oey would always repeat everything he said in intervals and under his breath as if he were translating his own words to an inner self. If he would tell me he thought I looked pretty that day, he would quickly bow his head forward in reassurance and whisper, “I think you look pretty today.” His skin was some sort of pastel-white and his haircuts varied between horrible and worse than horrible. His younger sisters, Ashley and Jennifer, both had bangs cut one inch above their eyebrows and consistently had red stains of Ragu on the side of their lips because their mouths never seemed to grow into the size of the pizza slice. They were excessively neighborly children who would always wait on my porch to receive Joey and me after school.
It was Monday afternoon in Virginia and I was sitting in the second to last seat of the school bus; Joey was a few seats ahead, just diagonal of me. After fussing with my backpack for a little while on Peridot Drive, I was able to armor myself for the sprint home. We had boarded the bus thirty minutes earlier than usual, so I was anticipating the early arrival. As I started to stand up once my stop sign was in sight, I noticed that Joey was mirroring my movements. The bus stopped nearly five seconds into this realization and there was Joey, standing mid-aisle half-blocking my way out. He fumbled at the lining of his jean pocket before he found the entrance with his stubby nine-year-old fingers. Once his hand found what it was looking for, he reached out and handed me a little plastic heart that read “I Love You.” The heart was faded piece of Valentine’s Day paraphernalia with flexible black arms and legs and crisscrossed eyes. I was horrified.
Apparently he was too because after he sneaked in an “I love you, Nalani” he ran off the bus and right into his house. I found myself unintentionally chasing after him as I was running with angry tears down my face; his house was exactly after mine, so it was inevitable. I passed my empty porch, opened my front door, and flew right through the center of my house to get to my backyard passing my mom who was cooking in the kitchen. I let myself fall on the grass right next to one of the wooden posts of the swing-set and began to dig with my hands and the feet of the plastic heart. I stuffed the cartoonish thing into the hole, covered it, and walked back into the house where my mom was waiting for me. She welcomed me with a flurry of loud and angry questions. I apologized for my abruptness, but I was indignant; Joey had crossed the line. She asked me what he did and I explained the gift and how I had buried it because I couldn’t bear the thought of it. She laughed hysterically in disbelief and then stopped harshly. My mother looked me and said: “You will go outside and dig the gift up. You will clean it and you will put it on your nightstand. If you choose not to, you will return the heart to Joey and you will give him a list of reasons of why you don’t deserve it.”
I was already seething in my defeat when she continued to give further instruction of my bus etiquette. I was supposed to try and contact her if I was released early, I was supposed to not walk home alone from my stop, and I was not to go recklessly running through my street. Her overreaction made me curse the heart even more. As her anger became emotional and she began to stagger over her words my mother finished, paused for a long moment and motioned to the backyard. I took my leave, opened the door and walked over to the heart mound.
Just hours earlier, in Maryland at 8:09 a.m., 13 year old Iran Brown was critically wounded by the Beltway Sniper as he was arriving to school. Next to the shell casing was a Tarot card, the death card, with words written on the front reading: “Call me God.”
Lista de imágenes:
1. Marcelo Rizerio, "Seja o coração de outra pessoa", 2015.
2. Marcelo Rizerio, "Seja os pulmões de outra pessoa", 2015.