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around my way


By Maddy A -

February 2005

I woke up the next morning with a headache that not even four Tylenol's could cure. How I got home later that night was a blur, but I remembered something about a bus, drunk loud Amanda and a sobered annoyed Peanut sneaking me into my house from the back door. Not that it mattered because Aunt Mickey was spending most of her nights at Roger's. My life as a latch key kid. You would have thought that she had moved into his house and not him supposedly moving into ours. God! My head was spinning and I felt nauseous, but I didn't want to get out of bed to throw up. The light in my room seem to be magnified a thousand times more than normal. The sun was like fire to me, burning brightly into my retinas, even with a pillow over my head it still hurt. I only had three beers, no four...wait, I had five...I don't know how many I had.

After the incident in the bedroom with Joey, I had been in a funky mood for the rest of the party. Amanda could tell instantly that something was wrong, but I didn't tell her. To make matters worse, Joey stayed at the party with Mercedes hanging off of him the whole damn night. I really did not like her. Everything about her screamed "Future Baby's Mama". He looked just as miserable as I was, but he made no attempt to talk to me. Our eyes would meet occasionally and he was always the first to look away. I hated him that night. So he was Catholic, hell I was Christian. Well, technically Dan and Jamie were Jewish, but they didn't practice so organized religion was something that I wasn't really raised with, but I did have faith. I still had morals and values. He was one of those people who hide behind his religion. That was BulLSHIT! DID HE THINK THAT IT WAS EASY FOR ME?!? And if he was so high and mighty on his holly rolling cloud then why was he in a gang? I'm pretty sure that right next to the "thou shall not sleep with guys if you are one, even if it feels right" commandment, there is a "thou shall not be an under age drinking, weed smoking gangster." But, like I said I wasn't very religious.

I had to put aside my feelings because today I was going to be hanging out with Andrew and Wesley. The last thing I felt like doing that day was taking the hour long bus ride to Montclair. But I knew it wouldn't be smart to cancel. This would be the first time that I would see them in over six months. Just when I put another pillow over my head, my cell rang. Begrudgingly I answered it.

"Hello..." I said, my voice hoarse with morning breathe and the alcohol remnants of the night before.

"UUGGH!...I feel like shit." Amanda said. She was suffering just as bad as I was.

"Join the club. What time is it?"

"Damn... its like 12:30." She said, surprise evident in her voice.

"Morning or afternoon?"

"Does it really matter?"

"You have a point." I answered quickly.

"You still going to see your friends today?" She asked. I got the feeling she wanted me to invite her. I didn't want to ride the bus alone and her company was always nice.

"Yeah do you think you can drag your ass out of bed and be ready in an hour?"

"Well, I don't know. I'm having a fat girl day and my bed is feeling pretty warm..."

"Shut up! See you in an hour."

"Damn! You gay men are so temperamental! Okay GIRLFRIEND! See you soon." She said in her best "ghetto girl" tone.

"Amanda if you call me girlfriend again, my size nine's will be up that cushy ass of yours." I told her with mock anger. She laughed and I cringed. Her voice was dry and cracking and when she laughed it sounded like she was coughing up filmy disgusting things.

"Okay, see you in a few Mr. Manly."

"Oh, and Amanda..."


"Brush your teeth, I can smell the funk over the phone...see you later." I hung up as she was making her rebuttal.

I hopped in the shower and let the hot water wake me up. My body felt tired and not just from the lack of sleep. This whole situation with Joey was exhausting me. Why do people turn simple questions into difficult answers? I had learned in my short life that life is only hard when you make it hard. It could be easy if you let it. He liked me and I OBVIOUSLY liked him so why couldn't we like...just like each other?

I walked over half a block to meet Amanda. Although it was late September, the weather was unusually hot. I wore a plain blue Old Navy T-shirt and Khaki shorts. Amanda wore a pair of her signature "booty choking" pants that hugged her curvy body and a pink wife beater tank top. We caught the hour long number 94 bus ride to Bloomfield then took the fifteen minute number 28 bus ride to Montclair. As we rode along the downtown district of Montclair, Amanda looked around with curious eyes.

"Damn, Chris your neighborhood looks rich ass hell!" She said. Montclair is not a very wealthy town but you would think that it was because the neighborhoods were neat and clean like most average suburban areas. She had spent her entire life living in the ghetto's of Newark and was never exposed to living in towns such as Montclair.

We walked the four blocks down Bloomfield Avenue to get to Wesley's house. We had plans to meet at three but we were half an hour early. Wesley lived in your average split level house. He had three older brothers and two younger sisters but only his sisters lived there. His two older brothers, Carol and Henry were Sophomores at Kean University and his eldest brother had his own apartment. Wesley's parents were in their late fifties and very "old school" Polish immigrants. They had a very old fashion way of thinking. They were devout in their religion. Some weird variation of Catholicism that I couldn't remember the exact name of. They believed in the sanctity of family and held strong morals that I thought were just an excuse to be strict. They came to America from Poland when he was ten. The shy quiet kid with the heavy accent was gone and replaced by this smart ass wise cracking "fake thug" sixteen year old. Wesley was who he was and you had to love him for that. I think that his parents might have been racist because they never seemed to care too much for Andy and I, but they were always nice and polite. At least his mother was. Mr. Kiplowski on the other hand never bothered much with us. He especially didn't like how Wesley acted. As I told you earlier if there was such a thing as "acting black", then Wesley did. His attitude, the way he dressed and the things that he did would lead you to believe that he was from "the hood" instead of Montclair and I think that his father blamed Andy and I for that.

I could see the anxiety etched on Amanda's face as we waited for Wesley to open his door. As cool and funny as she was, she was shy when it came to meeting new people, but you would never guess she was like that. I heard yelling coming from inside his house and I thought that he was at "it" again with his father. Wesley loved the man and without a doubt Mr. Kiplowski loved his son, but they never saw eye to eye. Whether it was about clothes, grades, or the braids that Wesley wore in his hair the summer that we were going to eighth grade, they always seemed to be arguing about something. I heard yelling in English so I knew then that he wasn't arguing with his father because that was done in his native language Polish. I couldn't understand what was being said but whatever it was it sounded like the fighting was getting violent. I rung the bell again and finally the flushed, tear streaked face of Wesley opened the door. He looked shocked to see me and embarrassed to be seen crying. He looked over at Amanda and unsuccessfully attempted to wipe of his face with the back of his sleeves.

"Chris, what you doing here so early?" He asked as he embraced me with the "bro hug". He wore a dingy base ball cap and hooded sweat suit outfit. He usually dressed like a cross between a thug and a preppy. He usually kept himself done up nicely with the latest urban attire, but that day he looked horrible.

"Early, Wes it's almost three...Is everything okay. I heard yelling." I said. He looked over his shoulder and closed the door partially so we couldn't see who was inside the house.

"Yeah...listen dude I am really happy to see you and shit, but can you come back in like twenty minutes? I'm trying to take care of some BulLSHIT! Right now." He put emphasis on the word "bullshit" and looked over his shoulder at the person I was sure in there that we couldn't see. I was a little hurt that he would send me away like that. Hell, I hadn't seen him in months and had barely talked to him and now he was sending me away like I didn't matter. I was not going to let him know that though.

Amanda and I went to grab something to eat and she could tell that I was bothered, but my girl didn't press me. I was glad she was my friend, no best friend. She always knew what to say and what not to say. After forty-five minutes we made the trip back to Wesley's. This time he opened the door looking freshly showered and happy. His dark brown hair was cut low in typical buzz cut fashion, only he had about three inches on top that he spiked up in a faux hawk. He changed into long black basketball shorts and a matching jersey with a baggy black T-shirt underneath. For some reason that day, I thought he looked cute and I mean REALLY cute. Maybe the fact that I was falling hard for Joey had something to do with why I was noticing how cute Wesley was. His bright green eyes shined when he smiled and his teeth seemed extra white. His normally pale white skin held a hidden glow with traces of a summer tan still present. He just seemed to be really happy about something and I was glad that he was in a good mood.

"What up son! My bad about before I had to handle some shit, but I'm glad you're here, I missed you man!" Wesley said. I introduced him to Amanda and we sat in his living room. No one was home except for him but I noticed two cans of soda on the table.

"You got more company in the back?" I asked him jokingly. His face became uncharacteristically serious.

"NO!--Why you asking?" He said in his "ghetto white boy" accent.

"Relax man, I was just kidding. Where's Andy?"

"He should be here any-" Wesley was cut off by the sound of the bell. He opened the door and there stood Andy, with that patented goofy grin plastered all over his face. God he was looking good too! Damn Joey! Because of him I was now looking at my "brothers" like I could just fu-...Never mind.

"Bro!" Andy said as he engulfed me in his big arms. He had been working out hard since I saw him last because his arms were huge! He was a fat kid, more on the lines of chunky and use to get picked on until he started to play football when we were twelve. Over the years he had trimmed down to a medium 170 on his six foot one frame, but now he had bulked up at least fifteen more pounds. He had on blue nylon basketball shorts and a white wife beater that glowed under his dark brown skin. He wore his white sweat socks pulled up to his knees were they me the bottom of his shorts and addidas sport flip flops in the style that most athletes did when trying to feel comfortable. His hair had grew and he was wearing it in small, shiny dreadlocks and the tips were dyed a light brown. He had them pulled back by a sweat band that made the corners of his eyes chink up into little almonds and he had a small goatee that made him look more like twenty one then sixteen. I laughed at the bits of grass and garden debris he had in his hair. Amanda eyed him up and down just waiting for her chance to pounce.

"Bro! Look at you all thugged out! I'm the one from Brick City!" I told him.

"Brick City? Is that what they calling Newark now?" He asked chuckling.

"You know it is Nigga!" I said, not sounding as "ghetto" at all. Wesley went to get us some soda as Andy, Amanda and I went back into the den. I cringed as I saw Andy pick up one of the soda's that sat on the table. He looked at me like I had lost my mind and Amanda laughed.

"I think our friend Chris doesn't think that you should be drinking that." Amanda said. Wesley brought back the drinks and sat on the arm of the chair that Andy sat which I thought was odd since he was sitting on a lounger couch and their was more than enough room on the three person couch that Amanda and I were on. Not to mention the leather computer chair across the room. Just a little weird.

"Why?" Andrew asked. Wesley shot him a look and casually bumped his leg with his foot. It was subtly and Amanda didn't seem to notice, but my "gay detective" did. God! I was getting out of control here. First ogling my " bro's", then thinking that maybe something fishy (bad choice of words) was going on? Joey really did a number on me. I was never this "Gay" until he came into the picture. I needed to revert back to how I was before I met him because this `new me' wasn't to my liking.

"Because, it was just sitting here when we came." She laughed as she answered him. Andy looked at us like we were crazy before putting the soda back down and changing the subject.

"Damn, just a are you two dating?" He asked us trying to change the subject. I looked at Amanda and was ready to laugh when much to my surprise she squeezed my knee and licked her lips as she answered Andy.

"Yeah! For like two months now, but we were trying to keep it on the low." She said. I didn't need her to lie for me and I didn't want to start rekindling my friendships with Wesley and Andrew with a lie so I looked at Amanda and put my arm around her.

"Now what my girl here is trying to say is that we are really good friends." I said.

"Yeah, really, REALLY good friends!" She said seductively. What was she doing to me? I loved her, I really did, but she was trying my patience. I glared at her and she just laughed at me before she set them straight. "No, we really are just friends and I have a boyfriend already. I just like to make our little Chrissie squirm." Andy and Wes found it hilarious at the nickname that Amanda called me. I regretted telling her about Aunt Mickey`s `nick name'.

"Chrissie...Humm?...I like it." Andrew stated and he and Amanda laughed as Wes and I looked at them wondering what they found so funny about Andy's corny joke. It was then that I realized why I took to Amanda so easily. She reminded me of Andy. Their out going personalities, their ability to be straight forward when everyone else is sugar coating what they mean. This made me wonder if they acted so similar and she figured out that I was gay, could he? I knew him for close to eight years so could he have figured it out on his own a long time ago? I was driving myself insane with those thoughts and I tried to ignore them, but they kept lingering in the back of my mind.

We spent the day reminiscing about old times. Amanda thought it was all too funny when Wesley convinced me to dress up like a ninja for Halloween in the eighth grade. What he didn't tell me was that no one else would be dressing up, so there I was all decked out in my black shroud and death mask while everyone else wore regular clothes. That had to be the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, but looking back it was also one of the funniest. I kept noticing that Wesley and Andrew kept finding some way to touch each other. A gentle push of the hips with the other's hip or a bump of the shoulder as we walked down the street. They just kept touching each other. I tried not to watch them so closely, but I did anyway. The two of them had gotten much closer since I pushed them away, but strangely I didn't feel as left out as I thought I would. It was like we all were still best friends but the two of them had this intense bond that didn't take away from their friendship with me. Weird, but I kind of understood it. Amanda got along great with the two of them and it was no surprise that she found herself and Andy separating from Wes and I to have their own little side conversations about God knows what.

We hung out at the Lackawanna Plaza Shopping Center where we had a run in with this big Italian guy who fit the stereotype of a typical `meat head'. He was a little taller then me and had about twenty pounds of extra muscle that I didn't. He had his short wavy black hair slicked with so much Gel that Loco would have told him it was too much. I could smell the strong cologne off of him from across the coffee shop that we all sat in. He didn't say anything to us, but he glared at Andy like he was wanted to kill him. Andy tried to ignore him, but I could tell that he was bothered by it. I asked him about it, but he told me it was nothing and I left it alone. Wesley looked at him with sympathy and Andy gave him a slight smile before looking over to see me watching them. He looked away trying to pretend that nothing had happened. What was with the two of them?

Time flew all too quickly and before we knew it, it was time to take that hour long ride back home. Amanda talked my ear off about how much she liked Andrew, but then she said something that made me really start to overanalyze some things.

"Too bad Andy's off limits because he would make the perfect boyfriend." She said. I turned towards her and looked at her questioningly.

"What do you mean he's off limits?" I asked her. She looked at me like I was the stupidest person in the world.

"You are such and idiot...but I still love you." She said and I let the subject drop.

It was almost ten so I walked Amanda home. When we got to her building Nate was sitting on her stoop with Jay and Pasha. Her hair was still streaked with that awful shade of green and she still looked like a hood rat. Some things would never change. Much to my relief Nate didn't even acknowledge me. He started yelling at Amanda.

"Yo Bitch! Where the fuck you been at all day! I been waiting on your ass for fucking three hours!" He yelled at her. She started to tremble and my heart went out for my girl. I don't know where the courage came from but I was not about to let him get away with talking to her like that.

"She went with me to go to a friends house." I told him. The strength my voice had surprised me. Big mistake making him notice me. He stepped up close to me. His tall frame looking down at me menacingly.

"Oh yeah, who's your friend. The same person from the park." He said to me. Jay began to laugh, but Nate silenced him with a squint of his eyes. He reminded me of what happened and all the fear of that night returned. Against my will, my voice wavered.

"N..No. It was my old friends from back home." I said.

"Home? Where's home?" He asked me.


"I bet you two had fun. Chilling and shit while I had to wait. You should chill with me and Jay one of these days. We can show you how real Niggas have fun!" He said. He was saying all this shit right in front of Amanda and Pasha. Pasha had a smile on her face like all the things he said was funny while Amanda had fear on hers. A mixture of fear for herself and fear for me.

"Ye..Yeah...Okay I have to go. By Aman--Mandy. I'll call you tomorrow." I replied and got the hell out of there. I thanked God that I remembered to call her Mandy. I didn't want to give Nate any more reasons to talk to me then he already had. Nate raised his eyebrow at me and Jay looked at him and they shared a silent agreement. I didn't want to know what it was that they agreed on. Nate put his hand on my shoulder and to an outsider it would have looked like a friendly gesture, but I knew better.

"A'ight Nigga you can bounce. I gotta talk to my girl about some shit anyway." I waved to Amanda and began to make my way down the street when Nate called out to me again. I turned around to see him a Jay lick their lips and he said, " Don't forget, we all gonna chill...real soon." The puzzled look on Amanda's face became even more confused. I just turned away and began to walk down the street towards my house. The day was unusually hot, but right at that moment, the night suddenly grew cold. I walked up the block trying to shake off the chill that was now running up my spine....

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