You Don't Even Know Me

Stories and Poems About Boys


By Sharon Flake

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In 9 stories and 15 poems, Sharon G. Flake provides insight into the minds of a diverse group adolescent African American males.

here's Tow-Kaye, getting married at age 16 to love of his life, who's pregnant. He knows it's the right thing to do, but he's scared to death. James writes in his diary about his twin brother's terrible secret, which threatens to pull James down, too. Tyler explains what it's like to be a player with the ladies. In a letter to his uncle, La'Ron confesses that he's infected with HIV. Eric takes us on a tour of North Philly on the Fourth of July, when the heat could make a guy go crazy. Still, he loves his hood. These and other unforgettable characters come to life in this collection of urban male voices. Sharon's G. Flake's talent for telling it like it is will leave readers thinking differently, feeling deeply, and definitely wanting more.


Also by Sharon G. Flake

The Skin I’m In


Who Am I Without Him?

Money Hungry

Begging for Change

Copyright © 2010 by Sharon G. Flake

Cover design by Christian Fuenfhausen

Cover photo © Shutterstock/Diversity Studio

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Jump at the Sun, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-4231-3667-5


To my parents, Langston Hughes, and my neighborhood family, who showed me how beautiful I was; who reminded me what a great gift my neighborhood was to the planet, who taught me that the way I spoke was music to the ears and that it was okay to simply be me—a little black girl from the inner city of Philadelphia.

To all who read and find my words, I give you the light that they all lit up in me. go forth and shine.

I sit in your class

I play by the rules

I’m young

I’m fly

I’m black.

So of course I think I’m cool.

Geometry is my thing,

Physics is just a breeze.

So it bothered me last week

When you said I should be happy with that C.

You know,

I’ve been wondering lately,

Trying to figure out just how it could be

That you’re around me so often

And still don’t know a thing about me.


See me on TV,

Marching in the band,

Then you flick the channel

And there I am again,

Cuffs on my hands,

A coat over my head,

The news anchor warning that I’m someone you should dread.

The police say I’m a menace,

That you should be on the alert.

The nightly news recounts all the people they say I’ve hurt.

The mayor says I’m a threat,

Psychologists call me depressed,

Bloggers can’t figure out what’s up with me, so they make up all the rest.

You know,

I’ve been wondering lately,

Trying to figure out just how it could be

That you can see me so often

And still don’t know a thing about me.

I live next door to you,

You see me on the bus.

Sometimes you even tell me just be quiet, child—hush.

Then I’m out with my boys—

Two, five, or even ten—

It’s funny when that happens, you don’t seem to know me then.

I’m just another black boy,

A threatening, scary sight.

A tall, black, eerie shadow

Moving toward you late at night.

You know,

I’ve been wondering lately,

Trying to figure out just how it could be

That you could talk to me so often

And still not know a thing about me.

We hang on the corner together,

Holding up the wall,

I tell you about my dreams,

You just wanna talk basketball.

I pull out my plans

Detailing the cities I’ll rebuild one day,


That people will know my name across the USA.

You tell me to quit fronting,

You ask who I think I am,


That I’m better than you know I really am.

You talk about my house,

The clothes I wear sometimes,

Then you really hit me with what’s been on your mind.

You know,

I’ve been wondering lately,

Trying to figure out just how it could be

That we call each other brother,

And you still don’t know a thing about me.

Last night I had a dream

I flew right past the stars.

No one was holding their pocketbooks,

Or double-locking cars.

I chatted with the moon,

Calculated the circumference of the sun.

Then right before I awoke

I decided to take a run.

I ran across the Milky Way,

Stole a peek at Saturn’s ring,

Hip-hopped across the Universe.

I was me.

I could do anything,

So I dived into a million black holes,

Rested my feet on the north and south poles.

Slipped into my mother’s dreams,

My daddy’s nightmares, too.

We talked about my future and the great things that I will do.

But dreams don’t last forever

And night turns into day,

Where people who don’t even know you

Try to block tomorrow’s way.

But nothing can ever stop me,

Keep me

From what’s mine.

The stars

On fire

Inside me





That only I define me


The brightness of my destiny.

“DON’T THROW UP. Not here. Not now. Not on her,” he told himself. Then he swallowed the Froot Loops that had snuck back into his mouth, no matter how hard he tried to make ’em stay down.

The preacher asked him again: “Do you, Tow-Kaye, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward until death do you part?”

“I guess.”

Cindella stared at him, then at her belly. Her father, sitting in the first row, cleared his throat. So did the pastor. Tow-Kaye thought about what his father told him this morning. “You ain’t gotta marry her, or nobody, for no reason, ever.” He changed his answer. “Yes. I take her to be my wife,” he said, still wondering if maybe his father was right: A sixteen-year-old boy “don’t need to be getting married.”

“And do you, Cindella, take Tow-Kaye to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

She giggled, which made the women in the church lean over and say they knew she was too darn young to be getting married. Cindella saw a few of them out the corner of her eyes—whispering. She couldn’t understand why people were so upset. Marriage was a good thing, wasn’t it? Tow-Kaye and her paid for their own rings, didn’t they? And they were going to finish high school, and work together at the same restaurant this summer. What else did people want? “I do … take him to be my husband,” she said, looking over at Tow-Kaye. Smiling and kissing him before he kissed her.

She wanted to jump the broom after the ceremony. Not him. He thought it would make him look stupid, hopping over a broom in front of his boys. So they walked up the aisle, hand in hand—her wearing a beaded ivory gown and him wearing a black tux with a matching cummerbund, when he would have been perfectly fine in a pair of new jeans.

“This the twenty-first century, you don’t have to do nothing you don’t want to,” his father said to him last night after his friends stopped blowing up his cell, asking if he was crazy getting married at his age. So he was kind of glad his father wasn’t here, because he figured his dad would be able to tell for sure that he was having second thoughts—scared to death, really.

When they headed up the aisle, behind the bridesmaids and best man, her friends waved at her like she was a movie star walking the red carpet.

“Stop! Wait! Let us take your picture.”

Cindella stopped. She held on to him tighter than a blind man to a cane. “He yours now,” her best friend, Raquel, said, walking into the aisle, taking too many pictures. “I’ma be next.”

A woman too old to stand up told Tow-Kaye to smile. “And look happy.”

Tow-Kaye wanted to run. To ditch Cindella and his tux and get out of there. But he didn’t, because he loved her. Loved her since he was four years old, when he moved onto her block. Up until fourth grade he called her Cinderella. She had big, light brown eyes and short wavy hair that felt like feathers when he touched it. He kissed her for the first time when they were seven; gave her a yellow plastic ring when they were ten. On his thirteenth birthday he gave her all of his birthday money and said what was his was hers. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, right there in front of everybody. But if he did, he might just throw up. So he kept walking.

His best friend, Mario, got to him first. They hugged each other. “This is nuts, man. Stupid. But you stuck now.”

Tow-Kaye’s mother got to him next—kissing him. Dragging him over to the reception line, not noticing that inside he was already calling it quits.

The vestibule was draped in their school colors—purple and yellow—a gift from their friends. Tow-Kaye waved at his boys. Her friends picked at her dress and fussed over her hair. Then four of his friends slid their fingers across their throats and sliced. It was a joke. He knew that. But he didn’t laugh. He kept moving.

Tow-Kaye shook hands with the first guest in the receiving line, then looked at Cindella and smiled. The sun was shining through the stained glass windows, turning her gown mauve, amber, and honeysuckle; making the stones in her tiara glow blue. That’s what made him kiss her. Made his lips stay on her lips for so long that his mom said they should quit it.

He rubbed her belly. “Two more months and I’ll be a father.” Then he rubbed his own stomach, and belched. Right before the wedding he took six tablespoons of Pepto-Bismol, but it didn’t help. His stomach was still in knots.

“You look sick,” his wife said, staring at the dark circles under his eyes, and his dry, cracked lips. Tow-Kaye was light brown. His skin showed everything. “You okay?” she asked.

Before he could tell her what he was thinking—that he was scared, that he didn’t know if he wanted to be married—his mother walked over and squeezed his cheek.“I am so proud of you.” Then she lowered her voice. “I wish he had come.” She smelled his boutonniere, then turned him toward her and straightened his bow tie. “So he could have seen you standing up there … doing right by that girl.”

His father didn’t understand. Tow-Kaye had to marry her. He’d promised her. And he never broke a promise, not to Cindella.

“Okay, Mom. Let somebody else hug him.” It was Cindella’s mother talking. She hugged Tow-Kaye’s mom, then hugged him. Other people couldn’t tell how she felt about him, but he knew. She was like his dad—ticked off about the marriage. But she was better at pretending than his father was.

“This is Mrs. Dunkin,” Cindella’s mother said, introducing a woman to her daughter. “She lived up the street when you were little.”

“What you talking about? She still little,” Mrs. Dunkin said, putting a big, fat, wet kiss on Cindella’s cheek, then wiping the lipstick off with her thumb, which was partially amputated.

They stood in the receiving line shaking hands and hugging people forever, it seemed. A woman handed her a twenty. A man gave him a fifty, saying, “And this ain’t no honey-I-got-some-money money, this here’s for you. Pocket change.” The guy smiled, showing off a gold tooth in the corner of his mouth. Tow-Kaye slipped the new bill into his back pocket, hoping Cindella hadn’t seen.

It was like that the rest of the time, people hugging and kissing them. Women handing her cards; men sliding him five-dollar bills. Putting twenties and fifties in his back pocket. He didn’t know people did things like that. But he could use a new iPod and that new Madden game, he thought as he took Cindella by the hand and left the church, asking if anyone had a spoon. “I got some medicine I need to take.”

Tow-Kaye stared out the limousine window. A hoop game was going on in the park. He played every day; most of Saturday. His dad said he could kiss that good-bye. But his mother said he didn’t have to. “Marriage is compromise. You give some, you get some things too.” Only Tow-Kaye wasn’t so sure anymore about what marriage got you, besides a wife and a bad stomach.

He didn’t know who to believe. People said such different things. “Marriage sucks—run.” “Be responsible; take care of what’s yours.” But who’s gonna take care of me? he thought. His mother always cooked for him, washed his clothes, and even made his bed. They were gonna be living with Cindella’s parents now. Her mom was different. At their place, you ironed your own things. Cleaned up after your own self and took turns cleaning the bathroom and the refrigerator, too—even the men. Cindella said she would treat him just the way his mother had. “I’ll do everything for you.” But his boy Mario said if he believed that, then he had a dirt bike that went five thousand miles an hour that he wanted to sell to him.

“They got anything to eat in this car?” Tow-Kaye started opening up compartments and pulling out juice and snacks. He started with peanuts and was into the Doritos before the peanut bag was empty.

Cindella took the bags away. “They make your breath smell.” Then she took out some of the cards and money people had given them, even though her mother said she shouldn’t. He felt guilty, so he dumped his cash into her pile.

Two guys flew past their limousine on motorcycles. Tow-Kaye’s father had promised him one for graduation. Cindella hated those things. He wondered if he’d have to give that up too. He opened up more compartments, pulled out crackers and cheese, sparkling red cider, and a corkscrew.

She told him to watch out for the cider. “It stains.”

“You not my mother. Don’t tell me what to do.”

Mrs. Bentley bit her lip, to keep from saying anything she’d regret.

“Relax. You two can make it,” Cindella’s father said. “My parents got married at thirteen.”

“You’re almost sixty,” his wife said. “In your mother’s day, girls didn’t have a future. Making babies, that was their job.” She stared at Cindella. “Things are different now. Girls don’t ever have to get married if they don’t want.”

“But I wanted to,” Cindella said.

Her mother kicked off her lime green heels. “You wanted to… .” She was trying not to sound angry. “But you didn’t have to.” She looked at Tow-Kaye’s hand on her daughter’s stomach and asked her husband for some Tylenol. “This is my baby.” She pointed to her daughter. “Our last child.” Her hands covered her lips. Her eyes blinked. “She was supposed to go to college—to London; Africa. You … it’s all messed up now.” She sat straight up. “Now we have to use her college money on cribs and binkies, Similac and hospital bills. Jesus. Why us?”

His mother-in-law was the principal at their high school. Every day she’d come home telling Cindella what some teacher or janitor had said about them getting married. “It’s better to be pregnant and young than pregnant, young, married, and then divorced,” she heard a few teachers in the lounge say one day. Her mom agreed with them. One mistake is better than ten. And being a principal, she had seen teenagers make hundreds of mistakes. But until now, getting married wasn’t one of them.

She finally broke down crying. Her husband hugged her and told her crying wasn’t going to change nothing, and that his girl deserved a husband for her baby, not no boy who wanted to stand on the corner or play video games half the night. He leaned over and shook Tow-Kaye’s hand. “He’s more man than some men my age. He always was … a good kid.”

Tow-Kaye tied his shoelaces, then stared out the black tinted windows. “I’m responsible. I try to do what’s right, but …”

Her mother dug in her purse for Tylenol. “Responsible? Responsible?”

Cindella and her dad both said, “Don’t say it.”

“You knocked her up!” She let everything she had been thinking come out. “Pregnant and married at sixteen. Jesus Christ. What a disaster!” She closed her eyes and reminded herself that she was a principal: she knew better. She was a mother: she needed to do better. But all she could do was cry.

The limo pulled into the park and up to the conservatory. Tow-Kaye could hear the rest of the wedding party from the second limousine jumping out of the car, laughing, and heading their way. Adrina knocked on their window first. “What y’all doing in there, kissing?”

He burped and tasted peanuts, then looked at his ring and wished he could take it off—start the day all over again. “Man …” He said it out loud, even though he knew he shoulda kept it in his head. “This is the worst day of my life.”

They stared at him. And something inside him made him say what his father wanted him to say all along. “I’m too young to be married.” His stomach bubbled. “And I hate this suit.” He opened the window for air. “I’m only in eleventh grade. Who gets married at my age?”

Cindella started crying. Her mother started yelling. Tow-Kaye said he was sorry, but he couldn’t do this.


On Sale
Dec 4, 2018
Page Count
208 pages

Sharon Flake

About the Author

Sharon G. Flake has an international reputation as a top author for children and young adults. Her breakout novel, The Skin I’m In, established her as a must-read author among middle and high school students, parents, and educators. She has spoken to more than two hundred thousand young people, and hugged nearly as many. Flake has penned nine novels, numerous short stories, plays, and a picture book entitled You Are Not a Cat.

Her work has received numerous awards, such as the Coretta Scott King Honor award and the YWCA Racial Justice Award, and her books have been named to many prestigious lists, including Kirkus Review’s Top Ten Books of the Year, Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association, Top Ten Books for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library, Top Twenty Recommended Books to Read by the Texas Library Association, 100 Books Every Teenage Girl Should Read, and Booklist Editor’s Choice, among others. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information, go to, or follow her on Twitter @sharonflake.

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