Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

Visitors

“I keep thinking about Keyondra and Antoine,” Husband said one day at the beginning of March.

His thoughts seemed out of nowhere, but I knew better. When it came to the neighborhood kids, every encounter meant something.

Keyondra and Antoine. For years, the kids came over to our place to play basketball. Their presence had carved grooves into our souls, and we never fully recovered.

But now I worried my brow. It had been months since we last saw them. Were they okay? Or was life scuffing their efforts, battering them—even right this minute?

Together we lifted them in a quick prayer.

A memory from six months earlier zinged me. A knock had sounded at the back door one day. My hair was gooped with hair dye at the time and piled on my head, a ratty bath towel circling my shoulders. Of course I couldn’t entertain a visitor in my condition, smelling like a science lab. But curiosity nibbled at me, and I peeked through the kitchen window anyway.

Keyondra.

The girl shifted from one foot to the other and waited. At almost twenty years old, she didn’t pop over often anymore, but here she was. I glanced at the timer; twenty minutes left to cover the grays. And enough time to see our kid.

I opened the door. “It’s you!” I pulled her into a hug, taking care not to drip on her. I pointed to my head. “Sorry about the stink. Hair dye.”

Her smile broke loose, then she swallowed it again. But her eyes kept dancing like they always did.

Husband came up behind me and grinned at the sight of our guest. “Hey, what’s going on?”

We learned about Keyondra’s new life in Wisconsin, her living situation, her romantic relationship. And then I rolled out all the things I needed to say in case I never saw her again: I miss you. You make me happy. You’re a good kid. I love you.

She eventually sauntered away that day, and I watched her go through the back gate, a pang ripping through my chest.

I mulled over Husband’s words—his thoughts about the kids—and they were contagious; now I kept thinking about Keyondra and Antoine too.

Two days later came a rap at the front door. I peered out the picture window.

Antoine. And a girl.

I called to Husband, a smile curving my words. “Come see who’s here.”

I opened the door. “It’s you!” I hugged Antoine.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Husband clapped the boy on the back. “I’ve been thinking about you.”

 We turned to his friend.

“This is my girlfriend,” Antoine said.

We learned the girl’s name and about her dream of working with little ones in a daycare, and we heard all about Antoine’s new job.

“How old are you now?” I asked our kid.

“Nineteen.”

“And you started coming over to play basketball at what—eleven?”

He nodded. “Something like that.”

Then I rolled out all the things I needed to say in case I never saw him again: I miss you. You make me happy. You’re a good kid. I love you.

Antoine and his girlfriend eventually strode away, and I watched them walk down the sidewalk, a pang tearing through my chest.

 

We’re not the parents of our visitors, so there’s no obligation for them to see us. We don’t have their contact information, so there’s no way to get in touch. But when thoughts of them come, we hold them up. And when they knock at our door, we answer.

(For past stories about Keyondra and Antoine, click here and here.)

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*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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