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around my way


By Maddy A -

February 2005

The weeks flew by and the next thing I knew, I had been living in Newark for almost two months. My Aunt Mickey's job became permanent as I suspected it would become so we would be staying there. It was late August and my friendship with Amanda grew stronger as the days past. We were together almost everyday. I never questioned her about her attitude changes around her friends mainly because I could never find the right time to bring it up. I never forgot about that mystery boy and after two months he was still on my mind. I wanted to find out anything I could about him but I didn't want to seem too eager. The last thing that I wanted was Amanda to ask me why I was so interested in him. We were having a horror movie of the eighties marathon when I found the courage to ask her about him. We were in the middle of laughing at the cheesy special effects in "Prom Night", when I brought him up.

"So I've met all your friends". I asked, trying to make light of the question.

"Yeah for the most part. I'll introduce you to the rest when school starts up. Why do you ask? Are you nervous about not knowing anybody?" She inquired.

"No, it's not that, I just wondered why I never met that Spanish guy from the bodega."

"Huh? What guy are you talking about?" She asked. `Oh god' this is going to be difficult I said to myself.

"You know, the first day that we met. The guy that I knocked down that day. You two seemed pretty close and I just wondered why I never see you hanging with him."

"Oh that's Joey. If I tell you something you CAN NOT repeat it." Amanda whispered. It was just her and I only in the house and I didn't understand why she felt the need to talk so low.

"Okay but you don't have to whisper it's just the two of us." My humor was lost on her and her seriousness remained.

"That's Joey. I am not suppose to talk to him, so I don't see much of him anymore." She stated with a dejected voice and a downcast face.

"Why?" I asked.

"I grew up with him. My dad and his dad were best friends and when my dad died, Joey's dad kind of took over in looking after me. Joey was like a brother to me. We were close and told everything to each other. He was my best friend but when he turned twelve, he started changing. He joined up with some stupid gang and started acting like this hard core gangster. I thought I knew him but now that I think about it, I don't think I ever really did. I hated the new person he was becoming and we drifted apart. When I was thirteen I met Nate. Please don't get mad that I never told you but in a gang... He's Westside. Joey's Eastside. The two gangs are rivals and they hate each other. Nate doesn't let me talk to anyone who is from Eastside. So if I want to talk to Joey I have to do it on the low because if Nate found out that I was talking to and Eastie...he just wouldn't like it and lets leave it at that." Now things were starting to make sense. This explained why Joey and Amanda looked nervous while they were talking and the argument between Nate and Joey that day.

"AMANDA! NATE'S IN A GANG!?" I yelled. I knew that there was something bad about Nate that I didn't like.

"Please don't be mad. He wasn't always in it." She cringed as she answered.

"I don't understand how you can date a guy like that. He's not right for you. You can do so much better. You are better that that Amanda."

"Nate use to be this sweet and nice guy. He use to be so much fun to be around but gang life has hardened him. He's not the same guy I fell in love with." She wore a wistful look on her face as if she was imaging a time when life for her was simpler.

"So why don't you just dump him?" I asked. If she was unhappy with him than all she had to do was break up with him.

"I can't! You don't just dump a West Sider! I can't , you don't know what they would do to me...what he would do to me." She began to tremble and softly cry. I brought her body close to mine and held her. The solution to her problem was not as simple as I thought.

"Amanda you shouldn't stay with someone if you don't love them." I said to her softly. I just wanted to bring some sense of comfort to her.

"I know. Its just that he would kill me if I left him. I mean he would REALLY kill me. You know those bruises that I always have? He gives them to me. Sometimes all I have to do is look at him and he'll hit me. If I don't want to have sex ,he'll hit me until I give in. It's horrible! I try to remember how good things use to be but its not enough anymore. I wish I could leave him but I'm too afraid of what will happen if I try." My Amanda, my strong, funny confident Amanda had broken down right in front of me. I never saw her like that before. It bothered me to see her so upset. I understood her more in that moment than I ever did.

"He hits you?" I asked softly. "What kind of guy would ever want to hurt you. You are the sweetest girl that I know and if he can't treat you the way that you deserve than he is not worthy of you. What and ASSHOLE!" I yelled. She smiled up at me.

"God, Chris...thank you. You are the best friend that I have...I wish I could date you." She said to me. Strangely, I didn't feel as if she was saying that she wanted to be with me. It was like she was saying that she would date me but I was unattainable. 'Why would she think that?', I wondered.

"Girl you know I love you". We smiled at each other and spent the rest if that afternoon watching cheesy movies that were supposed to make you scared but only made you laugh. Despite my sadness over Amanda's situation I couldn't help but still be curious about Joey. My mystery guy now had a name and it was Joey...


It was now the end of August and school was to start in less than a week. Aunt Mickey took me to school to register. East High was a far cry from my high schools in Montclair and in South Jersey. Although the school wasn't half as bad as I imagined, it didn't have the technical advantages as my previous schools had. Even my middle school had better computer facilities but urban schools don't get half the privilege, educational wise, as the suburban schools get. But I was surprised to find that they had very impressive mathematics program. That weekend, Amanda asked me to go with her to New York for the Puerto Rican day parade. After endless moments of me calling her a "poser" for being Cuban, we went.

The train to New York was crowded with excited parade goers. The excitement of the day rubbed off on me and soon I was more excited than Amanda. The last time I went to a parade I was 11 and went with Wesley and Andrew to the West Indian day parade. Andrews father comes from Jamaica and took us and we all had fun that day.

When Amanda and I got there, it was so crowded. There seemed to be at least a million people flooding the streets of the city. One minute I was walking with Amanda holding onto her hand as I tried to lead us, and the next thing I knew she was gone. I turned to look for her but it was impossible to find her in the crowd and we quickly lost each other. I made my way into a pizza shop that wouldn't let me stay until I agreed to buy something. I called her cell phone from mine but the signals were busy. I repeated this for close to twenty minutes, growing anxious as more time past. I had never been to the city alone before and was a little afraid to be there without anyone else. I didn't even know what train to take home. I left to go look for her.

I couldn't help but to admire the magnificence of the floats as they passed. One float was covered with beautiful Spanish women wearing flamingo attire and dancing to salsa music. I thought I heard someone scream my name but I thought I had imagined it so I kept walking. I walked for about ten minutes and I kept hearing my name being called. Every time I looked, I didn't see anyone. Someone grabbed me from behind roughly. I turned around to see who it was. The guy who grabbed me was a short Hispanic guy with short jet black hair, spiked with way too much gel. He was average looking but looked a little "off in the head". You know how you can just look at someone and see that something isn't completely all together with them. Well, that's how he looked. He wore a baggy red T-shirt and khaki shorts. I took notice to a red bandana wrapped around his wrist.

"Damn, Nigga! We been chasing you for like an hour and shit." He said to me with his arm draped over my shoulder as if we were old friends.

"Do I know you?" I asked, trying to pull away from him.

"Oh Yeah , I 'm Loco. Amanda sent me to get you." He answered nonchalantly, oblivious to the fact that he was making me uncomfortable.

"Where is she?"

"She with Tearz in the pizza place. She had to pee." Loco was nice but he was extra hyper.

"So, who's Tearz"? I asked him. I had never heard Amanda mention that name before.

"Oh that's my boy. He and Amanda go way back. Been friends since like... ever." I was not interested in seeing Amanda act funny the way she always did when her friends were around. Loco couldn't complete a full sentence. He would jump from one topic to another without finishing the first. When we walked into the restaurant I saw Amanda sitting down looking exhausted. Her face brightened when she saw me. She rushed over to give me a hug.

"I am so sorry Chris. I turned around for like TWO SECONDS and you were gone." She said.

"It's okay, lets go back to the parade." I told her.

"Yeah, we can after my friend comes out the bathroom." She told me that I should go too because there weren't that many places to "go" once we got back out in the parade. There was a guy at one of the urinals with his back turned to me. The light in the bathroom was dim so everything was hidden by shadows. I couldn't see his face but he seemed familiar. After I handled my business I went to wash my hands. I looked up at him as he stood next to me. My heart immediately began to race as I realized it was Joey. He quickly looked over me like he knew me from somewhere but couldn't place where. He smiled at me and left. After I calmed down I went back to join Amanda and Loco only Joey was with them. His light brown wavy hair was pulled back with a red sweat band and his crystal blue eyes stood out against his baggy white T-shirt. His baggy light blue Jean shorts hung seductively off his hips. As I walked over, our eyes met and stayed locked until Amanda introduced us.

"Chris this is Joey, Joey you remember Chris. He's the one who tried to kill you." She laughed and his cheeks reddened.

"Sorry about that I was kinda already pissed and you were there so...Nice to meet you." He raised his hand to give me the "what's up" hand shake. He also had a red bandana wrapped around his wrist and a matching one tucked out from his back pocket. I didn't even attempt to give him that handshake, I just waved and he didn't seem to be bothered by that. If anything he smiled at me like he found it amusing but not in a condescending way.

"That's cool. You guys ready to go?" I said.

"You guys? Who says that?" Loco laughed. He was obviously making fun of my usage of "you guys" but I wasn't offended. I had heard worse comments.

"Steven don't be an asshole." Amanda said, coming to my defense and it was Loco's turn to redden.

"It's Loco...Mandy." I could tell he was making her angry and before I could step in Joey did.

"Hey guys lets go, the parade is almost over." Amanda and Joey talked like only best friends could do. I was a little jealous. Not because Amanda was talking to someone else but because Joey's attention was focused on someone other than me. I know I was being dumb but I couldn't help it. There was no way this thug was even into guys but still... I couldn't help it. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part but I could have sworn that I caught him staring at me a couple of times. Every time I would turn to look at him he would quickly turn away. We watched the floats, making comments on them as they passed.

"Damn Kid! Look at all those fine ass Chicas on them floats. My dick is getting mad hard." Loco said.

"Your dick always hard." replied Joey.

"Why you looking faggot? You wanna suck it?" Loco laughed at his own joke but Joey looked just as annoyed as I was.

"Shut up stupid." He told Loco. We continued to enjoy the floats and then one passed that was for gay Puerto Ricans. It had gorgeous guys on it dancing around and having a good time despite some of the protests from the crowd.

"You know I can't stand how these mutha fucking faggots prance around flaunting that nasty shit. I hope they all go to hell." Loco said. Amanda had a look of disgust on her face.

"STEVEN! You keep your stupid comments to yourself. I don't want to hear that shit!" She yelled at him. I could have been imagining it but Joey looked angry too. Probably because Amanda was.

"Amanda forget him. We all know that STEVEN talks a lot of shit." Joey said. She calmed down while Loco pouted.

"Shit, ya'll bitches know I'm right. Ya'll too pussy to admit it. My man Chris agree right man?" I was afraid that if I didn't agree with him they would all figure out that I was gay but I just couldn't bring myself to. My response was subtle.

"Whatever! To each his own." I stated and turned my attention back to the parade. I occasionally would steal a glance at Joey. I peaked at him for like the tenth time when my hazel-green eyes met his crystal blues. He gave me a half smile then his face fell and he looked forward. The rest of the day we barely exchanged two words. I scared him off I thought. The train was crowded and Amanda and I had to stand. Joey was sitting in front of me and I thought I saw him check out my package. Amanda and I were talking when the train stopped short, causing me to fall into Joey's lap. Our eyes locked and he turned just as red as me only it was more noticeable on his fair skin. We exchanged nervous laughs. I thought I felt him hardening underneath me but I jumped up when Loco said we looked like fags. I hide my face and Joey rolled his eyes muttering something in Spanish.

At the train station Amanda and Joey hugged and he left with Loco. Amanda came back to my house. After a minute or so, she realized that she had Joey's keys. She called Loco's house but there was no answer. She left the keys with me so she wouldn't forget to give them back. I was so exhausted from the day that I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow with crystal blue eyes in my thoughts. The ringing of the phone awoke me from a deep sleep. The clock read 11:30. Andy and Wes wouldn't be calling so late and I barley talked to them as it was sense my move here. Amanda said she was suffering from big girl syndrome and needed a meal and a nap so I knew It wouldn't be her calling. I groggily answered.


"Hey Chris! Honey it's Mickey. I won't be home tonight. I have a lot of work to do at the studio so I'll see you in the morning." She had been spending a lot of nights at the studio. Somehow I didn't believe that she was just "working". I told her good night and that I would see her in the morning. Less than a minute later the phone rung again.

"What do you want Mickey?" I said annoyed from being woken up again.

"Uh...hey, this isn't Mickey." The voice said hesitantly. I didn't recognize it.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Uh... Hey...hey this is Joey." My heartbeats speed up.

"Hey man, Amanda's not here." I told him, trying to control the unsteadiness in my voice.

"Yeah I know. She said you had my keys."

"Yeah, do you want to come and get them?" I prayed that he would say yes. I just wanted to see his face even if it was only for a moment.

"I need them but can you bring them to me. You live in West territory and those Niggaz would kill me if they caught me around your way." He said with no fear in his voice. God he was cute and tough...what a combination.

"Well, I don't really know my way around here yet?" I told him.

"Do you know where East Park is?" East park was about a twenty minute walk away from my house. I knew I shouldn't go out this late alone but I wanted to see him.

"Yeah I'll meet you by the swings in thirty minutes." I told him.

"YEAH! - I mean, yeah. See you in a few." He excitedly replied. I threw on my clothes and looked in the mirror. My hair was in need of trim. I usually kept my wavy hair cut close on top and faded on the sides but now it was about six inches long. I hadn't had a hair cut in close to six months so it was in a mop of waves. Amanda said it made me look cute like a little boy but I needed to find a barber soon.

It was a hot August night and the streets were mostly deserted. The occasional drunk or drug addict lay passed out in the street around me. I passed a group of guys all wearing green bandanas around their wrists. I knew that this was the color of West Side and I hoped that Nate wasn't with them. The guys sized me up as I pasted. My body tensed. Someone yelled out "We got smokes, we got smokes". I turned the corner and kept on walking. I heard two sets of foot steps following behind me. I was afraid to turn around. I speed up my pace. I turned on a darken street and the park was within my eye sight. A few more minutes and I would see Joey. As I speed up so did the footsteps. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and was temporarily relieved to see Nate and Jay.

"Shit! You guys scared the hell out of me." I said breathlessly.

"Yo what the fuck you doing out here. Ain't it a little too late for corn balls to be outside." Nate slurred. I could smell the alcohol and weed off his breath as well as Jays. As the two of them laughed, the anxiety grew inside me. I started to walk away when Jay put his hand to my shoulder to stop me.

"Why you bouncing? Me and Nasty just want to talk for a minute." Jay was swaying back and forth. Nate was fucked up but Jay was worse.

"Wh...What do you guys want to talk about?" I stuttered.

"Why don't we go into the park and chill." Nate replied.

"I'm meeting a friend in there already. I'll see you tomorrow Nate." I started to walk away but Jay stopped me again and spoke.

"Why you call him Nate. You should call him Nasty." I didn't like the way that Jay put emphasis on the word "nasty". They looked at each other and started to laugh. I stood there in utter confusion. Nate put his hand on my other shoulder and leaned down to whisper in my ear.

"Yeah, You should call me Nasty. Wanna know why"? Nate said with a wicked grin on his face. I didn't like where this conversation was headed. My mind said run but my body wouldn't let me. My eyes glanced from Nate and Jay then towards the park. Somewhere in those shadows Joey was waiting for me.

"That's okay guys I really should be going." I said. Their grip on my shoulder became tighter. It was obvious that they weren't about to let me go any time soon. Spit drenched my ear with every slurred word that Nate spoke.

"You wanna know why they call me Nasty?" He hissed. Chills ran up and down my spine. I didn't know what he was getting at and I didn't want to find out. They could hear the fear in my voice as I spoke.

"Tha...Tha...That's okay Nate. I really have to go." They gripped my shoulders so tight that I winced in pain. Something definitely was not right here. I needed to leave but they weren't letting me. As Nate spoke again and it started to become clear just exactly what they wanted.

"You know something "C"? You look soft. Almost like girl. I bet you feel soft too." He ran his hand down my cheek. I flinched at his touch. Jay leaned his head into the crook of my neck and inhaled deeply.

"Umm. He smells like a girl too." Jay said. Nate looked over at Jay and they shared a knowing smile. Nate turned my face to look up at his as he addressed me.

"So if you feel like a bitch.... and you smell like a bitch......than you probably fuck like a bitch too. "C--Can you fuck like a bitch?" Nate said. I could see lust all over his face. Okay I had to get out of there. I shucked them off of me and ran as fast as I could to the park. They laughed for a moment and ran after me. I reached the park and saw no one in sight. My heart pounded in my chest as I ran deeper and deeper into the darkened park. The park was huge and sat on over two acres. All I had to do was go into the woods a little and hide until Nate and Jay left. As I looked for a direction to run to someone's hand went on my shoulder and I screamed. Before I could through a punch, a familiar voice calmed me down.

"Shhhhh. Chris it's me Joey." I was more than happy to see him. Before I realized what I was doing I hugged him.

"Oh thank God it's you!" I said through struggled breath's.

"What's wrong? You look like shit." The concern in his voice took me by surprise.

"It...was...Nate and Joey. They were trying to-." I stopped my self before I said fuck me. I didn't want him to hear me say anything about fucking and another guy's name in the same sentence. I knew he couldn't ever want to be with me sexually but I didn't want to ruin any chances of a friendship.

"What were Nate and Joey trying to do?" Joey asked as he shot me a sideways glance.

"Uhh...Nothing...They were just acting like real ass holes." Joey looked at me for a moment, analyzing my face. He was about to say something when we heard Nates booming voice,

"YO ChrIS! WHERE YOU AT NIGGA? ME AND JAY WANNA HOLLA AT YOU FOR A MINUTE!" Jay cut in with his own threaten statement.

"YEAH...ONLY FOR A MINUTE...OR TWO...OR ThrEE!" Their laughter echoed around us. Joey took me by the hand and led me a few feet behind some trees.

"Okay man look those Niggas are crazy and I don't know what they want from you but it ain't good. We gotta make it over to the east side of the park. They know better than to go over there." Joey whispered. I nodded then glanced down to my hand that Joey still gripped. He followed my eyes and when he saw what I was looking at, he quickly pulled his hand away. It was too dark to be sure but I thought I saw his milky complexion slightly redden. But like I said it was too dark to be sure. He started to walk and whispered for me to follow. It was dead silent in the park. The smell of the summer night filled my nostrils. I could smell the faint scent of Joey in front of me. His scent brought a calmness over me as I inhaled. He smelled sweet and strong at the same time. If it wasn't for the fact that I heard Nate yell out for me again I could have let my self relax fully under the spell that Joey was unknowingly casting. We ran as fast as we could towards the other side of the park. It was hard to keep up with him. Joey was so fast. I could tell that he was holding back for my benefit but even with that he still ran like the wind. After running for a few minutes we stopped to catch our breath. I spoke first.

"Oh-My-God! Where did you learn how to run like that?" A smile crept on his face as he answered through his grin.

"I use to run track back in the day."

"Use to? You don't run anymore?" I asked him. As quickly as a look of regret ran over his face it was gone. He answered simply with a 'yeah' and looked away. I took that as a hint not to press on. "We can hang at my house till shit cool down. The family won't be home till tomorrow so we don't gotta worry about them being up in our business." As we walked towards his house I couldn't help but to let my mind wonder. Joey, me and an empty house. This was going to either be a night of opportunities or... a night of regrets....

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