On the Come Up(10)

You didn’t see this coming, and your ghostwriters didn’t either.

I came here to ether. I’m sorry to do this to you.

This is no longer a battle, it’s your funeral, boo. I’m murdering you.

On my corner they call me coroner, I’m warning ya.

Tell the truth, this dude is borin’ ya.

You confused like a foreigner. I’ll explain with ease: You’re just a casualty in the reality of the madness of Bri.

No fallacies, I spit maladies, causin’ fatalities, And do it casually, damaging rappers without bandaging.

Imagining managing my own label, my own salary.

And actually, factually, there’s no MC that’s as bad as me.

Milez? That’s cute. But it don’t make me cower.

I move at light speed, you stuck at per hour.

You spit like a lisp. I spit like a high power.

Bri’s the future, and you Today like Matt Lauer.

You coward. But you’re a G? It ain’t convincing to me.

You talk about your clothes, about your shopping sprees.

You talk about your Glock, about your i-c-e.

But in this here ring, they all talking ’bout me, Bri!

The crowd goes nuts.

“I told y’all!” Aunt Pooh shouts as she stands on the ropes. “I told y’all!”

Milez can’t look at me or his dad, who seems to glare at him. He could be glaring at me, too. Hard to tell behind those shades.

“A’ight, y’all.” Hype tries to calm everyone down as he comes from behind the turntables. “It’s down to this vote. Whoever takes this one is the winner. Judges, who y’all got?”

Mr. Jimmy raises his sign. It says Bri.

Dee-Nice raises his sign. Bri.

CZ raises his sign. Li’l Law.

Holy shit.

“We have a winner!” Hype says to thunderous cheers. He raises my arm into the air. “Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of tonight’s Rookie Royale, Bri!”


Hours after my battle, I dream my nightmare.

I’m five years old, climbing into my mom’s old Lexus. Daddy went to heaven almost a year ago. Aunt Pooh’s been gone a couple of months. She went to live with her and Mommy’s aunty in the projects.

I lock my seat belt in place, and Mommy holds my overstuffed backpack toward me. Her arm has all these dark marks on it. She once told me she got them because she wasn’t feeling well.

“You’re still sick, Mommy?” I ask.

She follows my eyes and rolls her sleeve down. “Yeah, baby,” she whispers.

My brother gets in the car beside me, and Mommy says we’re going on a trip to somewhere special. We end up in our grandparents’ driveway.

Suddenly, Trey’s eyes widen. He begs her not to do this. Seeing him cry makes me cry.

Mommy tells him to take me inside, but he won’t. She gets out, goes around to his side, unlocks his seat belt, and tries to pull him out the car, but he digs his feet into the seat.

She grabs his shoulders. “Trey! I need you to be my little man,” she says, her voice shaky. “For your sister’s sake. Okay?”

He looks over at me and quickly wipes his face. “I’m . . . I’m . . . I’m okay, Li’l Bit,” he claims, but the cry-hiccups break up his words. “It’s okay.”

He unlocks my seat belt, takes my hand, and helps me out the car.

Mommy hands us our backpacks. “Be good, okay?” she says. “Do what your grandparents tell you to do.”

“When are you coming back?” I ask.

She kneels in front of me. Her shaky fingers brush through my hair, then cup my cheek. “I’ll be back later. I promise.”

“Later when?”

“Later. I love you, okay?”

She presses her lips to my forehead and keeps them there for the longest. She does the same to Trey, then straightens up.

“Mommy, when are you coming back?” I ask again.

She gets in the car without answering me and cranks it up. Tears stream down her cheeks. Even at five, I know she won’t be back for a long time.

I drop my backpack and chase the car down the driveway. “Mommy, don’t leave me!”

But she goes into the street, and I’m not supposed to go into the street.

“Mommy!” I cry. Her car goes, goes, and soon, it’s gone. “Mommy! Mom—”


I jolt awake.

Jay’s sitting on the side of my bed. “Baby, are you okay?”

I try to catch my breath as I wipe the dampness from my eyes. “Yeah.”

“Were you having a nightmare?”

A nightmare that’s a memory. Jay really did leave me and Trey at our grandparents’ house. She couldn’t take care of us and her drug habit, too. That’s when I learned that when people die, they sometimes take the living with them.

I saw her in the park a few months later, looking more like a red-eyed, scaly-skinned dragon than my mommy. I started calling her Jay after that—there was no way she was my mom anymore. It became my own habit that was hard to break. Still is.

It took three years and a rehab stint for her to come back. Even though she was clean, some judge decided that she could only have me and Trey every other weekend and on some holidays. She didn’t get us back full-time until five years ago, after she got her job and started renting this place.

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