in a sharp intake of air. At first, all he could do was stand still and search for a sense of humor or jest in his friend’s face. But when he found none, he knew that the comment was aimed to wound. And wound, it did.
Samir picked up his feet and left the court. He had to hide the fact that he was bleeding, to savor whatever was left of his dignity and leave. Tremondre’s protests melted in the distance.
“Where are you going?”
Samir looked straight ahead.
“Bro! It was just a joke! Wait up!”
Samir tried to go over the procedure his school counselor had assigned him in his head. Even after all those years, he could still hear Mrs. Young’s voice as clear as day.
When you start to feel angry, you should leave. Usually it’s best to leave.
But what if I can’t leave?
Then you close your eyes and count to ten. Focus on your breathing. Fill your lungs with air until you can’t and let go.
“Yo! Samir!” Tremondre shouted. His voice became irrelevant.
But everything’s so loud.
If you focus on breathing, you won’t hear anything else. It’s all about your will.
I feel angry all the time. I’m so tired, Mrs. Young.
Samir could no longer hold back his tears. His feet solidified into bricks, and he wept bitter tears. He felt stupid and sad all at once. Stupid because he suddenly missed someone he hadn’t thought about in years. Sad because of the burden of his hidden suffering. At twenty-years-old, he wanted Mrs. Young to come back to tell him what to do, to remind him that he wasn’t as shitty as he believed he was.
You have every right to be angry, especially after what happened. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Samir could see her now. With her cat-shaped glasses which she often had to push up her nose bridge, she looked at him through her heavy frames. Her little eyes disappeared beneath her reassuring smile.
But you need to control your anger. Don’t let it control you. There’s nothing more frightening than a man or woman who is the master of their emotions.
“But why would it be frightening?” Samir mumbled under his breath.
Ms. Young’s smile was dazzling now.
Because it makes them powerful. No matter how hard others try to put them down, they just keep rising. Like flowers in Spring.
“Like flowers in Spring...”
Samir sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. As his tears dried, he realized where his feet had carried him. A long line had formed beside him which led to a parked food truck. A local elementary school released its kids, flooding the streets and crosswalks with children and a string of traffic. A few kids pointed fingers at Samir, noting that his red nose reminded him of Rudolph-The-Red-Nosed-Reindeer. A little girl even offered to give him a hug, but Samir had to decline for legal reasons. Whatever anger Samir felt, it vanished into the air he breathed.
He felt free.
When Tremondre found him, he trapped Samir underneath his sweaty pits, pulling him into a hug. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I was an ass.”
Samir gagged from the putrid smell stemming from his friend’s pits. His eyes glossed over with tears. “You smell like one, too.”
Tremomdre let go but not just of Samir. He confessed that the reason why he had been so irritable was because he was forced to quit his job at the warehouse. The manager that had been sexually harassing the workers was finally caught after Ben (otherwise known as down-syndrome Ben) was the first to admit what was happening. After that, the big boss decided to suspend all work to launch an investigation. All employees would be questioned until they can build a case against the former manager.
“Tre...that’s awful.” It was all Samir managed to say. Then, another thought followed. “But that’s good they’re investigating, right? Why did you have to quit?”
Tremondre snickered at no-one but himself. “What makes you think they’ll believe me? I mean...look at me.”
Without having to say more, Samir saw his friend. His earthy skin, the color of rich topsoil, caught Samir’s eye. The mature angle of Tre’s jaw and the shadow above his lip that dipped well below his chin formed an even dark beard. With the muscle he built from heavy-lifting and the weary look in his eyes, there was no question what his appearance would make other people think. Most people wouldn’t see a nineteen-year-old boy. Most people would see a man, a hoodrat, someone that came from a broken home. Although there was much more to Tre than that, it didn’t erase the fact that obscenities and violence would forever be ingrained in his vocabulary. There were things that Tre went through that Samir would never experience.
But that didn’t make it okay.
“They’ll think I wanted it.”
“But you didn’t!” Samir was more angry at Tre’s predicament more than Tre was. “You didn’t!”
“It’s okay, Samir.” Tre said gently. Suddenly, he felt inclined to assume the role of big brother. “I’ll find another job.”
But Samir wasn’t having any of it. Because in his head, Samir remembered the little boy that was wronged, the little boy that no one believed.
“You shouldn’t have to. It’s not right, Tre.” “You damn right that it’s not right.” Tre nodded solemnly. “But guess what? Just because it’s not right don’t mean it never happens. Now don’t you worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ll find a better job that pays more and maybe this time there won’t be no creepy women.”
For the second time of the day, Samir found peace.
Samir and Tremondre walked home. Technically it was Samir’s home but his home was the closest thing to home Tremondre ever had. Tre also realized something else. While walking, he noticed how Samir seemed to glisten under the sun, how everything he said was always imbued with purpose and meaning. He felt a tint of jealousy as well as admiration for his friend. Because as much as he wanted to believe Samir was a sensitive white boy, Tremondre knew that he was one of the strongest people he ever met.
“You got raped, didn’t you?”
Tremondre watched his friend carefully. He expected blatant denial or tears or anger. Instead, Samir maintained his serenity and embraced the golden sunlight.
“Who was it?”
“I’ll tell you when I’m ready.”
Samir’s resilience inspired Tremondre. Something new was brewing inside him, something significant. When they approached Samir’s house, Tremondre had a confession to make.
“I want to meet her. The bitch you’ve been simping over.”
Samir thought a fly must have flew into his ear.
“Boy, you heard me. I want to meet Fatima.”
Samir held back a wince after recalling their last meeting. He tried to hide his guilt under the guise of disbelief.
“Why? Why now? You were just clowning me for simping and now you want to meet her?”
Tre stretched his arms to touch the sky and rolled back his shoulders in the same manner boxers did before they entered the ring. If Tremondre was looking for a fight, Samir was conflicted over whom he should worry about first. In his head, he either saw his friend crying his eyes out over some childhood trauma Fatima managed to dig up, or Fatima in the kitchen icing her black eye. It would be a battle of brute strength and wits. The thought of it raised Samir’s cortisol levels.
Echoing his mother, Samir warned him. “Dude, that really doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
Alas, Tremondre was deaf to Samir’s warnings. “I wanna see what’s the hype about her. What about her has you all twisted up and sensitive all the time? Is this bitch really as great as you make her out to be?”
Samir mumbled a dua under his breath. “Sweet, merciful Allah. Please protect the living and the soon-to-be dead.”
“Besides, what’s the worst that can happen??”
Had Tremondre headed Samir’s warning, the story would have ended here. But they were caught in Fate’s sick design. Because you see, Fate was a cruel author. And her favorite genre was drama.