*to hear brand new messa-*

"Otis... This is Kathy. It's now the-umm... fifth no call no show and I have been told to inform you that you will be terminted from employment with Janov Distribution. We have deci-"

As the phone slips out of my grasp with a crunch, I feel a quick wince peek across my face.

Hopefully that was just it landing on a chip or something.

Arm already dangling off the edge of the couch I let the dust and debris brush against my fingertips. A little stretch and a little pull later, my blind probe comes back successful. The familiar slab of plastic and glass glows in my face

Damn, It's already 6:40, huh?

Dragging my eyes across the room does little to deny it as I can see the lines of morning light escaping the edges of my blinds.

"Hungh," turning to my side with a grunt I take another note of how big I'm getting.

"Hhnnuuu," Hard to breathe. Probably cause of all the smokes and shitty air quality in here. Speaking of smokes...

"Hu~ngh," Sitting up with another wheeze, my back against the backrest I fumble with my phone to turn the flash on.
"Bogie time. Bogie time~"

It takes a second of searching but I find a clear spot to put my feet. Dodging glass shards is the least of my worries right now though. Trying to put the nagging worry of my newly jobless state I set my flash on the coffee table. All the bottles are empty and all thats left of them forms a thin film that sticks to the table with the ashes from my smokes. Pizza boxes not strewn all over the floor with the rest of the trash are haphazardly stacked in the corner of the table.

*Cough*Cough* The stentch of puke and smokes is familiar but no matter how used to it I get it won't get any more easier on my body. Wheezing I grab one of the many carton of smokes littered between the bottles.

Shit it's empty.
How about thi-Fuck... Well now we have a problem.

While playing a little game of "The floor is lava" I try my best to salvage a smoke from anywhere in this tragedy I call a home. As I come to terms with my failed attempt at a rescue mission, I make my way to the door using the garbage as my stepping stones. A pair of mismatched sandals and a sweater for the morning breeze and I'm out the door.

Its times like these I wonder why I even bother. Smoking just gives me a headache and I don't even make enough to keep up with how much I smoke. At least it's better than drugs... maybe I'm just saying that because I can't quit it. Whatever.

A little walk two blocks down the road and I'm at the convenience store. Walking to the back of the store I grab the usual bottle and head to the counter with a bag of chips. I switch the hand I'm holding the bottle in as I have to wait behind some guy dressed to the nines.

Before I can start to find more things to get annoyed at he finishes up. He turns around and as I register his face I'm caught off gaurd. He seems familiar but at the same time... not. While I'm trying to put a finger on it his face starts beaming with a smile at me before he walks off. The hell? This guy wanna fight or something?

Putting it to the back of my mind I walk up to the counter. "Can-,"
Before I can even say anything the cashier girl puts down my usual brand of smokes and scans it. I put the rest of my stuff up for her to scan before I move on to the debit machine.

Denied? Fu~ck.
"Ahh~Can I put back the bottle?" She gives me an annoyed look as she does something on her end and the screen comes back up with a lesser amount.

Please god if you're out there. Please.
Yes! It went through.

Barely able to stop myself from lighting up I make my way outside.

Don't tell me...

Flicking the lighter over and over doesn't do much to make that spark burst.

"Need a light?" With a jolt I look up and catch that annoying dude from before standing with a pack of matches in hand, offering them to me.

This kid looks like he's 20. Who still uses matches? Wait. Why the fuck am I calling him a kid like some old man, I'm probably not that much older than him.

Taking a moment I offer a quick, "thanks," not even trying to return his annoying smile. It takes a second but soon I'm blessed with a familiar cloud and a whiff of that tobacco. Handing it back to him I take a better look at his face and annoyingly enough his face seems more familiar. Even more annoying is that I have no clue as to why.

I'm about to turn around before he stops me with, "Yo. Where're you going?"

"You want a smoke or something?" I ask him while I reach to grab the newly opened pack. I'd give two if he'd fuck off into the sunrise. Somethig about the guy just keeps bugging me.

His eyebrows raise a little in what looks to be confusion as I get to see his smile falter for the first time.
"Wha-Hahahaa~," before I know it he starts laughing his ass off.

What's so funny that this dude looks like he's about to die laughing.

It takes a moment before his laughing fit starts to tapper off.
"I guess, haha," he starts to explain between chuckles,"we do both look a lot different." He starts to look himself over as if he's appreciating himself.

His lighly tanned skin and slicked back wavy hair is a dead give away to our matching heritage. He's probably got family from the same country as me. How is this fair? He's like a quarter foot taller than me and all I got on him is like a hundred pounds?

"Ay! You got business with me or what?"

He looks at me again and smiles. His smile is weird. It's like that smile you give to a kid just to get them to smile back. "Shiet! You don't remeber me? I'm touched bro. Touched," he whines with a fake swipe at some nonexistent tears.

Oooh. I just wanna drop this guy right here and now.
Gotta Calm down. It's not worth it.

"Nah bro. You got the wrong guy," I dismiss him and turn around to start my treck back home. A lot of people from back home easily mistake me for other people. At least before I started looking like the ideal before in a before-and-after advert.
Why does he look familiar though? I want to know but I'd rather not deal with him, I can already feel my patience stretching far enough to snap.

Before I can make it four steps away I hear, "Otis."
Eyebrows tensed, I feel my heart race. "Otis, right?"

As my body reluctantly begins to turn back, my brain tries its best to run through everyone I know or have known. Maybe from highschool? Nah, I barely went to school forget about knowing people. This guy looks pretty young and I don't hang out with that many people younger than me.Was he one of my brothers friends.

"I knew it," he claps. "Damn, It's been ages man," he cntinues as I try to think of a response as to why I can't remember him. "How's your mom doing?"

Wait. What did he ask me? Mom?

I freeze as I register the question, body snapping to face him. "Who the hell are you, huh?!" giving up trying to come up with civil response, the words coming out of my mouth before I know it. "The fuck you want?"

"Whao~" With his annoying as smile he takes a couple steps back with his palms out. "Really bro. Where'd that came from?"
"Fuck you. I'm not your bro," I spit at him.
"I'm just asking for Kaj bro," he clarifies.

Kaj? Kaj is still out there? Where the fuck has been this whole time? What the fuck is he so busy with that he can't even come to mom's funeral? It's been, what? 8 or 9 years and he doesn't even call to check in?

Rage building up with every breath I take, it takes me a second to notice the kid has his hand on my shoulder,"-alm down bro. Calm down. It's all good."

Shaking his arm off my shoulder I demand,"where is that little shit?" The confusion is evident for a moment before I say it plainly enough foor this airhead to get, "Kaj! Where is he?"

"Oo~h," his annoying smile doesn't pauses for a second as his eyes roll up in recollection. "Let's see last I seen him was a while ago~. Was it last- Nah, nah," his eyes light up when they meet mine as he seems to have remembered. "I know where he lives. He actually lives pretty clo-"
"Where the fuck is he? Call him and tell him to come here... RIGHT NOW!"

"Chill out br-"
"Fuck you mean, chill out?! What the fuck is this guy doing?!" I can barely stop myself from decking this guy right here. I need to calm down or this guy might just walk off on me. "What are you waiting for? Call him," I demand, "NOW!"

"Just listen for a sec." With his never ending infuriating grin he gives me the excuse,"I don't have his number. I just know where he lives, mmmkay." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out car keys. "I can take you to him if you want."

"Sure," without a moments hesitation I take his offer. I don't know but his eyes crinkle up with more glee as I begin to wonder why I said yes.

I don't know this guy. He coukld be a scam artist or serial killer for all I know. The strange thing is he feels weirdly familiar, like someone you've never talked to but know exactly who he is. Does that even make sense?

It takes a moment before I realize I'm unconciously following this guy to his car while thinking of every reason why I should just split. These thoughts don't stop me.

He unlocks his car and its a brand new, all black super clean looking sedan. I stop for a second as I take a second look at the guy. He's dressed to the nines, a half foot taller than me and driving around in a brand new ride. I hate this guy the more I know about him.

After driving for 20 minutes in complete silence I'm over come with a painful wave of nostalgia.

This is my old neighbourhood. That's the park we used to play ball at by the library. The outdoor swimming pool I tried to backflip in and chipped my tooth is still right next to it. They put up a new fence around it though. The hill Kaj, Izah, AJ, Zeke and I used ride bikes down is right by our first elementary school. I remember Kajen fucked up his hand that one time going down the hill and that other Ezeke fucked up his legs jumping off the roof of the school building. I wonder what everyones up to?

Driving for another 10 minutes before we stop in a parking lot at an abandonned building where we come to a stop. Looking around at the shabby basketball hoops nearby, it takes a moment before I realize my old middle school.

"Hey," before I can why we're here, he hops out of the car. "Why ar-" I'm interrupted as he shuts the door mid sentence. While I'm getting out the car I notice him walking to the trunk.

Wait... abandoned building? Not a soul in sight? What's he got in his trunk? Is he grabbing a weapon? Am I gonna die here? I'm already out of breath with my mind racing. How am I gonna run away?

"Lets run some ball," aborting the rough draft on an escape plan my brain takes a second to process what I just heard. The sound of a dribbling basketball snaps me back into focus. What is this guy up to?

"What're you talking about? Where's Kajen at?" My frustration quickly overshadows my relief at not getting murked in an abondonned parking lot. I pray he isn't doing some weird saw shit where I'm gonna have to play for my life.

"Rules are simple. 1-on-1." He starts to laugh as he scans me up and down. "If you can score once before I score 11 then you win."

"You have something in your ears? What the hell are you doing?" Is this guy dissing me? "Why should I even play just take me to Kaj."

"Otis." His saying my name irks me. "I'll take you to Kaj if you just score once on me. Isn't that fair." The more I look at him face to face the familiar he feels. "Look, you don't even remember me. If you want my help just call me by my name and I'll help you out right now. Kapeesh?"

A silence hangs in the air as I find my brain short circuiting trying to remember his name. I can't say anything.

Before I can even draft a response he offers, "If you play ball with me it might help. If you remember my name anytime while we play I'll take you to him asap."
Fuck. Why'd I do this to myself. Actually why am I here.

"Damn another one." He runs to grab the made shot before jogging back to the top of the key. Ready to check the ball again. "That's four! Four to nothing? You got step your game up bro."

Four point's? I feel like I've already lost a lung or something. Who cares about finding Kaj. It's not like finding him is gonna bring mom back.

Remembering mom hurts more than my lungs. "Ti-haa~. Time... out haa~," I plead.

"No time outs bro. I don't got that much time." Looking up I see his face without a smile for the first time. He looks disappointed and I start to see someone elses face overlap with his. I'm close. "Here. I'll let you take a shot," he checks me the ball.

Grabbing the ball I take my time to switch spots with him at the top of the key. Looking at his face with a smile is annoying as hell but that disappointed look cuts deep. It looks more familiar and as my brain starts to run through why I take more time. "Ha~" I try and regain as much breath as I can with a few deep breaths.

Catching my breath my muscles snap as I chuck up a shot without a thought to form and watch as his neck snaps to gauge the shot. Before the ball reaches its zenith my body is already in motion, making a beeline for the rebound, heading to the left of the basket using nothing by my instincts as a guide.

As if all the bad luck was an intiation for this moment the ball ricocheted off the rim veering towrds the left. Bursting with every fiber of muscle I could muster I jumped and reached with all my might. I was rewarded as both my hands grasped down firmly on the ball.

Using a moment to catch a deep breath as my lungs could bear I begin the motions of putting up a shot. Not even a moment a moment later I'm met with an airborne mass extended to block my shot.

This is it.

With my body already commited to the pump fake I find myself bringing my center of gravity lower as I let him fly past. Both hands on the ball and feet planted, I find an open space off to the side. As I begin to dribble I find everything around me begins to slow as my  heart pounds at my chest.


As the moment seemed to stretch into infinity, I remembered. Not who that annoying fucker was but a small moment in my childhood. Maybe it was because we were at the same court or because it was early in the morning then too; but I remembered. Middle school right before first bell me and my friends used to play ball after our buses dropped us off. I let off this crazy shot then too that apparently went in. I can see it now.

I felt the whole world go sideways as I felt gravity acted on my body in a way it should never be experienced. All my school budies blurring in the periphery. Unable to move in midair I'm forced to become more aware of just how far my head usually is from the ground. That was the most closest I've been to death.

I made it though. I took the shot off balance and couldn't adjust myself in the air quick enough to land properly. Smacked my head right on the pavement. Next thing you know I-
hold up. The world comes back to me as I realize what's going on as that memory is made more clear than ever. I can see the damn faces on those kids watching me hurtle to my death. Is this what they meant as watching your life flash before your eyes? Am I about to die?



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