I remember vividly, I was sitting on the living room floor playing Donkey Kong on my Gameboy Color, while eating a slice of pizza. Grandma was sitting in her single woman chair, glasses sealed to her face, eyes glued to The Baltimore Sun, with a Newport living on the corner of her mouth.
“Shit, did you see that?”
“We got anotha’ mouse in here!”
My eyeballs scanned the room for a rodent, but I didn’t see it. Mice in the hood can probably outrun any track star you can think of. I wasn’t worried about no damn mouse so I finished crushing my pizza and playing my game. Grandma came over to me and snatched my Gameboy from out of my hand. “C’mon! You gotta go to Johns Bargains to get some sticky pads. I’m tired of these lil fuckers.”
“Okay,” I responded in the most bothered way possible. I got up. “What kind do you want me to get?”
“I dunno, just get the good kind,” Grandma said.
Grandmothers love “the good kind” of anything. All they wanna know is if this “good kind” is worth their money. I grabbed my dusty black leather jacket, laced up my Nike boots, and made my way to John’s Bargains. John’s Bargains is one of those spots that sell everything from clothes, to cigarette products, to movies, to books, and I even think you could file your taxes there. On my journey to JB, I saw nodding fiends, young teens playing tackle football on the concrete, and I heard kids cursing more than Bernie Mac.
“Your mother is an ugly bitch.”
“Give me back my damn ball.”
“Leave me alone dummy.”
“Don’t make me slap the shit outta you.”
“That’s why I did it to your sister.”
A bunch of kids who probably haven’t seen a vagina since they came out of one. A few of the festivities in Baltimore that adds to its bittersweetness.
I got to the store, purchased “the good kind” of sticky pads, then I bounced. When I returned home, I opened several pads and laid them in the main corners that mice typically ran. Grandma rewarded me for performing this task by allowing me to keep the change from the $20 that I spent on the pads.
The next day I was awakened by a ruffling noise that slithered from the bathroom. I went to go check it out, and it was the mouse. Trapped! I have never been the best when it came to playing sports, but the touchdown dance that I enacted was far beyond the greatest dance you’ve probably ever seen. Grandma was just as happy, and looked as if she wanted to bust a move with me. But instead, she burned her cigarette and cracked a perky smile.
“Glad we caught that little bitch. Now go throw it away,” she told me.
Grandma didn’t know that I was scared of mice, so picking up a live and breathing mouse was never in my plans, ever in life. Even today. So don’t ask. If God whispered in my ear and said, “My child, I need you to pick up the mouse.” I would’ve replied, “Sorry God, you’re the one with the powers. How about you pick it up?”
I convinced her to leave it there and wait for it to die, and then I’d throw it away. She agreed. We both went our separate ways for the day.
A few hours later, I heard Grandma yell, “Ain’t this some shit?”
I ran upstairs and asked her what was wrong.
She replied, “The damn mouse got away.”
I ran in the bathroom and she was right; the mouse had vanished, leaving nothing behind but a few turds and some grey fur that got ripped off by the glue.
I looked at Granny and said, “I don’t know how it got away. I guess the good kind aren’t as good as you thought.”
She smacked the living shit out of my lips, causing them to slightly bleed. I stood there, pitiful, dabbing my index finger on my bottom lip, staring at the blood. I wanted to say, “Hey shorty, don’t ever hit me again before I get my other grandmother to whip yo’ ass.” But I didn’t say that because I knew I would’ve been shedding blood by the bucket.
She snatched my hand and said, “Stop touching your damn lip before I smack you again. Your ass shoulda threw the mouse away when I asked. You never do what I ask you to do.”
The pitiful look on my face grew. I shrugged and went back to my room. I was confused as to why Grandma was so upset about the mouse getting away. She was angrier than Kanye. I kept saying to myself, “It’s only a mouse.”
Later on in life, I figured out why Grandma was so upset. She spent money and faith on a sticky pad, which is a trap designed for the capture and destruction of a rodent. The mouse that we caught was supposed to stay trapped and later die. It didn’t.
In this situation, Grandma is a representation of the oppression in America. We, as in Black people, are the mice. This particular mouse that Grandma was upset with is the Black person in America who rises above society’s expectations. When he or she receives a high school diploma in a dilapidated school system. Read on and above grade level in a system that tries to keep us underwater. Staying out of prison in a country that’s designed for us to live there. Receiving college degrees. Nurturing our children and teaching them the truth about their history. Living past 21 years old. These are a few things that enrage the racists in this society.
We have the ability to thrive in this country despite the ill-boding obstacles we face. I believe that one of the first obstacles is understanding that at birth, Black people in this country are driven to exist in the most horrific areas of this country. Once you understand that, then I believe that you will have a better chance at winning in this game of life.
America is a sticky pad for Black people and people of color, mainly the ones who live in poverty. I want you to escape the trap.
By Kondwani Fidel