Things You Can’t Hide
“Wanna see somethin’?” He smiled next to me at his desk, like he was hiding something, and swiveled around in his chair with his arms outstretched. The way he always did. I wondered if he had taken his ADD medication that morning.
“It’ll change how ‘yuh see me. I know it will.”
I stared skeptically at Vijay with one eyebrow raised. The tattoos that covered his neck and arms stared back at me from under the oversized t-shirt he wore, the one with the red “BOSTON” letters emblazoned on the front. Those things you can’t hide.
“I’ll take that bet,” I snorted while sipping my coffee, trying and failing to hide my skepticism. “Then we have to get back to work. Your test isn’t going to pass itself.” He laughed and leaned on the desk, “I know miss! Let’s jus’ watch this real quick.”
There were the “click click clicks” as he tapped something on the keyboard and the following “whoosh” as an e-mail was sent to my inbox. These sounds, they typified our study sessions together, an underpaid tutor and an overwhelmed student.
Setting down my coffee mug, I opened up the new file which contained a video clip of some news segment. I could make out the local bug in the left hand corner.
“How did I miss this interview?” I thought, as I lowered the volume on the computer screen. I turned to Vijay for some kind of clue, but he just leaned back coolly in his chair and swiveled around again, that same sly smile on his lips.
The broadcaster’s familiar voice came through the speakers.
“As you may know our home town hero, Vijay Johnson, has been the focus of many stories here at KBTM. Johnson’s athletic performance on the court has been unmatched this year and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. However, the road to the top has not been easy for Johnson…”
And Vijay was right; the video did change how I saw him. His history mattered. His story mattered.
The reasons behind those tattoos, where he came from, why he acted the way he did. How his father left his family when he was young, how his mother was murdered in front of his younger brother, how his cousins were shot and killed the year he left Boston to come to school here, it all mattered.
Why hadn’t I focused on this before? I had so many questions, but instead I slowly closed my computer, “Why did you show me this Vijay?”
“I jus’ wanted you to know where I came from, but that it’s not me either. You nah wha’ I’m sayin’? And I don’ wanna live my life,” he paused and took a deep breath, “I don’t wanna live my life livin’ in that past. I have a betta’ future now, mo’ than I eva’ thought was possible. Now you know why I’m always smilin’ miss. I’m not stupid; I just got my own def’nition of happy. And I wan’ you to know that I ‘preciate what you doin’ for me here.”
My brave face finally betrayed me. I wiped away a tear from my cheek and laughed, “Yes, now I do know what you’re hidin’ behind that smile of yours now. Now I see. Thank you for that…Now, turn to chapter 11, you’re going to pass this test. We’ll get you back on that court.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he told me, his smile never fading as he picked up his pen.