When I was in the eighth grade Brooke died and nobody told us what happened. Nobody. No. Fucking. Body. thought we were ready to know what happened. Just one day she didn't get on the bus. And Brooke is not her real name. I want to mention her real name but I won't. I am afraid. I am afraid of her ghost. Afraid her ghost will come to me when I am alone at home or while I am alone on a long drive and say "Hey Robin" because she knew me as Robin. "Hey Robin, leave me alone. Let me be dead. Why are you bothering me? Am I bothering you? No."
But I can't. I can't leave it alone and I don't want her to come to me. But I can't get things off of me unless I have a good cry about them or talk about them or write about them or paint a picture of them. The thing tells me how it wants to be released. Believe me or don't, it's true. This thing wants to be written about. Really in long hand in a dollar store notebook. The black and white composition books with the wide lines. Written about in cursive. In the language of my youth. But not now. Not now. Now I am watching some Russian movie with my...with my...I don't like the word fiance. My man sounds possessive. We are too old for him to be my boyfriend. With Love. I am watching a Russian movie with Love and the lights are off and he is on one couch and I am on another but we are together in the living room watching this movie. Not that I care about the movie. But it's nice to sit together in the same room you know.
I am caught in a bucket of wonderings. Wondering why I am even thinking about Brooke so much. I mean we knew each other. We sat next to each other on the bus. Shared stories and complimented each others courdaroys, but we weren't friends friends like that. You know. We didn't call each other on Saturdays or have sleep overs or anything like that. We were school friends. School friends. Bus buddies. We both thought Mrs. Mullen was a bitch. Mrs. Mullen is not her real name either. I am afraid to mention her real name for a different reason. Inside of all of us we are still eighth grade girls (even the boys) who live our lives like we might get in trouble if "Mrs. Mullen" finds out we called her a bitch. Even though she was. Fat bad breath racist bitch who think she cute.
Love leaves at five on weekday mornings. This morning when he left I was afraid of Brooke. I got up and went to my favorite couch in the living room and tried to go back to sleep but I couldn't. Brooke was there. I fucking scare myself. I fucking do. When I say fucking it makes me not so afraid so fucking stop judging me. I'm like the fucking ghost whisperer or something. Seriously, I remember when I was writing WOMEN IN THE VILLAGE the women kept coming to me like, tell my story next. Me next. Me. Then me. And I was all like, Fuck! But I did it and those were the best stories I have ever written. Now Brooke.
But how much of this is Brooke and how much of this is me just suddenly curious about what happened? How did she die? Why? Sidne was her friend. No, Sidne is not her real name either. Fuck it. No one mentioned will be mentioned by real name so I don't have to keep telling you that. As if it mattered anyway. Brooke and Sidne were always together. They played on Saturdays. They had sleep overs. Sidne got on the bus one Tuesday and sat down in her seat with her long shiny hair and barrettes and matching clothes and delivered the news. "Brooke dead. She dead and she not never comin' back."
We all wanted to ask. Some of us did but Sidne didn't answer. Just, "she just dead that's all. Why everybody gotta be nosy. Shit. Can't nobody just go to school and they bessfrien be dead? Damn." Then her eyes watered and that was enough to everyone to leave her alone. The next day Junior, Brooke's little brother got on the bus and no one asked. We just looked. He didn't talk. To anybody. He stared out of the window from his stop in Long Beach to Lakewood where we went to school.
Everyday when we got to Signal Hill there were these white boys who were always at the bus stop calling us "black monkeys", "African niggers", "cotton pickers", stuff like that. Till one day, a few days after Brooke was just dead and aint never comin' back no more, Sam our bus driver pulled the bus over and opened the door right in front of the white boys and said "Who want 'em?" Then Junior, Melvin and JohnJames got off and whooped those white boys asses! Junior went a little too far and Sam had to get off the bus and pull him off one white boy. We all understood. I mean, his only sister was dead and wasn't never comin' back no more. He had to take it out on someone. Did Junior know what happened? Did Sidne? Maybe she wasn't really dead. I mean, when people died then people knew why. People knew how.
Sis. Lanny at the church died and it was because she got too old to be livin' anymore. Bro. Wilkes died and it was because his heart had attacked him. That's what they told us at choir rehearsal. Bro. Johns died because his very own son shot him in the butt. It took him a whole week to die and that was because nobody called the police or nothin'. He was just in his house bleeding and crying that whole time. That was the saddest I ever heard of a way someone could die. But sad or not there was always a reason why somebody was dead. Not just, they dead and they aint never comin' back no more and mind yo own business before I kick yo butt. But that's how Brooke died. Till she or somebody tell me something else. That's how she died.