“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
. . . . . .
April 15, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
I was sitting on the couch binge-watching Ozark when my cellphone vibrated on the coffee table. It was a text from Bethany Anderson, the class president.
“Hi! As you know, our virtual senior prom is coming up soon,” it said. “I was wondering if both of y’all want to cover the music.”
I raised an eyebrow as I click on the other number that she included.
“Seriously? Damien? Why did she have to be like that?!” I scowled.
Ever since I tried out for the football team and became the kicker, Damien Bryant has treated me like his worst opponent. It has only gotten worse once he realized we have other things in common.
Before I could answer, Damien sent a reply. The back of my neck got hotter as I read it.
“Thought we already discussed this Beth. I got prom night covered.”
“Yes, but the council and prom committee agreed that they wanted to hear playlists from both of you,” she replied.
I laughed and sent a text.
“Majority Rules Dude. So, Beth, who goes first?”
“That depends on y’all. You each get an hour and a half.”
“Hold up. This is ridiculous. I ain’t sharing prom night with some dickless asshole.”
I stuck my middle finger out to the phone as I mumbled.
“I am more a man than you’ll ever be…”
“I am sorry, but it is what we decided,” Bethany responded. “You can not play…”
“Are you fucking serious?!”
I rolled my light green eyes and sent a response.
“You’re just scared that I’ll crush you as I have at practice. Just admit it.”
“Bullshit! I am not afraid of being beat by a FEMALE! Let’s settle this with an old fashion battle on Instagram Live,”Damien quickly replied. “Whoever’s music the audience likes more gets extra playing time.”
“Aight. You’re on.”
“Ugh. Whatever. I guess I will make an announcement,” Bethany added. “Is Friday at 7 good for y’all?”
April 17, 2020, 6:50 p.m.
I was practicing playing my set when Bethany FaceTimed me and Damien.
“Good evening! I hope y’all are ready.” Bethany smiled. “Many students are tuning in. We all are excited.”
Bethany was petite and always wore different colored Cateye eyeglasses. Lime green was the color of the day.
“I am just ready to see Kam’s face when I triumph her,” Damien smirked. “I know I will be the winner.”
Damien had dark brown eyes and his skin tone was copper-colored. He was 5’9” and muscular. His black curly hair shimmered in the screen light.
“Haha. Sure,” I responded as I whipped my black bangs back. “Keep telling yourself that. You need the confidence.”
Bethany spoke before the trash talk continued.
“I wanna go over the rules before we go live.” She cleared her throat. “There are seventeen rounds, with each of you playing a track and hearing a rebuttal. Whoever wins the most rounds gets extra playing time. Got it?”
“Great. The battle will start in six minutes,” Bethany said. “Good luck!”
I exhaled deeply as I set up my iPhone stand in front of my laptop. I tested the volume one more time and snapped a selfie. I posted it on Instagram with the caption “Battle ready. #DJEIGHTNILE.” It was not even a minute later that Damien commented: #DJLOSER.
The battle began several minutes later. It went exactly as I expected. If I played a Nicki Manaj song, Damien came back with a Cardi B song. If he played Biggie, I hit him up with Tupac. If I switch to classic rock, he went straight to classic reggae. I won eight rounds.
“Alright! Whoever wins the last round wins the battle!” Bethany commented. “Pick your favorite mashup.”
I waited all day to play my latest mashup of Meg The Stallion’s “Savage.” When I pressed play, my wireless connection shut off and my video on Instagram Live froze.
“UGHHH, COME ON!! NOT NOW,” I fussed as I reset my wireless.
I suddenly caught a shadow running by the window out of the corner of my eye. I turned and saw a male silhouette.
“That son of a bitch had somebody mess with the wireless connection!” I hissed.
I grabbed my phone, and I group called Damien and Bethany right away.
“He sabotaged my turn! He had somebody screw with my wireless connection,” I said.
“Fuck no. I had nobody screwed up anything,” Damien fussed.
“Um, guys… We can settle this in a better way,” Bethany jumped in.
We both ignored her.
“Oh yeah, then why did my connection shut off as soon as the battle was ending?” I yelled. “And why did I see a male figure running from backyard?”
“Are you fucking really accusing me of cheating?” Damien shouted.
“I mean, it is probably not the first time that you might have….”
“Right back at ya, brother.”
“That is it! I had enough! None of you get to play at prom!” Bethany yelled as she hung up.
“Like always, your freak ass ruined another great thing,” Damien hissed.
”Me? You are the one who whined about having split time,” I responded. “None of this should have happened! You’re so entitled.”
“Right… At least I was actually born a male,” he hissed as he hung up.
April 24, 2020, 8:35 p.m.
“Hey. Are you okay? You logged out early?” my friend Sadie texted.
“Yeah, I’m good. Just got tired of the dirty looks from the team and Damien’s other friends.”
I untied my tie and tossed it across the room.
“Don’t let them get to you, especially a bonehead like Damien.”
“I’m not. I’m just ready for high school to be over.”
May 6, 2020, 4:30 p.m.
“It came in! Your diploma, cap, and gown came in!” My mom squealed.
“I can’t believe my baby is graduating,” Mom smiled as she put the cap on my head. “Are you excited about the senior drive by and celebration?”
“Not really. I don’t feel like going,” I said as I took the cap off.
“Aw, sweetie. Don’t let the negativity ruin the fun,” she replied. “These are moments you only experience once. You should go and blare your mixes.”
“Ha. You know you are crazy, right?”
“Yep.” She winked.
May 8, 2020, 11:30 a.m.
“What the….” I said as I noticed that somebody put a sign on my windshield with “Congrats Nicole Yeats!”
Nicole was my legal name, and I haven’t used it since fifth grade. I turned around and saw a few of my teammates snickering. Damien was standing in the middle, smiling.
“You are such a fucking asshole,” I yelled as I walked up.
“Oh what? I was only trying to be nice,” he said.
“Fuck you!” I said as I threw a punch right at his face.
We ended up on top of each other, fighting on the concrete until the coaches stepped in. The fact that I supported a black eye at graduation made my mom more than angry.
May 29, 2020, 2:15 p.m.
“You are not fully off the hook. I need you to go get groceries with Mimi. I am worried about her safety because of the riots.”
“Please be careful,” Mom said as she tossed me the keys.
Thirty minutes later, I was getting some Greek yogurt when I heard random screams at the front of the store. As soon as I smelled smoke, I ran to my grandma.
“Mimi! We gotta go. They are burning buildings.”
“Those damn negros…”
“SHHHH!” I said as I rushed her out. “Don’t even say that word!”
As we were heading to the car, I saw Damien trying to hold back his little brothers from participating in the violence.
“This is not our fight!” he shouted. “Come on!”
“THIS IS OUR FIGHT! BLACK LIVES MATTER!” his brothers argued.
My stomach dropped. He needed help.
“I will be right back. Keep the car locked,” I demanded as I helped my grandma get in the car.
I was already running back when she fussed. The building that Damien and his brothers were standing by was up in flame. I could see them choking. A metal frame was about to tip over.
“Damien! WATCH OUT! DAMIEN!”
I got there right in time to help him grab his brothers out of the way. His face was so pale that he looked ill.
“Thanks…I… I… I appreciated it.”
“No problem,” I said. “Stay safe.”
May 30, 2020, 10 p.m.
“Hey. I wanted to say sorry for the bullshit. Thanks again. You’re really a cool guy. You have more balls than most of us,” Damien texted.
I smiled. I couldn’t believe it.
“I appreciate that. Just glad I was there to help.”
“Me too. I was organizing a #blacklivesmatter Instagram Live jam section. I was wondering if you want to join?”
“There is a scene in The Godfather where Marlon Brando leans over and tells his son, ‘Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,'” he replied. “For a long time, I could not figure out what Brando meant by that. Now I realize that nobody has your back better than a frenemy. I’d be honored to make peace by playing together.”
“Ha. Always. I’d love to join.”‘
“Awesome. I will send the details tonight.”