“You good?” I heard the annoying whine of the mattress as Rico shifted around to face me. His voice was low and timid. He also sounded muffled as I could barely understand him. This was all his fault and he knew I was pissed.
“Yeah.” No. No, I wasn't good. His stupidity was going to cost me my life.
“I'm sorry. I'll try to fix it.”
“You've done enough. Just stay away from them and I'll fix it.” I spat the words at him like bullets from a gun. I heard the mattress again and knew that he'd turned to face the wall. We needed to get up or we'd miss our bus. I hated taking the bus! It was crowded and always smelled. It was like every rider that had ever ridden had left a piece of themselves on there and the seats secreted it into the air to make one big funk.
I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stretched.
“SHIIIIIIIII…” My sides were sore and stretching caused pain that stabbed me to my core. I was also pretty sure I had a black eye. There was no way I'd be able to hide that and I wasn't in the mood for the grilling that would come from my mother.
I walked to the closet and threw a t-shirt and some jeans on my bed. I grabbed my towel off the back of the chair and headed toward the door. In the doorway, I paused and addressed Rico, “Get up. I don't want to be late.”
He groaned and pulled the cover over his head. “Come on bro! Five more minutes!”
“Whatever. If you're not ready when I'm ready, I'm leaving you.”
He waved me off and I walked out the door. My body yearned for this shower because the hot water would soothe the tightness in my body. I turned on the water and waited for it to heat up. My eye was bruised and the skin's color seemed to darken by the second.
“Great, just great.”
I stepped in the shower and was immediately disappointed. The water was lukewarm and the pressure was low. I soaped up my body quickly, rinsed off, and got out the shower. I couldn't get any relief.
When I stepped into the room and turned on the light, Rico popped up in the bed as if he were a jack in the box. I looked him over and he looked worse than me.
“Man! You look a damn mess!” The bruises on his light skin popped like bursts from a kaleidoscope. His torso was various shades of red and purple. His lip was swollen and his eye was black as well. Now I knew why he sounded like Mushmouth. They'd really roughed him up last night.
Anger coursed through me at the sight of him. Anger at him and those bastards. If I hadn't shown up last night when I did, my brother might not be here right now. I wonder if he truly understood the seriousness of his idiocy.
“It can't be that bad,” he retorted. I saw him wince as he moved to get out of bed.
“Yeah, it is. Wait ‘til you see yourself. Oh, the water isn't hot and the pressure is low.”
“Of course it is. Why should anything work right around here?” He grabbed his towel and walked out of our room. I grabbed my phone and started one of my playlists. I rapped along to Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" as I got dressed. Rico returned and walked into the closet. I told him he had ten minutes, then I was leaving.
He responded with a grunt as I walked out the door. Mom was still asleep so that was good. I wouldn't have to start my morning with a lecture I didn't deserve. My stupid brother had dragged me into this mess and I'd have to get us both out of it, somehow. The cabinet held Pop-Tarts and the refrigerator had milk. I guess this was breakfast today. I grabbed a pack for myself and one for Rico.
I wrote mom a note about the water and left it on the counter for her. She'd see it before she needed to shower because she always had a cup of tea before she did anything in the morning. I was about to call for Rico when he walked into the kitchen. I tossed the package at him and he caught it against his chest.
“Thanks bro,” he said with a goofy grin.
“Yeah. You ready?”
He nodded and walked toward the front door. We grabbed our bookbags by the door and headed out. I locked the front door as Rico waited for me on the sidewalk like he'd done since we were children. If only he'd been doing that for the last few months, we wouldn't be in this mess. We walked down the next three blocks in silence. The sound of Rico's shoes scraping against the pavement broke the silence, interrupting my thoughts of work I barely finished last night.
“Do you know what you're going to do?” he suddenly asked.
I paused and took a deep breath before I responded. Right now, I didn't want to talk to him and I didn't want to talk about the situation.
“No. Now shut up.”
“Chi, I'm sorry man. I know I've effed everything up. I just…”
I glanced at him when he didn't finish. His head hung low and he shook it back and forth. He hit his left hand against his thigh repeatedly. Rico did this whenever he felt overwhelmed and needed to calm himself.
“Look, Rico, I'm pissed and what you did was beyond stupid, but you're my brother and I'll help you.”
He tilted his head up and looked at me before looking back down at the ground. “Thanks for having my back.”
We walked the rest of the way to the bus stop in silence. The sun was coming up and a small smile pushed its way onto my face. This was one of the good parts about this trip. Seeing the sunrise, watching the horizon change before my eyes, the colors melting into each other; it was God painting a new masterpiece every day.
The bus pulled up about 10 minutes after we got to the stop. We climbed on, paid the fare, and sat toward the back.
“Wake me up when we get there,” he said. Rico sat back and closed his eyes. I watched him for a few minutes as he drifted off. He sat there like he hadn't a care in the world. An ache rose in my chest as I thought over my life and future and how it was all tainted from last night. I pulled on my headphones and did my best to breathe through my mouth. The bus didn't smell as bleh as it usually did.
Maybe today would be better than I thought.