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  • Life On Mars
  • Michael Brown Jr. (bio)

Years ago, when I was a kid in the Bronx, and my brother Ron's father had just been killed, I came across this man who said he was from Mars. It was the summer, back in `06. The days were hot and sticky. We ate icies all day as we walked around outside, running to the pool to cool down and playing handball or basketball afterwards. The fire hydrants stayed open like skies during Noah's flood. At night, before we went to bed, we used to sit in front of the fan in the living room, watching TV over the drone of the spinning blades. The air was cooler at night, but we still slept splayed on our bodies like ragdolls, tighty-whities on full display to the moon.

The sounds of our neighbors bickering, fighting, or just bugging out mixed with the life outside and flowed into the room I shared with Ron, making dreams easy because we had lives to dream about. When I finally moved away, joining the Marines, I'll never forget how hard it was to fall asleep that first night without the sound of the city. Even now, all these years gone, caught up in a sleepless quest for origin, I can see the building that we lived in.

If you were a bird or helicopter, you'd see six buildings with tops like heavily shaded-in Xs. The roofs looked like isolated beaches from the sky. Descending from that height, you'd see the windows running up and down the sides of the buildings. Usually, they'd be caped with bedsheets. Purple or red was the most common. And these structures stood surrounded by a gate that ran about five blocks, opening and exiting only one way. They called it "The Funnel." There was one way in and one way out. It was like its own world. It was its own world. [End Page 104]

It was the summer of `06 when I worked for the Parks Department through Summer Youth, picking up trash with one of those forks that only have one prong. It was the summer of `06, same year Remy, a boy from 'round here, had been shot after refusing to "check the ball" during a game on the courts downstairs. That was the summer.

I remember the day I met the man who was going to change my life. The man from Mars.

It was Thursday. I scratched myself, laying there sprawled out, beginning to wake up. I slid out of bed like an egg off a skillet and wandered to the bathroom where I could already hear somebody taking a dump. I banged on the door hard, knowing it was Ron. He banged back, announcing to the whole world that he was taking a shit. I shook my head and told the nigga to hurry up.

He was always fresh. His hair stayed permanently cut but covered by a durag he called his wavecap. Though, I never got waves, wearing my hair out regular, at least making sure to get it shaped up every week so that I wouldn't walk around wolfing. I never wanted my hairline to stretch down to my eyebrows, so a nigga could get creative with the way he cut my ass because my hair looked crazy. Ron had waves. And his spun like the waters off Jones Beach when the light hits the waves at the right time of day. They were like real waters but not dirty, not polluted with the trash people threw in there. They spun though and, whenever we crossed each other in the house, at school, or outside, he used to dip his head, yelling "Wavecheck!" as I unwrapped his head like it was the veil over some treasure hoard. Then everybody'd see the circular spin as he angled his head around. He always grinned, waiting for me to say "Ooooh," cupping a fist against my mouth and shaking it away as I nodded, saying "It's spinning. It's spinning." Then he'd wrap it up, moving on after dapping me up. I remember those days...


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pp. 104-122
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