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around my way


June 3 2006

Maybe I was over reacting to everything. I hadn’t spoken to Joey for three days, but that didn’t stop him from calling and leaving messages….so many fucking messages at that! The first day, he called six times and left three messages all apologizing for what he had said. I knew he still didn’t understand why I had gotten so mad and that only made my anger grow. He didn’t see anything wrong with his overprotective nature and that was where the problem laid. The second day, he only called five times and left two messages. He sounded annoyed in each one as he told me how childish he thought I was acting. The third day he only called twice and left one message that said, and I quote “Nigga, stop wil’n and call me back!”. Maybe he was right, I was acting a little stupid, but hell, they were MY FEEliNGS and I was entitled to them. I put on a Dashboard Confessionals album and went into a self loathing trance. Shit was getting way too complicated.

You would think that being home while everyone else was in school would be exciting, but it wasn’t. There was no one to talk to and nothing to do! You could only watch so many hours of Jerry Springer before the Transvestites started to make your eyes sore. I had talked to Amanda the night before and she was just as stressed out as she was the night that she’d found out she was pregnant. True to his word, Nate had officially broken up with her and he hadn’t come around since and I was relieved. That guy was nothing, but trouble. I just thanked God that he wasn’t the actual father because then that would have meant we would have never gotten rid of him. Now that he was out of her life, he was out of mine and good fucking riddance.

My pity party was interrupted by my cell phone ringing. Some Eminem song started playing and I knew it was Wesley. I was surprised by him calling so early, but happy to have someone to talk to.

“Wha dup Wes! Shouldn’t you be in school?” I asked and almost laughed at how much like Joey I sounded.

“What up Nigga! Yeah I’m in school, just at lunch, hiding in the bathroom and shit. I just wanted ta holla at ya and see how you was feeling.” Wesley replied in his patented ghetto white boy accent. I still never understood where he picked that up from. If I heard any other white person say the word Nigga, I would have been upset, but with Wes, I knew that he wasn’t trying to degrade me. He knew how some people felt about that word so he only used it with me and Andy.

“I’m good, real good. So how you been?”

“I’ve been stressing some shit lately hard as hell, but I’m good.” Wesley said and I could hear the sadness in his voice.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Not some shit that I can’t handle….wait a minute Drew wanna holla at you.”

“Drew? Who’s that?” I asked him.

“Andy, I’m trying to find a nick name for him.” I heard Andy yell in the background and then the two of them started to laugh. A small pang inside of my heart hit me as I realized I was loosing touch with my best friends. We all were back to speaking on a regular basis, but sometimes I felt like the odd one out. They saw each other everyday and I would be lucky if I managed two or three trips a month up there to see them. The distance between us wasn’t great, maybe a twenty minute car ride or an hour bus ride away, but it felt like we could have been separated by an ocean. When your sixteen with no car it’s virtually impossible to see you friends as much as you may want to. I was slowly getting over that fact and had moved on to other friends too, but there is nothing in the world that can beat life long friendships…..nothing.

“What up Kid! Long time no see!” Andy said into the phone. His voice was thick with laughter and I could hear him yelling for Wesley to stop whatever it was that was causing his laughter.

“Shut up DREW! I just saw you last week.” I teased using his “new” nickname.

“Yeah, but you bounced on us after two hours. What kind of shit was that?” He asked playfully. I did leave after a few hours because I felt uncomfortable. The two of them shared secret whispers and inside jokes and the whole time I just felt out of place with the two of them. Amanda was suppose to come with me, but she was sick that morning and cancelled. Now I know why she was so sick.

“Well if you two punks would’ve let me in on a few of your jokes than maybe I would have stayed longer!” I laughed in hopes of taking some of the edge off of what I had just said. Try as I might not to sound so bitter, I think I did.

“Sorry bout that…..So anyway is Amanda feeling better?”

“Yeah, kinda…..” I didn’t want to tell her business so I changed the subject. We talked on the phone for a good ten minutes before they had to go back to class. I missed the camaraderie that we use to share. Even though things for the most part were back to being good between us, I felt like I was an outsider looking in.

My cell phone rung again only this time Damien Rice’s “Delicate” came on. Call me cheesy if you want, its true. I knew it was Joey and I clicked him to the voice mail for the tenth time in three days. One minute later the voice mail alert went off and Joeys angry voice boomed into the phone.


As annoyed as I was by what he had just said, a silent thrill ran through my body. I loved the way he said that he loved me. It made me smile and act all………..girly? God! I hated that! I decided I would call him back, but I would make him wait until later that night. About twenty minutes later my front door bell rung. I was lounging only in boxer briefs because I didn’t see a reason to get dresses. I threw on a baggy white t-shirt that Joey had left at my house and went to answer the door. I could still smell traces of his cologne on his shirt and I smiled to myself. I looked through the peep hole only to see his angry face looking down at the grown. As if he saw me through the closed door he yelled for me to open up. I put on the chain lock and opened the door just a crack. He was annoyed by this and preceded to try and push himself all the way in, only the chain on the door stopped him with a loud thump.

“Chris! Let me in!” He demanded.

“No, we can talk from here.” I replied and matched his glare.


“Fuck you!” I yelled back and the hurt look that played across his face made me instantly regret my choice of words.

“I suggest you let me in cuz dem West Side Niggaz is looking for me for dat shit I did to there boy.” He whispered. I rested my head against the open space of the door and he reached out his hand and stroked my cheek. My resolve failed me and I unlatched the door. He walked in wearing a baggy blue velour track suit and a Red North Face Puffy Coat. It was almost winter and the weather was getting colder as the days past. His hair was pushed underneath a red Yankee’s fitted cap and he had fresh cornrows in his head.

“Who braided you hair…Mercedes?” I teased and he threw me an annoyed look and said it was his sister. He took his coat off and started in with the accusations.

“You been tripping on some crazy shit! Why the fuck you gotta act like dat for?”

“Like what….a man?” I yelled and he stood up and began to walk around the room.

“I am sick of dat shit! I know you a fucking dude, shit I suck your dick every other day!” He yelled and I blushed. He began to pace back and forth and threw up his hands in frustration. He looked at me curiously then it was like had had an sudden epiphany. “You know what, I don’t think that’s what your mad about. What is it your REALLY mad at?”

“I told you already. You treat me like I’m your girlfriend and not your boyfriend!”

“No, I think its something else.” He stated and I started thinking about all of the things that he was doing that bothered me. The gang stuff, the violence and how his personality changed. He sat down next to me and I turned towards him and took is hand into mine.

“You’re right. I just hate all this gang shit! I mean, I love you and I know you love me, but sometimes I don’t like you or at least how you act.” He dropped my hand I knew that I had hurt his feelings. He moved further away from me on the couch and I continued. “Don’t act like that, you know I didn’t meant it like that. But…..OH FUCK IT! You become the biggest asshole when your around all of your friends. I hate the fact that you drink and get all fucked up and then come to me and I have to deal with that! You could have killed that guy and the scary thing about that is I don’t think that would have bothered you!” Joey rose up off the couch and walked towards the door and opened it as if he was leaving. He thought better of it and closed it and came back into the living room. His voice was shaky as he spoke and I could tell that he was struggling to keep his composure.

“YOU THINK I liKE DOING ALL THAT SHIT……HUH!??” He yelled. I backed away from him. I didn’t expect him to get so angry. He wanted to know what was bothering me and I told him.

“If you hate it so much then why don’t you stop?” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself down.

“Its not that simple. You don’t know how shit works round here. I’m in this shit for life….until I fucking die son! I don’t like it, but dats how its gonna be.”

“What about when you go to college? Are you still going to be banging THEN?” I yelled. I was getting drained. I couldn’t understand why he was doing this. I’d heard the stories of once your in your not getting out and all that other crap, but if he wanted out, he could get out.

“I don’t know. College is more than a year away and once I’m away at school then things are going to change, but while I still live round here, I just gotta do what I gotta do.”

“You gotta do what you gotta do? What does that mean?” I asked getting worried.

“Look, I know there are some things you won’t get, but its not going to always be like this.”

“What about your temper?” I asked and he rolled his eyes and smirked at me.

“I don’t have a temper.” His smile was contagious and a grin came across my face.

“Yeah, you do and sometimes it can get scary.” He rolled his eyes and looked annoyed again.

“Can you please stop tripping over dat shit wit dat punk ass Westie. His ass deserved it.” I was about to go into a rebuttal when he silenced me with a kiss. The kiss was passionate and I forgot all about the anger I had felt. We had been a part for a couple of days and the need for affection was deep. I looked at the clock and knew that we had a few hours to be alone. I kissed him as he laid on top of me.


After Joey left I fell asleep and was awoken a few hours later by Aunt Mickey hovering over my bed. She looked upset about something and that feeling you get when you just know that something is wrong filled my chest. Its like a tight feeling and your breath’s go short.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her instantly waking up with the seriousness of her face.

“….I’m sorry…”

“WHAT?” I started to panic. I

“Its your mother, your birth mother…” She said and I saw a tear fall out of her eye and I just knew that my birth mother had died. With the exception of the occasional letter to and from her, we hadn’t spoke for a few months. It was hard for me to see her locked up and fading away in that jail so when I was ten, I asked my parents Dan and Jamie to stop taking me to see her. I know she must have felt like I replaced her with my new family, but it wasn’t like that. I just couldn’t stand watching her fade way in there. I wanted to remember her how she was before she got locked up. Even though she was using drugs back then, her body wasn’t wasted away and he spirit was still alive. It wasn’t until she was in prison for a few years that her spirit faded away and I didn‘t want to keep watching her soul die. I loved her, I really did, but I guess a small part of me was angry with how my life had been. As much as I tried not to, I partially blamed her for what Hector did to me and that killed me. She couldn’t have known what a monster that he was, but if she would have been home more or a little more perceptive then maybe she could have known just what was going on. For two long miserable years I was molested and abused by someone she thought of as family. Someone that she trusted enough to leave me alone with. I was angry with her, but that just saddened me.

“She’s dead isn’t she?” I asked and Mickey nodded her head. I thought I wasn’t going to cry. I thought that my anger would have gotten in the way, but a stray tear escaped and ran down my cheek. It had been so long since I cried and I cried hard. Aunt Mickey embraced me in a hug and I fell against her small frame and sobbed. I cried so hard that I couldn’t breath and I could taste the salt from my tears inside of my mouth. I don’t know how long I stood there crying, but Aunt Mickey was there for me. As much as I tried not to let myself depend on her and get too close for fear that she would leave me just like everyone else did, I had gotten close to her, I did need her. She may not have been the best parent, but she was the only one I had left. She was trying her hardest to be there for me and it had to be hard for her to raising me on top of dealing with her own issues. I loved and felt loved by her and I knew that she knew that.

“I’m sorry baby.” She whispered in my ear. She was a few inches shorter than me so she had to lean up to talk to me. I broke the embrace and asked her how she died. Aunt Mickey told me that she had been sick for a while with Ovarian Cancer and that it was untreatable. She had never mentioned in any of her letters that she was sick. Thinking of how lonely she must have felt, dying with no one to hold her hand got to me. I felt guilty for not being a better son. I sat down on my bed and asked to be left alone. Once Aunt Mickey had left I reached under my bed and pulled the shoe box where I kept my money hidden and the few photographs and letters that I had from my her. There were only three pictures. One was taken when I was a baby and it was of her holding me. My bastard of a father was in the picture too. He was someone who I would always hate. Maybe if he wouldn’t have been such a coward and left us then things might have turned out differently for us. In the second photo I had to be around five and it was of the two of us at a water park. I remember that day clearly, its one of the happiest memories that I had. It had to be the hottest day of the summer and I was so bored in the house. She wouldn’t let me go outside and play because she told me I might get a heat stroke because of the heat wave. I had no clue what a heat stroke was, but all I knew was I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. I stalked to my room and Hector followed me in and offered to take me to his friends house who lived upstairs. This was before he started molesting me and I still looked up to him like a big brother. I was about to go with him when my mother came in and told me that she would take me to the water park. I had so much fun that day. I couldn’t swim at the time, so she put me on her back when we went to wade in the wave pool. That was a large pool that had man made waves that rolled over and pushed us back a few feet every time one would come out. The mixture of excitement and fear I felt with each coming wave was exciting and that was one of the happiest memory’s I had of the two us. My legs wrapped around her waist and my arms held tightly around her neck as she gripped my legs and jumped with me on her back at the waves sending us floating in the water. That was when I still had my innocence and she still had her freedom. The last photo was taken when I was ten at the prison. I looked so young with this big curly afro on top of my head contrasting with the lightness of my skin and eyes. I loved Dan and Jamie, but they had no clue how to do my hair. If it wasn’t for Andrew’s mother, I would have ran around with that afro until high school.

I had all of this pain inside of me that I didn’t know was there. A part of me hated my mother for what she let happen to me and for her leaving, but a bigger part of me loved her. I loved her and would never get the chance to tell her that again. I don’t think I told her I loved her since I was ten, not even in our letters. Inside the shoe-box was a stack of letters from her. The first few years she was in prison, she would write me a letter everyday, and I mean everyday. Over the years the letters become less frequent and I was lucky if I got one once a month. I guess I was partially to blame for that. For every ten letters I received I sent her one. She probably felt that I had abandoned her. I didn’t mean to do that. I just had to go with my life and sometimes as shallow as it seems, I just didn’t have the time for her. I knew she was my mother and you shouldn’t have to make time for your family. The things that I had come to realize had come too late. My mother was dead now and there was no way for me to make amends.

I needed to clear my head. I through on my black pea coat and grabbed a knit cap and went for my walk. Aunt Mickey didn’t question to me as to where I was going. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting. The November wind blew frigidly across my face, drying the last traces of my tears. I walked around the neighborhood absorbing the streets that I now called home. Spray painted windows and littered streets were all that surrounded me as I left my block and ventured further down towards the west side of town. I needed to see Amanda. I just needed to talk to her. She was the one person besides Joey who could help me find the peace that I needed.

It was ten minutes before I arrived at Amanda’s building and what I saw made me want to turn back around. There, sitting on her porch as if it was a summer night was Nate and Jay. They hadn’t noticed me and I was tempted to turn back around and go home. Roger’s words echoed in my ear….. “ As a black man you can’t be three things……a punk….” I steeled myself and approached them. I didn’t even get one foot on the stoop before Nate started in. He stood up and blocked the front door so I would be forced to listen to what he had to say.

“Chris Nigga….last time I saw you, you were running. How you been?” He asked and Jay laughed and sat down on the bottom of the steps boxing me in. I didn’t want to talk to him, but I knew what needed to be done to shorten the ordeal. I put on a fake smile.

“Good buddy. How you been?” He looked at me cautiously. He didn’t expect me to be so nice.

“Cool…..” He replied with one eyebrow arched up.

“That’s good. What you doing here? I thought you broke up with Amanda?” Jay laughed and cut in.

“That don’t mean he can’t get no pussy when he want!” They both laughed and Nate looked me in the eye and moved closer to me.

“Yeah, I gets pussy whenever….and whatever else I want…..” He hissed and a chill ran up my spine. I hated how he made me feel, but I wasn’t going to let him know that.

“Yeah, I bet you do. I need to holla at Aman-Mandy so I’ll see you later man.” I was surprised that he moved aside to let me pass. It was Jay’s words that chilled me.

“Yeah…Your gonna see us BOTH lada.” He stated and the two of them walked off down the street laughing. I couldn’t understand how they both could be so open with themselves. I knew what they were implying with their words and the things that they did. I just would never expect that from people who were suppose to be these tough dudes from the ghetto. In the hood your taught that being a faggot is wrong yet Nate and Jay didn’t seem to be bothered by that.

I climbed to two floors to her apartment and the sound of Amerie’s “Why don’t we fall in love” was blasting so loud that my knocks on her door couldn’t be heard. I had to go back down stairs and ring the bell, then go back upstairs and knock again. She greeted me in a hug and knew that something was wrong.

“What happened? Is it Joey? You guys broke up?” She asked as she pulled me inside the apartment. I pulled off my caught and was assaulted with the smell of Ox-tales cooking on the stove.

“No. We made up a little while ago. Why was Nate down stairs?” I wanted her to tell me that he had lied. I wouldn’t believe that she would have sex with him when not only she was supposed to be with Peanut, but pregnant with his baby. She looked at me in confusion and shuck her head.

“Nate? I ain’t hear from that weak ass Nigga since he found out I was pregnant. He was here?”

“Yeah, downstairs with Nate on your steps with Jay.”


“Yeah, they said that he came here to see you….and he said you was giving it up.” She scrunched up her face.

“That Nigga isn’t even allowed to smile at me let alone stick his sick dick in me. I hate him Chris. I fucking hate him! To think, if this was his baby, I would have been left all alone. Thank God its not his!” She sighed.

“When are you going to tell your mom?”

“I don’t know yet, but that’s not why you came over. What’s wrong?” I let me run in with Nate and Jay distract me.

“Its my mom….my birth mom. She’s dead.” Amanda hugged me and I cried for the second time that day only this time it wasn‘t so hard. But, tears are not what I needed to get out. “I just feel like its my fault.”

“How could you think that it was your fault? How did she die?”

“Cancer. She had Cancer and I didn’t even know about it. I wasn’t even there. I turned my back on her. I blamed her for all of the shit that happened to me and I wasn’t a good son to her. The last time I went to visit her was six years ago. SIX YEARS!! What kind of son am I?”

“I don’t know what kind of son you are, but I know what kind of friend you are. You are the same wonderful person who lets me cry on his shoulder whenever I am feeling bad about something. The same person who is willing to give the shirt off your back and freeze just if it meant that the next man would be warm. The same guy that when I cry I’m fat too hands me a Debbie cake and a smile. That’s who you are. You were a kid back then. Truthfully, what happened to you was fucked up and there is no denying that, but if you keep blaming your mother then your not going to get over it. You can‘t blame yourself for what happened to your mother either and you didn‘t leave her. I’m sure she knew how hard it was for you having to see her locked away.”

“I know I shouldn’t blame her, but I can’t help it. I just which that I would have talked to her. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I do. You can’t change what happened and you can’t think that any of what happened is your fault.”

“But she died alone Amanda. She had no one to hold her hand.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Even if she didn’t die alone, she died without knowing that I loved her. I didn’t even get the chance to forgive her.”

“Chris, you were her only child. Do you honestly think that she didn’t think you loved her?” Amanda’s words were sinking in. She was right, I couldn’t blame her and I couldn’t blame myself. I hugged her and we talked for an hour before her mother came home. Mrs. Lopez was a short, woman who looked like a darker, heavier version of Amanda. She wore the lines of a hard life around her face. It had to be hard on her having her husband die leaving her alone to raise two girls on her own. It amazed me that Amanda was as well adjusted as she was, but her younger sister Wendy was another story. They invited me to stay for dinner. Thanks to Roger, I picked up a love of Ox-tales. Amanda was unusually tense around her mother which I understood. They had always been close and no secrets were kept between until now. If Mrs. Lopez suspected that something was wrong with Amanda, she didn’t comment on it except when she questioned her as to why she was putting garlic on her carrots.

Amanda walked me partially home because she was going to go to Peanuts. We stopped at Joey’s bodega where he was working. His father was angry that he had gotten suspended so he had to work the store’s night hours until he got reinstated. When we went in and his father said that he was down in the basement receiving a shipment and told us that we could just go down and visit him. Mr. Torres smiled at Amanda. I knew he wanted her to be dating Joey. If only he knew the truth.

Amanda thought it would be funny to sneak up on him so we crept down the steps. We laughed each time a step would groan. The dank mildew smell of the basement filled our nostrils. The basement was used as a storage room and was cluttered with boxes of non- perishable foods. The light was dimmed and we could see a pair of steps across the room that lead up to the street were packages were loaded. We didn’t see Joey anywhere until we walked over to the steps. The latch door which was normally closed unless they were unloading goods was open and we saw Joey talking to a short white man. The man wore dingy clothes and kept looking over his shoulders for non-existent threats. It was obvious that he was a drug addict. I wondered what Joey was doing talking to him. I made a move to go closer when Amanda pulled me back and whispered to me.

“Chris, lets just go.” I wondered why she wanted to leave all of a sudden and why her voice was so serious.

“Go? We just got here.” I turned my attention back up to Joey and the man. Joey reached inside of his jean pockets and took out a small bag filled with white powder. He was selling drugs? He was selling drugs! The man handed him a few bills and Joey turned around to come back down the steps. He froze when he saw my face. I was so consumed with rage that I didn’t know what to do with myself. The whole time we had been together, had he been selling all along? He knew how I felt about drugs because of my birth mother and he was selling them! I moved to walk away when he called out my name. I turned around to face him.

“Its not what it looks like.” He shrieked.

“Its not? How about we ask Amanda. Amanda what did you see?” I rhetorically asked and Joey looked over at her pleadingly.

“Look, I gotta bounce. Chris I’ll holla at you later tonight.” Amanda said and kissed my cheek and then Joey’s before she walked back up the stairs leaving the two of us alone. We were both silent for a moment.

“Tell me, how long have you been selling this shit?” I asked and he looked down at his feet.

“A month” He mumbled.

“I can’t be with someone who would sell that shit. Why do you keep doing shit to fuck things up?” I hissed. I would have yelled, but I didn’t want his father to hear us.

“Why do you keep on tripping?” He retorted.

“Don’t try to switch shit around! You are the one who’s fucking it up! My mom died today and I don’t need to deal with anymore shit from you or anybody else.” I made a move to leave and he embraced me. The warmth of his body consumed me and I found myself snaking my arms under his sweat shirt and caressing the skin of his back. He did the same to me and I could feel his cold hands quickly warming up with each brush against my back.

“I’m sorry about your mother. I’m sorry for a lot of things, but you don’t understand.” I felt defeated. The tears along with all of the anger that I felt towards him had worn me out. I let out a short breath and buried my face against his strong chest inhaling that familiar scent of too expensive cologne that comforted me.

“Make me understand then. Why don‘t you stop?” I whispered. He kissed the top of my head.

“I love you and I would do anything for you , but I have to do this. Just for a little while.”


“If I don’t….I’m dead.” The emotion in his voice was thick and scary to hear. I pulled him closer to me.

“Dead? What do you mean dead?” I asked. I wasn’t understanding what he was saying. Dead? What was he talking about?

“I have to do what they tell me or they’ll kill me….they‘ll fucking kill me.” I broke the embrace and looked up into his eyes and what I saw was fear. He was being serious…..dead serious…….

To Be Continued......

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