A King in Philly, Part Three
I remember Pops. He probably hopes I don’t. I remember the alcohol. I remember the yelling. I remember the bruises on Ma. I remember the bruises on me. I remember when he ran out the house and never looked back.
Blood was everywhere. I thought Ma was going to die. She kept lying and saying she was fine. In the calmest voice she could muster, she told me to call 911.
Miscarriage. I was too young to know what that was. Aunt April said its when a baby goes to heaven before its born. I nodded like I understood, but I didn’t understand at all. Why would a baby go to heaven before being born? They didn’t even get to see the world yet.
I remember the police. They were tall and stole my breath away. Aunt April squeezed my hand and told me to be brave. One of them brought me a soda and a bag of chips, but I couldn’t take my eyes off his gun. “We just want to ask you a couple questions.”
I remember my dad’s voice threatening me to never tell anyone about his “bad nights.” That’s what he called them: bad nights. My aunt squeezed my hand again and gave me a nod, letting me know it was okay. I told them everything. I talked until I ran out of oxygen. Aunt April held my hand the entire time as tears fell from her eyes. She didn’t say a word though.
Pop never came back after that. I wonder if he thought he killed her. If he thought that, he never came back for me. We were better off without him anyway. I don’t care about him. He never counted.
He got one of my uncles on his side to give me his number. I took it, but I didn’t even look at it. I just shoved it in my pocket. What does he think? That he’s about to come back into my life after everything? He doesn’t exist to me — or at least I don’t want him to. I wish he didn’t. I wish I wasn’t thinking about him now.
Why’d he hit us? Why’d he beat Ma until she could barely make it to work? There wasn’t any love in those hits. She loved him. I loved him — I guess. I must’ve at one point in time, but I don’t remember.
I make the treadmill go faster. My lungs burn, but it feels good. I run harder. I tell Pops to get out of my head. I don’t feel my legs, but they know to keep going. My playlist fills the room, but I’m not paying attention to the song.
I wish Pop would’ve stayed. I wish he would’ve stayed long enough so I could hit him back — so I could show him how it felt. Do I mean that? I tell myself I don’t, but a part of me thinks I do.
My shirt is soaked by the time I hop off. My head is clear. I feel good. I grab my water bottle and smile to myself. Shooting hoops is next on my schedule.
Game 2 vs. Chicago Bulls
The Philadelphia 76ers host the Bulls at home. The fans are excited to see how their team looks back
First quarter is a back and forth battle in the paint with both teams forcing their way inside. Both teams knocked down tough shot after tough shot. Off a smooth assist from Hakeem King, Joel Embiid makes dunking look easy. Embiid and Lopez would go on to host their own battle throughout the game.
King looks to get his teammates to the hoop and facilitates the offense. He dishes the ball to both Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler instead of forcing his own way inside. This helps the 76ers keep their small lead. They were able to pull away early in the second quarter.
After Josh Okogie dunks, King looks to return the favor with one of his own. King sets a good screen for J.J Redick, creating an open lane for himself. With an assist from Redick, he goes straight to the hoop for a nice slam. That would be his first score of the game.
This kickstarts a mini dunk contest. King, Butler, Embiid, Okogie all participate.
The 76ers would continue to hold on to their lead throughout the remainder of the half, but the Bulls still had room to come back with the score 59–52.
Near the end of the third quarter, King snatches an offensive rebound off of Jimmy Butler’s miss and slams it down with absolute authority. The 76ers keep a strong grip on their lead: 75–67. Okogie hits a buzzer — beating three for the Bulls to end the third quarter.
The 76ers coast to the finish line to earn a 107–89 win. They are now 2–0 to start the season.
Joel Embiid entered the final quarter with 30 points, but would end the game with 32 points overall. He also racked up 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
Jimmy Butler knocked down more than a few difficult shots tonight, ending the game with 15 points. He also earned 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Hakeem King did a little bit of everything tonight, stuffing his stat sheet and flirting with a triple — double. He walked away with 8 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. He took less shots than he did in his first game and knocked down a solid 50% of his 8 shot attempts.
On the stat sheet, both teams kept it close in nearly every category except for rebounds. Bulls only shot 5% lower than the 76ers with a 55% field goal percentage. The 76ers had almost double the amount of rebounds the Bulls had with 34. Everything else was close including turnovers, assists, and steals.
Reporter: How does it feel playing at home?
King: It felt amazing. I definitely felt the love.
Reporter: You almost earned a triple–double tonight. Is that something you aim to do during games?
King: The goal is just to do whatever I can to help the team , whether that’s scoring, grabbing rebounds, passing — just whatever I can do.
Reporter: Thank you, Hakeem. Congratulations on the win at home.
King: Thank you.
Jimmy Butler slaps my back as he walks by. When I turn around, he gives me one of his famous smirks. It still feels like I’m dreaming. Not too long ago I was watching him work his way up into a starting spot on the Chicago Bulls. Now we’re teammates. Is this real life?
“Great game, kid.” Embiid walks by. This can’t be real life. I open my mouth to say thank you, but he’s already gone. This can’t be real. I’m going to wake up soon.
I go out to celebrate with friends, even though I’m exhausted. Their smiles light up their whole faces, and that gives me enough energy to stay awake.
A hand squeezes my shoulder. When I spin around, shock floods my body. Za’Niyah?! Now I know I’m dreaming. She gives me the smile that used to make me forget I had to go to math class.
She leans into me so I can hear her over the music. “You’re a star now. Do I still get to give you a hug?” I tell her of course and try not to smile too hard. She wraps her arms around my neck and her Burberry perfume fills my nose. I used to buy her this perfume for her birthday. “She still wears it?” I ask myself, even though I’m smelling it right now.
“You look amazing. How’s school going?” I ask as I give her a tight squeeze around the waist. She graduated and went right on to Law school just like she said she would, not that I ever doubted her. She rolls her eyes in a playful way. “It’s going.”
My chest feels all warm. She hasn’t let go of me yet. Her honey colored eyes have me frozen in place. “I never thought I’d see you again.” I admit.
“I didn’t know you’d be here.” It hangs in the air. Everything hangs in the air. I don’t let go of her. Part of me is scared too. She might walk away.
“Well, now I’m glad I came.” I can’t even hear the music anymore. I hear my heartbeat pounding against my eardrums. She gives me a warm smile. Just when I thought my heart couldn’t take anymore, she leans up and kisses my cheek. I glance at the floor then back up to her. She’s wearing her academic letterman jacket. I eye the 76ers patch I helped her put on one of the arms. She makes anything look amazing.
“Can I have your new number?” My heart broke a little when one of her girlfriends told me she changed it. She hesitates. My heart sinks. “Please,” I add.
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea.” She’s remembering us. I’m remembering us. The memories surround us, forming a bubble — keeping us separated from the outside world.
“I — “ I stop and look past her. Maybe it’s not a good idea. What was I about to say? That I love her? I shake my head, forcing the thoughts back.
“Give me your phone.” That sweet voice of hers sends a chill down my spine.I unwrap my arms and I hand her my phone without another word. I watch as she enters her number in. She glances up at me, but her eyes go right back to my phone screen.
“Maybe we can meet up sometime?” Is that overkill? Am I doing too much? She hands my phone back to me, but doesn’t answer right away.
“I miss you too, Hakeem. I don’t know. We — we’ll see.” She runs a hand through my hair before taking her other hand from my neck.
“You’ll text me back though, right?” I ask. That would at least be a start. She nods as her smile resurfaces. She tells me she has to go. I don’t let go of her hand as she begins to walk away. She looks back and gives me another smile, but this time there’s bit of sadness in her eyes.
There’s sadness in me too. I can feel it creeping through my chest, spilling into my limbs. I don’t want to remember, but I do anyway.
(I don’t know why the quality isn’t as good, but I’ll see if there’s a fix.)