De’Andre Hicks should’ve been drafted number one in the professional football league draft. However, due to an injury caused by a traumatic accident that still haunts him he dropped to the last round of draft after missing almost a whole season. He finds his place with the back-to-back national champions the Carolina Cougars but his competition for the starting position is the best albeit most troubled wide receivers in the league, Jay’Von Riddick. All De’Andre wants to do is provide a better life for his mother and to be able to give his girlfriend, Alana, the things that she deserves as she sacrifices to support his dreams. Will De’Andre succeed? Or will he be left to wonder “what if”?
Alana Mitchell is smart, ambiguous, and beautiful and she knew she loved De’Andre the first time on the campus of Florida Technical University. Alana is following in the footsteps of her father, a successful corporate attorney and well on her way to becoming a superstar lawyer in her own right. A native of Palm Beach, Florida her background is one of wealth and privilege while De’Andre was born and raised on the rough streets of the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Alana sacrifices her dreams of attending Georgetown’s law school to support De’Andre and his career. Will Alana’s sacrifices be worth it?
I ran into the street and screamed as I looked at Alana’s face gushing blood and blood was coming from her mouth; she wasn’t moving. “Somebody help me! Somebody please help!” Our neighbors had fan out of their houses after hearing the noise from the accident.
An elderly white lady said, “Son, I called 911. They are coming as quick as they can.” Another neighbor pushed through the crowd. He kneeled down beside Alana and pressed two of his fingers against her neck. “I’m a trauma center doctor.” He said as if to reassure me that he knew what he was doing. “Her pulse is very weak. How far along is she? How far along is she?!?!?”All I could do was stare at Alana on the crowd looking helping. “Six and a half months.” “Shit! We need them to get her to Berkeley ASAP!” When the ambulance arrived the doctor told them to take her to the trauma center at Berekley Medical Center.
As they loaded Alana into the ambulance I couldn’t process any of what was going on as I got into the back of the ambulance and held her hand. “Alana, baby, please wake up. I need you.” The tears fell down my face.
One of the EMTs yelled to another, “She’s fading fast! Her heart rate is dropping. Quick!”
“Baby, please hold on. Please don’t leave me. I’m sorry! I’m sorry. I love you!” Her hand felt so limp inside of mine and it was getting even more limp as if the life was draining from her body.
When we arrived at the hospital they quickly took her away, running her stretcher down the hallway as doctors shouted out strange doctor terms to nurses. I was guided into the emergency room waiting area by one of the nurses. “Sweetheart, sit right here. Do we need to call someone for you? Are you her only family?” “No.” I said weakly. I felt for my pockets realizing I had left my phone at home. I asked to use the phone at the nurses station so I could call the only phone number I knew by heart other than Alana’s.
“Hello, who is this?” The voice on the other end said hesitantly. “Ma, it’s me. It’s Dre.” I said as I fought back tears. “Baby, what’s wrong? What is wrong?” My mother said with her voice full of concern and hurt. “It’s Alana, Alana was in a car accident. It doesn’t look good.” I heard my mom drop the phone and struggle to pick it up. “Oh my God, no! Dre baby are coming.” “I need her dad’s number. You have it right?” I could hear my mom rapidly fumbling through her contact to give me her dad’s cell phone number. I snatched a pen and a scrap of paper off of a desk to write down her dad’s number.
“Hello, Carter Mitchell speaking, who is this?” “Mr. Mitchell, it’s Dre.” He could sense from my tone something is wrong. “Dre, what’s going on, son? You don’t sound good.” “Alana is hurt. She was in a car accident; it’s not good.” Her father was silent for a moment, “Son, we’re on our way.”
The moments of waiting for the doctor to come give me news seemed like an eternity. I sat there with my head hung low and tears running down my face and into a puddle on the white linoleum floor.
One year earlier (St. Charles Medical Center-Miami, Florida)
I looked at my shattered and mangled hand. “My brother is gone and my football career is over.” I said to Alana as my wheelchair was pushed out of the hospital and I was met by a swarm of sports reporter and sports blogger. My whole entire left leg was in a cast trying to correct the damage done to my femur by hollow point bullets made to destroy. Alana held my uninjured hand. “No, no it isn’t.” Alana helped me get into the passenger side of her Toyota 4Runner and we drove in pure silence to my mom’s house. There was still crime scene tape up from the events of two nights before. Flowers, candles, signs, and stuffed animals marked the spot where my brother had lost his life as we were walking to the store to get some BBQ sauce for my Uncle Henry.
I let out a deep sigh as Alana gave me my crutches so I could awkwardly stagger into my mother’s house, which was filled with mourners and those who wanted to pay their respects. People gave me their condolences but it all sounded like mumbo jumbo to me as Alana and I pressed through the crowd to go into the bedroom that Rico and I had shared growing up. I sat down on the bottom bunk and dropped my head into my hands as the tears flowed. Alana gently rubbed my back as I dropped my head into her lap. I felt tears from her eyes falling unto my face and mixing with my own.
“Dre, I don’t know what to say right now. I wish I had the words but I don’t. “Whatever tomorrow holds just know I’ll be here. I love you, no matter what. I’m here for it.” There was a firm steady not at the door that I instantly recognized as my mom’s. As a kid Rico and I had heard it on that door enough in the mornings to wake us up for school, to let us know she needed to speak to us.
“Dre, Coach Orman is out here, son.” Alana answered for me as I tried to regain my composure. “Come in.” I hastily wiped the tears away from my eyes as Coach Orman walked in. He sat down in the office chair across from me and sighed heavily. “Son, I wish I knew what to say to you right now. I know your brother meant a lot to you. You know that the team and myself are hurting with you right now. We’re a family. If you or your family needs anything, anything at all. Do not hesitate to let me know. The Bulldog family is here for you.” “Coach, I don’t think I’ll ever play football again. My hand is messed up, my leg is messed up, my ACL is gone.” Coach Orman gave me a sincere look, “Son, don’t worry about that right now. Worry about your recovery and your family.” “But my scholarship.” “But nothing, De’Andre. I will see to you being able to stay in school without having to pay a penny. Mark my words.”
The hours felt like an eternity and a half A doctor approached me, his pale face expressionless. “Are you the relative of Alana Mitchell?” “Yes, I am.” “Mr....” “Mr. Hicks, De’Andre Hicks.” “Mr. Hicks, we did everything we could to save both Alana and the twins.” I could feel my body starting to crumple as he spoke. “We were able to get all three stabilized all three for the time being but everyone including Alana are touch and go right now. She suffered devastating internal injuries. She did code at one point while on the operating table. A collapsed lung, five broken ribs, a broken collar broken, a ruptured kidney as well as head and facial trauma. Our surgical obstetrics team performed an emergency C-section but the twins are very premature and the lungs are not well developed. They are going to do everything they can to stabilize them but babies born this early rarely make it a month.
“Can I see her?” “In a few, she is still in recovery from surgery. Someone will come get you when it’s time.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
The sounds of the machine that were helping to keep Alana breathing and to monitor her were driving me crazy. I looked at her lying there motionless and bandaged up.
“Alana, I’m so sorry, baby. If you can hear me, please wake up. I just want you to be okay. I can’t do anything with you. You’re my reason for living. I can’t live with you.” A wave of tears washed over my body as I placed my head beside her hand.
After my brother died and the potential of my football career being permanently I had become suicidal and thought about taking my own life. Alana had been the only person there who kept me together. I couldn’t put my feelings off on my mom she was dealing with the same loss I was dealing with. Alana pulled me through and forced me to get help; she didn’t judge me, she had been there every step of the way. She had seen me at the lowest and this is the position I had put her in.
I felt a strong hand grasped my shoulder and I turned my head and saw the dark brown hand of Mr. Mitchell grasping my shoulder firmly. I looked up at his normally stone face and it was filled with tears. I could hear Alana’s mother weeping behind him. Her father kneeled down at the bed beside her, “Babygirl, mommy and daddy are here. Please wake up for us, wake up for Dre, we love you and we need you. Her father took Alana’s petite hand into his as he began to cry.
Alana’s mother, Mariam placed her hand on my shoulder. “Dre sweetheart, go home and get some rest. You’ve been here over thirteen hours.” “I’m not going to leave.” There was a knock at the door. “Hi, I’m Doctor Patel, I’m an the attending neonatal pediatrician for the twins. Mr. Hicks, can I speak with you?” I stood up and made my way into the hallway.
“How are the babies?” “They are very weak and frail. I’m not going to lie to you. We are going to do everything within our power to help them strive. However, their birth was very traumatic and they were born in a situation that put a lot of stress on their little bodies. The fact that they were multiple poses an even larger risk to their survival. I know you have a lot being thrown at you right now but I just want you to prepare you for whatever the outcome may be. Do you understand?” “Yessir, I do. Can I see them?” “Sure.”
I followed Dr. Patel to the elevator and we went down three floors to the maternity ward. He showed me where I needed to get masked up and put on scrubs. “Follow me, De’Andre.” I followed the doctor into a dark room and in front of me stood a large incubator with all types of machines connected to it. I held me breath as we walked closer and inside there were two small figures, they were so small they didn’t even look real.
“De’Andre, these are your sons. Each of them weighs about 18 ounces. This is good because it is rare for preemies under 16 to survive, so that is very good.” I pressed my hands to the glass and I looked up them wrapped up and bandaged up with monitor on their small bodies.
“I’ll leave you for a moment.” The doctor quietly walked out and I pressed my forehead to the glass in of the incubator.
“Be strong. I know y’all will be strong because you’re my sons. I love you and your momma is in here fighting for you as well so she can see you. We love you so much already. Just be strong, okay?”
As I left the maternity ward and headed back upstairs. Carter met me at the elevator doors. “Let’s go get a coffee, son.”
As we sat down in the virtually empty hospital cafeteria, Carter looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He let out a slight chuckle before he began to speak. “You know, Dre, when Alana came home and told us she was dating you I was far from pleased. I always saw my babygirl, my only daughter, my only child marrying someone like me. A future lawyer, a future doctor, something like that not some fly-by-night college football player. Mariam and I fussed and fussed with her. But Alana said, “Dad, when you meet him. I promise you’ll like him.” And when I met you I saw why she liked you. You genuinely care about her and you love her. She needs you to be strong for her and those boys upstairs. You understand me?” “Yessir.” He nodded his head and retreated back into his thoughts.
I remember the first time I’d met her father I was scared shitless. He was a dark skin man with an opposing frame; he stood 6’5, and was built like a brick wall. He was a defensive lineman for Alabama back in the 80s. When he spoke most of the time it filled the room. I had always wondered how such a huge man had made such a petite daughter, Alana was barely 5’3 and her mom was 5’10, a former model.
I had met him at the Sunshine Bowl six months after Alana and I had started dating; her mom and dad were both alums of Alabama and we were playing them for the bowl game.
Her mom and dad were decked out in their Alabama stuff. We’d met them for dinner the night before the game. I knew Alana was nervous about introducing me to her people and I had gone out of my way to make a good impression, putting on my best suit, and all.
“Not bad for a Bulldog.” Her dad said with a hardy laugh the first time he had greeted me and we spent the whole dinner talking about football and the upcoming game. Over the past few years, he had come to treat me like the son he never had and he was like the father I had never had.
My dad had been in and out of prison my whole life because of drugs. He would get out stay with my mom, and then he’d get back out there bad on the drugs, my mom would kick him. That was until he died of an OD when I was five; I barely remembered him.
Carter and I slowly made the walk back to Alana’s room. When we walked back in my mom and Alana’s mom were sitting in the room quietly watching over here. When my mom saw me she ran over and embraced me. “Baby, are you okay?” I couldn’t answer my mom. I wasn’t okay. I was as far from okay as I could possibly be.
“Jenny, Dre. Head back to the house. Son, you haven’t slept in over 14 hours. You need your rest. We will call if anything changes.” “Yes, baby, you need your rest.” “I called an uber for y’all. It’s on the way.”
In the car back to my house my mother was silent until she spoke. “Dre what happened? The doctor said Alana didn’t have on a seatbelt and she pulled out in front of a truck without looking. That doesn’t sound like Lana at all. So what happened?” I hung my head low, “We got into an argument. She was mad with me and she was leaving me.” “An argument over what? I know y’all have had your disagreements but an argument to the point that she left you while six months pregnant. What in the world, Dre? What is going on?” “Last year, I went out with Tae and I cheated on her. She found out someway.”
My mother’s face filled with disappointment and she said my name in an exasperated tone. “Dre, why in God’s name would you do that to that sweet girl?” “Ma, I was being stupid and look how I’m paying for it.” My sadness was being replaced by anger at myself for being so stupid and selfish.
When we got back to the house there was still glass and debris in the road from the accident. There was a blacked out Tahoe in my driveway that I recognized as Coach Thames. When we got out of the car he did as well. “Dre, the team heard about your girlfriend’s accident. We just wanted to let you know take as much time as you need; the organization stands with you.” He said sincerely. “I’ll be back at practice tomorrow.” “You sure, son?” “I’m sure, I need to clear my head.” “See you tomorrow and if anything challenges like me or one of the coaches know. If you don’t feel comfortable playing Sunday, the team understands.” “Thank you, sir.”
When I got home, I couldn’t find sleep I constantly checked my phone for updates but all I kept getting were thoughts and prayers text from people I hadn’t heard from in forever. Finally, my mom took my phone away from me and gave me two Benadryls to make me sleep. She sat there and rubbed my head they way she did when I was a little boy after my asthma attacks.
The next day in practice it took every ounce of my strength to focus and keep the my mind on my job. However, I knew I still had to be on my shit. Overnight, doctors had slowly started to bring Alana out of her medically induced coma. I had to do this for her. My teammates let me know I was in their thoughts and prayers and that they were there for me.
After practice we had our media time and surprisingly a lot of the media wanted to speak to me. I called on the first journalist to ask me a question, “De’Andre, there is news that the mother of your children was involved in a serious car accident two nights ago. How is she doing?” “She is currently in a medically-induced coma. Our twins sons who are three months premature are in the neonatal unit trying to get strong.” “How do you think this will affect your ability to play this Sunday in this away game against Detroit?” “Ummmm, I’m going out there and doing this for my girl and my sons. My girl, Alana has always be a supporter of me and I know she wouldn’t want me to give anything less than my all.” “De’Andre, Jay’Von Riddick is currently appealing his suspension and rumor has it he will be eligible to play in next week’s game against Baltimore. How do you feel about this?” “All I can do is focus on myself and doing my job to the best of my ability.”
That Saturday morning before heading to the airport to catch the team plane to Detroit I stopped by the hospital to check on Alana and the twins. “La, I love you and I’ll see you in a few days. I miss you, I miss that laugh, I miss your voice, I miss everything about you, I don’t feel at home without you.” Her machine were still beeping away I was just glad she was breathing on her own.
My next stop was neonatal unit to check on the twins. The nurse updated me and told me how they were doing; they were gaining wait, a couple of grams each. She assured me that they would be fine and were under the best care possible.
On the plane to Detroit, I had my headphones on and my head was elsewhere as the world below looked so small. I was zoned out until, Emile Harvey, our star running back sat down beside me. “What’s up, Emile?” “Man, just checking on you. My wife and I have been where you’re at right now. Last year, she gave birth to our daughter three months early. She’s good now but I know that feeling, that helplessness and it’s double on you with your girl still being in the coma. Just know if you need anything the team has your back.” Thanks, bruh.”
Ford Field- Detroit, Michigan
“The Tigers have won the coin toss and have decided to defer until the second half.” As I put on my helmet and went onto the field. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the punt return.
As I looked at the ball spiral towards me I knew I could run it; there was no need for a fair catch. When the ball came in contact with my hands I took off running and blocked everything but the end zone until I reached it. I pointed up at the sky and mouthed, “For y’all.” My teammates patted me on my backbefore we got in formation to go for the extra point.
Four quarters later I had four touchdowns and had scored one point conversion. I had balled the fuck out.
In the post game meeting Coach Thames began speak, “We have had a very strong start this season! We are playing as team! We have a new member who is earning his spot he is not allowing his home life situation to impact his on the field duties. He is getting it done and making a name for him. With that being said the game ball goes to Dre Riddick.” I humbly took the ball and thanked my teammate.
As the team meeting adjourned I retrieved my phone from my duffle bag and saw that I had 30 missed calls from my mother and La’s parents. I called La’s mother back first.
“Alana is awake! We just got done watching your game!”
Foreword to "To Live, Learn, and Die in Halifax Co." : I am a lifestyle writer not a journalist. I normally write about funny stuff: love, life, and a laughter. I like making people laugh not think; I leave that to serious people. When I posted this essay it wasn't to attack anyone and it wasn't to be attacked or chided in return. Normally my posts get about 100 views in a couple of weeks but within two hours of me posting this piece it had over 1000 views. Let me be clear, I am not an expert on schools, I am not an expert on taxation, I am not an expert on the finances of Halifax County. However, anyone with two eyes can look around and see that Halifax County is SUFFERING. I wrote this piece because I have seen the effects that our piss poor schools have had on my generation and all subsequent generations. I spoke about my grandmother's work ethic and her desire to see her children do better not to focus on her parenting. It was to focus on the fact that the
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