Quan knew he wouldn’t find the rocket ship; some guy overdosed in it and the city removed it. But when he sees it missing, he feels like there’s a similar hole inside of him. There are other holes in him too, like for Daddy and his childhood. This hole, though, feels like a closed door. Now, Quan will never have a brighter future.
Seeing that the rocket ship is gone makes Quan feel like his childhood is over. And more than that, it also seems to herald the end of what was once a bright future. The idea that Quan is full of holes speaks to all that Quan is missing in his life, like supportive parents, food security, and the ability to be a kid.
Quan sits on a graffiti-covered park bench. He remembers when he used to actually play here and the time he first met Justyce, and he wonders if Justyce would be sad that the rocket ship is gone. He goes to a fancy school in the rich part of town now. Quan looks down and sees “FUKC” carved into the bench in childish writing. He wonders what kids like him are supposed to do.
The misspelling and poor handwriting on the curse word scratched into the park bench suggests that whoever carved it was young—possibly too young to fully grasp the meaning of the word. This small inscription is deeply significant for Quan, as it spurs him to wonder what “kids like him” should do. This suggests that he feels just as alone and unprepared to tackle the world.
Quan looks back to where the rocket ship once stood and knows he’s stuck. Dwight’s death wasn’t an accident, though Mama doesn’t know that. Before Quan came to the park, he went to Martel’s. Martel scolded Quan for not telling him about things at home. He said he couldn’t help if Quan never spoke up, and he affirmed that one of “[his] guys” shouldn’t have to live that way. This made Quan emotional. Then, Martel held out an envelope of money. He told Quan to tell Mama that it’s from community members and reminded Quan again to speak up in the future if he has a problem.
Confirming that Martel had Dwight murdered shows Quan that someone cares about him and his family’s wellbeing. This is why Quan gets so emotional. He’s dreamed for years of someone doing away with Dwight—and now, not only has Martel done that, he’s also calling Quan “his guy.” Quan is truly part of the group and part of the family.
Then, Martel told Quan that the safety of Black Jihad’s members is a priority, and they’ll take care of anyone or anything that threatens that. Quan turned to leave, but looked back when Martel asked if he had anything to say. Quan felt like there were spiders under his skin, gulped, and said thank you. With a smile, Martel told Quan to be good and to be at the meeting in the morning.
However, Dwight’s death also shows Quan that he can never leave Black Jihad. Saying thank you wasn’t enough—Quan has to repay Martel’s loyalty by sticking with the gang, even if he doesn’t want to stay. The spiders under Quan’s skin suggest that Quan doesn’t really want to stay with the gang forever—he knows this will get him in trouble.
Quan has been good since he got out of prison. He’s doing well in school and stays out of trouble. But he also knows that his life resembles this playground. Once, it was bright and full of ways to take flight, just like how the playground used to have a rocket ship. Now, though, his life is broken and hopeless. Quan looks down at the misspelled curse word and amends it to “FUKCed.” That’s how he feels now that his rocket ship is gone. There’s no way out.
In this moment, Quan realizes he’s trapped. He no longer has his childish imaginary escape route—and there’s no way out of Black Jihad now that Dwight is dead. This moment, then, is the moment when Quan truly leaves childhood behind—but rather than this being a good thing, he sees it as something that will doom him.