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around my way


By Maddy A -

February 2005

I met Amanda at her house so we could catch the bus to school. It was a Wednesday, my first day and I was a little nervous. I just got my hair cut and Aunt Mickey bought me some new clothes, but I still felt like I would be out of place. Amanda looked great in her jeans and green t-shirt. I wore a white t-shirt with jeans and white Nikes. Everyone in my neighborhood, for some reason, owned a pair so I got a pair. As I walked through the halls, I saw that the school was pretty much all black and Latino. This was unusal for me to see becuase I had gotten use to going to school with mostly white kids. It seemed like the black kids stayed together and the Latino kids stayed together. I wished Amanda had homeroom with me, but my last name is Richardson and hers is Peterson. I could see that she was popular by all the people that swarmed around her. We could only take a couple of steps before somebody would stop her to talk. She would introduce me, but after the sixth person, I couldn't remember anymore names

I walked into my first period class and took a seat in the front. As I sat and waited for class to get started, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said "What's up?" I turned around to see Loco, Joey's friend. I was just happy to see someone I knew. I smiled and spoke to him.

"Hey Loco, I didn't know you went here?"

"Yeah, I'm supposed to be a senior, but I missed too many days last year. What you been up to?"

"Nothing much, still trying to recover from the parade last Sunday."

"I feel you. Shit, my feet are still killing me, but it was worth it to see all those fine ass Chicas." I smiled at him and turned around as our homeroom teacher walked in. She was a thin dark-skinned black woman with a pleasant demeanor who introduced herself as Ms. Newman. She gave out our schedules and we were allowed to talk until the bell rang. I was a little disappointed that Loco moved across the room to talk to a couple of other guys. He saw me looking and waved me over. He introduced me to the three guys as "C". That nickname would never grow on me. Two of the guys were white and introduced themselves as Greg and Danny. The third was a brown skin black boy named Rodney, but he said to call him by his nick name Peanut. He was the nicest out of all and we quickly got into our own conversation. He was cute and looked familiar, but I didn't know where I knew him from. He was a little taller than me and wore his hair closely cropped on top and faded on the sides in a Brooklyn Fade. We talked about our summers and I was surprised that he said he spent his surfing in California. For one, I didn't think anyone from Newark would go to California, let alone go there to surf. I knew it was wrong to underestimate anyone's interests. I mean, I didn't know any other black person who loved "The Smiths" as much as I do.

Peanut and I were in the same history class. Our history teacher was a mean little man who spoke rudely. It was easy to see that he hated his job and took it out on his students. He assigned us a ten-page report on Greek Mythology due at the end of the month. He said we were to work in pairs, but not giving us much directions as to how he wanted it done. A ball of nervousness formed in my stomach as I wondered who I was gonna work with when much to my relief, Peanut asked me to work with him. We exchanged numbers and made plans to get together on Friday to work on it. He was loud and funny and reminded me a lot of Andy. I hadn't had a real conversation with him or Wesley in months. The last time I saw them was our talk in South Jersey, and that was more than six months ago. I wasn't sure if I was ready to see them again, but I missed them to much not to try. I would have to talk them soon.

Classes went by pretty fast and a few people recognized me as Amanda's friend. I hadn't seen her all day. My college prep classes didn't begin until after lunch, so I wouldn't know if we shared any until then. I knew Joey went to school at East Side, but I didn't see him either. It was a huge school so I hoped I could at least catch a glimpse of him. I hadn't seen or spoken to him since the afternoon I left his house. Even though I still was a little hurt from what happened, I couldn't help wanting to see him. It was after fourth period when I ran into Loco again. He asked me to come with him in the bathroom for a smoke. I knew that I shouldn't, but I guess a small part of me wanted Joey's friends to like me. I had art that period and figured I could blame the fact that I was new for being late. I listened to Loco talk about this girl or that girl or about which girls would suck your dick and which ones wouldn't. Sex seemed to be the only thing on this guys mind. I thought that he must have had ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ). He couldn't stay on any one subject for more than a couple of seconds before jumping to the next.

I went into the stall to use the bathroom. Loco made fun of me, asking if I was hiding a little dick. I just felt more comfortable with the privacy. I heard two people come in and the lock of the bathroom door click. Two voices spoke in a language that sounded like Spanish but different. A third voice in English said for them to talk in English not Portuguese. The third voice sounded a little like...No it couldn't be him, could it? Loco spoke just as I was leaving the stall.

"A,Tearz, guess who in my homeroom?"

"Who? And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Joey, STEVE!" Joey and the other two laughed as Loco pouted. He quickly got over the pouting thing and became excited again.

"A'ght, Nigga. Relax!. "C's" in my homeroom. Remember him from the parade. You said was mad cool and shit." I stood there looking at them. They still didn't even notice me. So, he talked about me. I found this very interesting. I saw Joey's ears redden slightly matching his red t-shirt. He wasn't wearing his bandana around his wrist today and neither was Loco. But they all had red sweat band cuffs on which I assumed probably had something to do with their gang. Joey spoke quickly and I could tell that he didn't want to talk about me. So did the other guys.

"Yeah whatever. What lunch you two got?"

"Damn, kid. You okay? What? You don't like him now? Because after the parade you kept talking about him and shit going on and on about how cool you thought he was. I thought you would want to know." Loco and the other guy exchanged a suspicious look that Joey didn't notice.

"No, I don't even know him. So what lunc..-." He stopped talking as his eyes met mine. What the hell did he mean he hardly knew me. I spent the whole night at his house. I told him things that only a few people knew and here this fool was telling his friends that he didn't even know me. I should tell him that he knew me when he was tonguing me, but that would be stupid on my part. I was not about out myself. Instead, I did what I always do when something is bothering me. I swallowed it down and put on a smile.

"Hey Joey, what's going on?" He returned the smile, but I could tell it was forced. I could feel his discomfort. I was pissed at him and I think he knew it. The third guy was short and fat and said that his name was Kenny. I stood around as Loco and Kenny talked. Joey remained mostly silent. Then, Loco pulled out some weed from his pocket. I had never smoked it before or been around anyone while they did, but I was curious to see how it would affect me. I didn't want to smoke in the middle of a school day. Joey looked pissed when he spoke.

"Damn, Loco. Why the fuck you bring your shit to school. You know what would happen if we got caught with this shit. Put it away."

"Damn, Nigga. You acting like a little girl. Calm the fuck down. You knew what we were going to do. If you ain't wanna get high then you shouldn't of come."

"Whatever. I'll talk to you later." He turned to leave and I told Loco and Kenny that I had to get to class and followed him out. The hallway was deserted. It was just me and Joey. I looked at him and he smiled down at me and started talking.

" you like school so far?"

"It's a lot nicer than I thought it would be. Do you know where the Art301 class is?"

"Yeah I have that too. Let's go." We walked down a maze of corridors before we got there. The room was a huge peach painted room, cluttered with various clay models and paintings. It smelled of dust and acrylics, but not in an unpleasant way. The art teacher was a large white man who was balding. His name was Mr. Balding. I thought the name suited him. He was still kind of a cute in an older, white man way with dimples and dark brown eyes. He was friendly and a little effeminate. Maybe that's what made me take an immediate liking to him. I am not an artist by any means, but I can paint a little. Joey sat on one side of the room. I sat on the other. I felt someone was watching me. I knew it could only be Joey and sure enough, it was him., He quickly averted his eyes. This little game that he was playing was beginning to wear thin, but it still made a silent thrill run through me. Part of me wanted to believe that maybe just maybe he liked me like I liked him. I knew I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I couldn't help it. Even if he didn't like me, but was just gay, it would have still been enough for me. The comfort of knowing that I wasn't the only one out there would have been enough to keep me sane. Sometimes it felt so lonely.

I had lunch with Amanda and was surprised to see Peanut sitting with her. They were talking and laughing like old friends. They both greeted me with a smile and looked at each other asking how the other knew me?

"Peanut you know Chris?"

"Yeah, C's in my homeroom. How do you know him?

"He lives around the corner from me. We met this summer." They were talking about me like I wasn't even there. That's one pet peeve that I have, when people talk about me when I am standing right there. I wondered how they knew each other, but everyone seemed to know Amanda so it wasn't a big deal. I sat down next to Peanut and addressed Amanda.

"What classes do you have? We exchanged schedules and found that we had the same classes for the remainder of the day. Some of her friends came and sat down with us. One girl was giving me the eye and it was obvious to everyone that she liked me. She was a pretty dark skin girl. Petite with a bright white smile and a short hair cut that looked feminine on her. She told me that her name was Kayla. To bad I wasn't into girls because she was cute. After lunch, Amanda and I walked to our next class., Advanced English. Our teacher was a nice Asian woman. Her name was Mrs. Li. She was a young teacher who, I later found out, still held her passion for teaching. This day was turning out better than I expected.

After I got home and settled, I began thinking about Andy and Wesley. I wondered how they were. The phone conversations that we had been having seemed to be stretched. Our once easy flowing friendship had become slightly forced and that wasn't my fault. I had to start mending the fences that I broke. I called up Andy first because he was the one I use to be close's to. After two rings he answered.

"Hey, Chris. Boy what's up?" He answered aware that it was me before I said anything. The wonders of caller I.D. are endless

"Hey, Andy. How you doing?"

"I've been good. We haven't talked in like two months are you doing good? He asked cautiously.

"Yeah, I've been a lot better actually." I was beating around the bush. So was he. I bit the bullet and just said what I needed to. "Look I'll get to the point. I miss you and Wesley. I know that it's my fault that we aren't close anymore and I'm sorry about that, man. Can we get things back to the way they were?" There was no hesitation in his voice.

"Yeah! You are my boy and it's been killing me to know that you were hurting and didn't want my help or Wesley's. I don't wanna make you feel bad about anything because I guess I kinda understand, but I am glad that you're coming back."

"You know something...So am I." We talked a while longer before I hung up. I knew I had to call Wes and get things straight with him, too. We hung up and I called Wes. Our conversation went just about the same way. We made plans to get together the next weekend.

After hanging up with Wesley, I decided to go ahead and call Peanut. We had lots of work to do. I dialed his number and a gruff male voice picked up.


"Hey, can I speak to Peanut?"

"Who's this?" The voice was rude and filled with attitude. I thought maybe he had a brother he didn't tell me about.

"Uh, this is Chris, a friend of his from school." The voice was silent for a moment. Then I heard that familiar laugh that made my body go cold. Oh God this could not be him! Please don't let it be him.

"What's up, Bitch? Why you run from me the other night?" It was him. I thought Peanut looked familiar. He was Nates' younger brother. They looked almost exactly alike except where Nate's face had a sneer permanently on it Peanut's wore a friendly approachable one. My voice cracked as I spoke.

"Hey Nate...Is Peanut home?"

"How you know my brotha?" He asked. I could almost see the sneer on his face through the phone.

"We're in homeroom together. Is he home?" I asked timidly.

"Nigga, you better stop rushing me off the phone. He at work. But you ain't answer my question. Why you run from me and Jay?"

"I had to meet my friend. Listen, I have to go. Can you just tell him I called?"

"You ain't going nowhere till you answer my question. Me and Jay was just trying to welcome you to the neighborhood and you ran off like a little bitch. I knew you were a bitch." I didn't have anything to say. Something about him caused this reaction in me where I couldn't think right. In my head I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up and leave me alone, but I didn't. I am a naturally reserved person, but I know how to defend myself. People just assume because of my light skin and the fact I am a little on the short side that I can't stand up for myself. I'm not confrontational in the least, but I know how to stand up for myself when necessary. But with Nate I was unable to do that and I think he sensed it. He knew it and took advantage of it.

"I told you I had to meet a friend, but I gotta go. I'll see you around."

"Yeah Nigga. I'll see you around and don't worry I'll get to give you a proper welcome soon." He laughed and hung up. I stood there with the phone in my hand unable to hang it up. The busy signal came on and it wasn't until I heard the operator come on that I hung it up. What was it about him that did this to me? He was just an ordinary guy. There was nothing powerful about him. Who was I kidding. He was at least six foot four and two hundred pounds of muscle. If he didn't scare me so much, I might have been attracted to him. What does he want with me? Why does he bother me so much? I was afraid to ask that question oul loud. I was afraid that I already knew the answer....

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