By: Amelia Jubilee
View all Amelia Jubilee's works
Lucas was making me late for class again!
“This stupid combination lock won’t open,” he said, his eyes squinting.
“We’re already five minutes late and the hallways are empty!” I said impatiently.
“Got it,” he finally said, his fingers red and aching.
“Great, get your books, and let’s get to class,” I said while walking away.
As I was walking, I was looking down in deep thought about the science test next period that I really should have studied more for. Suddenly, I heard someone shout watch out as I collided with the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She smelled like sweat, cinnamon and pumpkin spice. Her hair was black as night and appeared as though it would flow through your fingers like silk. Her gold jewelry sparkled in the early afternoon light. She had on a jersey and some Jordans. Probably in a hurry toward the gym, she stood up immediately.
“Sorry,” she said, her eyes wide with anxiety. “Late for class!” She hurried away, her friend close behind.
All during class, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. After school I looked high and low but there was no sign of my mystery crush. While walking home I wondered, what’s her name? Does she like me too? Does she play basketball?
Before I even walk into the apartment I can smell Mami’s pozole y tostadas that she’s been making all day.
“Hola, Malic ven ayúdame a poner la mesa,” Mami says sweetly.
“Ok ahora voy,” I say. “Primero voy a lavar mis manos.”
Papi comes home as we sit down at the table. Isa won’t get home til’ later because of her stupid smart club after school.
“Gracias Mami, I’m going to go do my homework,” I say slyly.
“Ok, oh pero antes de eso quiero ver ese examen de ciencias,” Mami reminds me.
“Oh that, I don’t think you want to see that,” I worry.
“Oh si quiero ver lo,” Mami declared. “Oh hay problema?”
“No, iré a buscarlo,” I answered
As I went to get my failed science test I heard Isa get home.
“Hola mi cielo, cómo fue tu día?” Mami says sweetly.
“Exhausting!” Isa says dramatically.
“Tengo pozole con tostadas si quieres,” Mami offers.
“I think I’m just gonna go to bed,” Isa replies.
“Ok, buenas noches,” Mami says.
“Mami, here’s my test,” I said, ashamed.
“¡Un 65%!” Mami says in shock. “¿Porque no puedes ser como tu hermana siempre teniendo 90% a 100%?”
“Because I’m not like Isa! I’m me! And because I was distracted!” I yelled.
“¡No me grites! ¿Y en qué te distrajiste?” Mami asks.
“Oh, just a girl at school today. Can I get to my homework now?” I ask impatiently
“Sí, puedes ir a tu tarea, pero deja de pensar en esa chica, solo te distraerá más.”
I didn’t do my homework that night. I was too busy being mad at Mami and thinking about my mystery crush. I tried to draw her but it ended up looking more like a ghost than a girl because of the blurry picture of her in my head, and because I’m not too good at drawing.
The next couple of days passed, and Monday some friends and I went to a major girls basketball game. When we got there I’m surprised to see my mystery crush getting ready for the game. We find our seats and watch.
The first half was great. We were 5 points ahead of them. The second half though… not so great. In the third quarter my crush fell hard on her back. “And Raquel hit’s the floor,” screeches the intercom.
So that’s her name… Raquel.
The ball was stolen and accidentally bounced on her head knocking her out. An ambulance pulled up 10 minutes later and took Raquel into it.
I walked up to her friend.
“Hi. I saw what happened out there, terrible. I’m Malic,” I say surprisingly calm.
“Hi, Malic. I’m Lucky. Yeah it was pretty terrible. I’m scared for her. But she’s tough so she’ll be okay,” Lucky says, her eyebrows knit together.
“Do you think she’ll ever get back to basketball?” I ask.
“We hope so but we don’t know if she will want to play ever again.” She says sadly, “She was good at it.”
“Oh well, keep me posted. And thanks.”
“I will. And no problem.”
“Thanks again for answering some questions! Talk to you later,” I say turning towards home.
The weekend goes fast. But the only thing I can think of is Raquel and her injury. I decided to write in a journal to put my thoughts in something without having to talk to someone.
The next morning Lucky tells me that Raquel woke up and is talking and remembers bits and pieces of the game. She says that Raquel should be out of the hospital next week. I thank her and continue thinking, worrying and wondering.
I found a way to take my mind off of Raquel, kind of. I was more thinking about her without the worrying. And that way was basketball. Hearing the swish of the basketball going into the net. The vibrating noise of the ball hitting the backboard. And the satisfying sound of the ball being dribbled up and down the court. Basketball helped me clear my head and focus on my possible NBA career ahead of me.
Midterms are next week and Raquel is back, but I haven’t gotten the courage to go up to her. What should I say? She probably doesn’t even know who I am.
As I headed toward class with Lucas, Lucky came up with Raquel.
“Hey Malic, this is Raquel. Raquel, Malic.” Lucky introduces us.
“Hey,” I say nervously.
“Hey. So I heard from Lucky that you have a lot of questions,” She answers confidently.
“Yeah, I guess I was worried, and when she told me you would maybe not play basketball again it made me feel like you would be missing out on a part of your life,” I blurt.
“I am going to miss playing but I can watch it, I hope,” She says quietly.
Then I have an idea. “What if I teach you how to play again?” I ask excitedly.
“You would do that?” She exclaimed.
“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!” She shouts with all the excitement in the world.
“You’re welcome,” I say, calmer but still excited.
“Can I get your number? So we can figure out a time that will work for both of us?”
“Sure. 646-108-2753,” she responds.
“Great thanks! Talk to you later!” I say as I head to class.
Mami’s home and I’m supposed to be studying for midterms but I don’t want to do that right now.
“Hola Malic,” Mami said with more cheer than normal.
“Hi. I’m gonna go upstairs and change, then go meet Lucas at the courts,” I say a little too confidently.
“No, no vas a ir a jugar basket con Lucas antes de estudiar para midterms,” Mami said, returning to her old self.
“Pero Mami,” I start.
“No no no, don’t pero Mami me. A estudiar, hablaremos de tu comportamiento discutidor más tarde,” Mami says.
Another argument Mami wins, as usual. Studying for midterms kills me, and I can’t wait to play basketball later with Lucas.
Raquel and I find a court that we can meet at after school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The first time we go is a Monday to talk about basketball positions.
“Ok so what position do you play? I play center.” I say.
“I think I play small forward but I can’t remember. I’ll check with Lucky later,” Raquel answers. “And I’m guessing you play center because you’re like 10,000 feet tall!”
“Something like that.” I say jokingly.
We laugh a little more. I figured out that she used to be the star on the girls basketball team. But she still doesn’t remember what happened the day of the head injury. I also learned that Lucky is helping her to re-learn things in order to do midterms. We play a little basketball but get tired.
“Do you want to come over for dinner? Mami’s finishing tamales and arroz con leche now,” I ask.
“Let me ask my mom.” She replies. “She says yes, but I have to be home by 7.”
“Perfect,” I say.
As we walk toward my house I tell her about Mami’s tamales. She says she’s never had them. I tell her she’s in for a big surprise. As we get into the house they are setting the table.
“Mami, Papi, Isa, this is Raquel. The girl I told you about. I’m helping her learn basketball again,” I explain. “Hi, it’s lovely meeting you,” Raquel says politely.
“Hello,” Mami says flatly.
Papi shakes her hand and says, “Great to meet you, after hearing so much about you.”
Isa waves but doesn’t say anything, that girl may be smart but she’s the opposite of polite, just like Mami.
We all sit down and pass around the food. As we eat we get to know each other.
“So Raquel, where are you from?” Mami asks.
“I was born here in the south Bronx but my grandmother immigrated here from China for a better life for her family,” Raquel explains.
“My grandmother immigrated here from Mexico for the same reason,” I connect.
“So you’re from China and we’re from Mexico. Very interesting. How are the tamales y arroz con leche?” Mami asks.
“They’re good!” Raquel replies
“Just good? That’s it! Nothing else? I knew the cultural difference was a terrible thing! You don’t even respect our food! So I can’t even imagine how you treat our son!” Mami exclaims.
“¡Mami no hay razón para eso, ella decía que los tamales y el arroz con leche estaban riquísimos y no hay razón para que le estés gritando a nadie ahora mismo!” I yell back.
“It’s ok I shouldn’t have come anyway. I should go now,” Raquel says, tears filling her eyes.
“Raquel no please stay a little longer,” I beg.
“It’s 6 anyway,” Raquel responds.
“Then let me walk you home,” I say while glaring at my mother.
“Ok,” Raquel whispers.
“I’ll be back later,” I shoot at Mami.
“Malic,” Mami warns, but the door is shut.
At first the walk toward Raquel’s house is quiet. And for the first time the most talkative girl I know is silent.
To break the silence I say, “I’m so sorry about my mother. She doesn’t like it when people have differences, especially cultural ones.”
“You don’t care do you? About the differences,” She responds quietly
“Of course not. I don’t care about differences in general,” I answer.
We get to her house and I say good night and see you tomorrow.
Two months pass and our bond and friendship continue to grow and get stronger. I go over many times for dinner but she never comes over to my house. One day she is particularly on a roll.
“Great job! Fake left then go right! And shoot!” I coach.
Some kids had volunteered to help out. So we created two teams to go against each other to help Raquel remember how to play, and it’s working until this moment. She shoots and misses from a distance.
“Ugg! I could have made that!” She scolds herself.
“It’s ok you’re still practicing.” I encourage her.
“Why do you even help me when you see I’m hopeless?” she cries.
“I help you because I really like you and I want you to be successful in something you feel passionate about!” I blurt.
She stares at me for a minute then says, “You like me?”
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to find a chance to tell you but every time I try something comes up.” I blush.
“I’ve been trying to do the same thing!” she exclaims.
“Well I’ll call you later and we can talk more,” I say sheepishly.
A week passes and we confirm we’re dating, and Lucky and Lucas confirm they’re dating too. The news travels to Isa, and Isa carries that news to Mami y Papi. One day when I get home from school Mami is waiting for me.
“Hola Malic, deja tus cosas y ven a sentarte conmigo.”
“Ok is everything ok?” I ask.
“Si y no,” Mami answers.
“What happened?” I say as I sit down next to Mami.
“Escuché que tú y Raquel están saliendo. ¡Creí haberte dicho que te mantuvieras alejado de ella!” Mami tells me.
“You wanna know something, you don’t get to tell me who I hang out with or love. And your opinion on cultural differences is so strong that when you yelled at Raquel she started crying! And you know what, I’ve liked her from the beginning so you back off in my life because it’s my life not yours!” I fumed.
Mami stared at me in disbelief.
“Sorry, it’s just that she’s having a hard time with basketball and doesn’t need you to top it off. Do you get it?” I spoke.
“Lo entiendo y lamento no haber sabido cuánto la había lastimado,” Mami apologized.
“It’s ok. But I’m not the one who needs the apology, it’s Raquel,” I explained.
“De acuerdo, lo hare,” Mami says, ending the conversation.
Mami apologizes to Raquel the next day when I finally convince her to come over one more time. We had tamales, champurrado and pan dulce for dessert. Raquel had a great time.
I can’t wait to see the other adventures we have together! One thing I do know is that whatever we do, in whatever way, we will always crush the court.