Crooklyn continues to strike a chord with me. The neighborhood Troy lives in very much parallels my own Bronx home. I remember the stoop games, the fire hydrant popped open on a hot summer day, the elders at the front of the bodega playing their hundredth game of dominoes.
And I remember when my stepdad died.
I’m stuck on Crooklyn, still, because I am stuck, period. I haven’t had time to mourn his death, to miss the perfect teeth in his smile or the way his bald head shined in that hot summer sun. No, I haven’t had quite the venue to express the way my heart shattered when I heard the news that he wasn’t coming out of his coma. And I thought that maybe I was able to control these bubbling feelings of hurt and pain and anger towards the uncontrollable this semester. But no, here I am, still thinking about a film about a young girl of color losing a parent and I am so broken it’s painful to wake up sometimes for this ten-in-the-morning class.
My stepfather was a bright man. A reckless man, too. But he had such a passion for everything he did it was sometimes embarrassing how excited he would be about a new word, a new show, and new play I was in. He had met my mother close to four years ago — he died last summer — and I never saw my mother happier. Even in the fights, even in the financial disputes, even in my sometimes frustration with the way you wouldn’t understand me, you were always there, weren’t you? You had become a constant in our lives and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. I couldn’t be more grateful for the way you made my mother smile.
And like Troy, I’m trying to pick up the pieces of the aftermath of your death. It is scary to think I am the most together out of our little family. Ma still talks to you in her sleep. Jos has night terrors. Grandpa cries in the room while Grandma comforts him in her own tears. My uncle doesn’t talk about it.
I didn’t talk about it. And like Troy, I broke down in a bathroom in the middle of class and called Ma to tell her how much I missed you. And the stoop games continue without you, the fire hydrant is still on blast without you, but the dominoes table in front of the bodega has an empty seat. No one will sit there.