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around my way


June 3 2006

“Yo! Why the fuck you two ALWAYS together and shit?” Loco asked as he walked into homeroom. I couldn’t be sure if he was joking or not; with Loco, sometimes it was hard to tell.

It had been almost six months since I met Joey and each day we were together we were falling more and more in love. Life wasn’t perfect for us by any means, but we were dealing with it. He still had himself involved with all of that drug mess and he still wouldn’t let me help him out. Realistically, I knew that the only thing I could do to help him pay his debts was if I sold drugs too; which I didn’t want to do….but if it meant helping him then I would. He owed a lot of money, but from my little understanding of the drug game I knew that there was a lot of money to be made and I just hoped he would make it quickly. I worried about him constantly. I wasn’t an idiot and I knew the risks that he was taking each and every time he went out in the streets to sell; but not selling just wasn’t an option. If he didn’t do it, Boss Benny made it very clear that he was as good as dead-literally, but if he kept on doing it I feared for his life just the same.

Think about all the horror tales of street life you may hear; Murder, drugs and corruption! I didn’t want that for Joey, but he was already on the one way path down the road of destruction. He knew that I worried about him and I didn’t like making him feel guilty so I pretended that it wasn‘t happening, but it’s easier to fool other people than it is to fool yourself. I knew he didn’t like standing on the block and dealing with the degenerates of society, but that was what he had to do.

The worst part was knowing that I didn’t have anyone to talk to about everything that was going on. I would have to bear the brunt of the stress and fear alone. I couldn’t talk to Amanda. She was almost two months pregnant and neither she nor Peanut had told their parents yet and with the exception of me, Joey no one else knew she was pregnant unless Nate had been running his mouth. Amanda was a thick bodied girl so a ten or twenty pound weight gain was barley noticeable. She had her own problems to deal with and the last thing I wanted to do was bother her with my issues. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was beginning to think that people knew about Joey and me. Sometimes when we would be together, it was like I could feel everyone’s eyes on us. Joey seemed to be oblivious to this, but I wasn’t. He told me that I was just being paranoid, but I wasn’t. Every morning he would come into my homeroom, sit and talk to me, while ignoring everyone else. I would see the way some people would look at us. It was like a potent mixture of curiosity and confusion. We were on two different ends of the spectrum. Although I wasn’t a total geek, I was the furthest thing from being like him; hardcore. The way he dressed, talked and acted was like the gangster that he was. I on the other hand kept to my few friends and…..well you already know I wasn’t much of a tough guy so it was easy for me to understand why some people would wonder how the two of us wound up being “friends”.

Joey wouldn’t think twice of throwing his arm around me in the halls. To him, he thought everyone would just think that it was a gesture among friends, but I knew that was his way of giving me affection without looking TOO AFFECTIONATE. As much as I loved his touch, I didn’t like bringing the attention to myself. Roger’s words had stuck with me. Being gay while living in the ghetto was just not something I wanted to do. Call it paranoia or whatever else it was, but I didn’t want any body in our business.

“What the fuck you talking bout kid?” Joey asked with a little too much anger. He plastered a smile on his face to try to make up for it, but I knew he was nervous as well. He always tapped his foot and fidgeted with his fingers. I didn’t know what to say. I am not a very good liar so I let Joey take the lead.

“Nothing, it’s just ya’ll two is always together and shit.” Loco replied and looked at Joey as if he was crazy.

“What da fuck you trying to say?” Joey asked with the anger still in his voice. The smile on Loco’s face had disappeared and was now replaced with his own annoyance.

“Nigga, you tripping!” He stated as he glanced over at me and back at Joey before he walked over and sat in his seat. Joey sat there silently tapping his foot and stayed in his pissed off mood until the bell rang. I wanted to talk to him about some things, but school was not the place so I told him we should meet up after school at the diner near his house. Hardly anyone went there. The décor as well as the food was as old as the owners were so I knew we wouldn‘t run into from school.

“Hey baby.” He whispered as he sat down and flashed me a smile that warmed my heart.

“Hey.” I replied as I smiled back. Before I could continue his cell phone went off.

“Shit, I’ll be right back.” He replied as he went to the bathroom to talk. Normally I would have found it suspicious that he felt the need to hide his conversation from me, but I knew it was drug related. He had to get himself a cell phone to stay in contact with all of his customers. He came back looking flustered and upset.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I gotta go.” He replied sadly.

“Why?” I already knew the answer, but at this point I was just trying to get him to stay. He knew what I was doing and looked at me apologetically without answering. We walked down to the bus stop together and he waited until my bus came before he walked off to go and make his sell. When I came home Roger and Mickey were seated on the couch smiling and laughing. I was in no mood to be around them and I tried to head up the stairs when Mickey called for me to sit in the living room.

“Guess what Chrissie?” She asked as her hands were folded in her lap. Roger looked just as goofy as she did and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“Oh my God, you’re pregnant?” I shrieked half happy, but half hoping that she wasn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to have kids, but I knew she would never be home and I would most likely be the one to take care of it. Roger’s face became serious as he looked over at her with his eyes wide open.

“You’re pregnant?” He croaked out and she laughed even harder.

“What? No! Roger tell Chrissie the good news!” She stated as she smiled widely at me.

“We got married!” He excitedly replied and I stood there is shock for a moment.

“You don’t look happy.” Aunt Mickey stated as a frown came across her face.

“What? No, I’m happy for you it’s just I expected to at least be invited.” I replied.

“We didn’t realize we would be getting married today. We had to go to the court house to pay your Aunt’s tickets, and you know she has so many.” Roger laughed as Aunt Mickey playfully punched him with one small fist.

“Anyway, we were at the court house and Roger asks if I want to get married and I said yes. Two hours later we were legally married by the State of New Jersey.” She continued. I was still in shock, but I was honestly excited for her. I got up and hugged them both to show them.

“We are going to go away this weekend and we wanted to make sure you don’t mind being alone.” Roger asked. That honestly had to be the first time that either of them told me they cared how I felt. So many nights they spent away from the house, I had gotten used to it, but it was still nice to be notified ahead of time, instead of by a note on the refrigerator or the blinking light of the answering machine.

“Sure, I don’t care.” I replied and they said they were leaving Friday morning and would be back Tuesday night. I was excited because a whole weekend home alone, meant a weekend alone I could spend with Joey. I called him, but his phone went straight to voice mail. I left him a message and he called me back a few hours later, just as excited as I was about the prospect of us getting to spend the whole weekend together, that is, once he cleared it with his parents. His voice was hoarse and I could hear the lack of sleep present with each word he spoke. He was putting in long hours with his father at the bodega and then sneaking out to sell drugs. I worried about him standing alone at odd hours of the night in the streets. Thinking of the shady type of people he had to have come into contact with scared me. On more than one occasion I tried to persuade Joey to let me at least go out there with him, but he wouldn’t let me. I knew it was because he knew how dangerous it would be and that only made me worry about him more.

I met Amanda at the bus stop the next morning and she looked sad. I could tell that she was crying, but when I asked her what was wrong she clamed up. Her funny, out-going sprit was no where to be found.

“Amanda, do you want to talk?” I asked, but she just shrugged her shoulders and kept quiet. I knew she was worried about telling her mother she was pregnant. I knew she was worried about what kind of mother she would be, who wouldn’t worry at being a parent at only sixteen, but I knew that no matter how smart of a person she was, she knew that having that baby was killing any chances she had of making it out of Newark. Her future should have been bright, but having a baby was only going to get in the way. There was no way that she wouldn’t have it. As upset as she and Peanut where with the knowledge that they were going to become parents before they turned seventeen, they were also excited. Peanut had an after school job at a fast food restaurant and he was already taking double shifts in an effort to save up enough money for the baby. Amanda had already bought a few clothes for it that she kept hidden at my house. They were in love with each other, so that was one good thing I could say. At least the baby would be coming into the world with two loving parents.

“Nate‘s the father….” Amanda whispered as we sat down on the bus. I didn’t quite hear her at first and she had to repeat it.

“What? How?” I asked and tears slipped down her face.

“I went to the clinic and they said I was ten weeks pregnant.” She replied.

“I don’t get it?”

“The times don’t add up. The first time Peanut and I slept together was two months ago, two months exactly, as in 8 weeks ago…..” She trailed off as she looked out the window. I didn’t know what I could say to make her feel better. There was nothing that I could do to ease her pain so I rubbed her back as she turned to me and cried against my coat.

“Chris, I can’t go to school like this. Will you skip with me?” She asked and I agreed. We got off the bus and crossed the street to walk back to her apartment building. The morning air was cold and crisp. The wind was brisk and you could taste the oncoming threat of snow with each gust of cold air. The sun wasn’t out, giving the already dank streets a depressing gray dim to them. We walked in silence to her apartment building. Once inside I made us some hot cocoa and we sat quietly for a few minutes watching cartoons. She turned to me and started to say something, but stopped herself. I knew what she was about to say.

“You didn’t tell Peanut yet?” I asked and she nodded her head as she snuggled her thick, warm body against mine. She had changed back into her pink pajamas with the ducks on them and I couldn’t help thinking that someone who looked so child-like was about to be a mother.

“God! This is so fucked up! I can’t have this baby!” She stated.

“You should talk to Peanut.”

“He’s going to be so angry.”

“Why would he be? He knew about you and Nate and he loves you. I think you should talk to him about it before you do anything.” I told her.

“It’s going to break his heart. I know what to do and I need you to come with me.” She replied and pulled out of my arms wiping the tears off of her face.

“Sure baby, anything.”

“Let’s go to the clinic. There is no way I am having Nate’s baby. I want to get an abortion.” She said with conviction in her voice. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I may have had my opinions on her having that baby, but I knew she was against that. When she was twelve her mother had an abortion and she never forgave her for it even though she knew she couldn’t afford to take care of another child. Amanda hated the fact that her mother had killed her unborn sister or brother and killing a child was something that she didn’t condone. Hearing her say that she was about to do the one thing she was against was unnerving.

“Sweetie, whatever you want to do, I will be here for you. You know that right?” I asked and she nodded her head. “But, I think you might want to think this over for a few days or at least until you talk to Peanut.”

“No, I want to get this baby out of me and out today!” She yelled and started to put her coat on and threw mine at me.

“Why don’t you talk to Peanut first?”

“Because it will kill him! He can’t know this isn’t his baby!”

“How are you going to explain it to him when he wonders three months from now, why you aren’t getting any bigger?” I asked, trying to make her look at things from his point of view. She sat down on the couch and began to cry. I sat next to her and she shrugged my advances off and walked to the front door, wiping away her tears.

“I’m gonna tell him I had a miscarriage and then we can forget all about this. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Amanda, are you sure about this?” I asked as I handed her a tissue.


“If you’re sure about this, I’ll go with you.” I knew that there was nothing that I could say to make her think about things. I can’t say that if I was in her situation that I wouldn’t do the same thing. I could only imagine how horrible she felt when she found out she was carrying Nate’s baby. I hated that guy with little reason, but she had many. He used to beat on her and controlled every movement that she made. He was nothing short of a menace and I could see why she wouldn’t want anything that would connect her to him for the rest of her life. But, I knew that as much as that baby was Nate’s it was hers and that’s what I think she was forgetting.

The Clinic we went to was a small office with once white paint that was now chipping and turning yellow with age. The room smelled of mold and kerosene for some odd reason and the air was thick and stale as the faint smell of cigarettes tinged the room. There was old orange shag carpet that was probably older than the paint. The small room was crowded with young girls, mostly under eighteen , all of them either black or Spanish and most very pregnant looking. One woman actually had two small children at her hips and a man who had to be the father sat next to her looking annoyed. The smallest child, no more than three was running around and neither parent made a move to control him. The parents themselves were barley older than Amanda and I. There brown faces were deep with sadness and my heart went out to them wondering just how bad their lives were.

The woman who worked the front desk was rude and impolite like she‘d been working her job for far too long to care anymore. She looked to be young and of middle eastern with her dark features and clip to her speech. She rudely handed me a stack of forms and a pen that was leaking ink with the instructions to give it to my girlfriend and bring them back when she was finished. This place was state run and provided free services for women so she didn’t have to pay anything. I would have assumed that she would have needed a parent’s permission, but she told me that if you could prove you were at least sixteen you didn’t need to. I can’t say that I was surprised about that. It seemed that in the city we lived in, no one cared about you especially if you were young. It was like they gave you directions, but didn’t want to lead you.

We sat around for four hours. The whole time was spent in silence. I had to pretend to be the father of her baby otherwise they wouldn’t let her do it. I found it ironic that a sixteen year old girl could come in and get an abortion without her parents signature or something, but if the father didn’t know, she couldn’t. The time passed slowly. The sounds of nothingness could be heard and it was nerve racking. Amanda’s face looked pale. Her normally caramel complexion was turning a pale shade of yellow and she looked as if she wanted to throw up. After what felt like and eternity we were called to go into the examining room. To my surprise the room actually looked clean and smelled sterile. There was an examining table in the middle of the room, a table with odd instruments, but one resembling a large cork screw caught my attention. Amanda followed my gaze.

“They pull the baby out with that.” She said and her voice was hoarse and cracked with each word. I rubbed her back and showed her my support with silence. The doctor came in. She was a tall, thin blonde woman with plan features, but a warm smile. She pulled up the only remaining chair and sat down in front of us.

“Hello, I’m Doctor Brimstone. I just want to go over a few things with you.” We introduced ourselves and she continued. “ I want to make sure that you are aware of all your options. Have you considered adoption perhaps?”

“No, I just want this baby gone and out of me right now!” Amanda said irritably. The doctor didn’t get mad or angry, from which I can assume she had dealt with that type of attitude before. She spent the next twenty minutes going over what the abortion would be like and how she would feel afterwards and Amanda’s face was emotionless. It was when the Doctor started to describe the actual abortion that Amanda began to show emotions. First, they give her a shot of anesthetic in her cervix to numb the pain. She would be getting a procedure known as Dilation and Curettage. She would have to lie back and put her feet in stir ups. She would remain awake the whole time, but the doctor assured her that she would be so pumped up with anesthesia that the most she would feel is a gentle pressure. She showed us these long cone shaped rods that they would put inside of Amanda to open up her cervical muscles so they could get to her uterus easier. Once she was stretched open enough they would take this suction like machine that worked as a vacuum and would suck the fetus out. Then they took the screw like instrument that we saw and for lack of better words scrape the remains of the baby out of her. By the time Doctor Brimstone was finished with her explanation I thought Amanda would want to turn around and forget about it, but sadly she didn’t. She told the doctor that she was ready now, even when the doctor advised her to go home and wait a week before coming back. Amanda told her that she didn’t want any more time to get attached to the baby, and the sooner she got the abortion the better. She asked if I could come in with her, but I wasn’t allowed in surgery.

For three hours I waited in the waiting room worried out of my mind. It was close to four o’clock in the afternoon, but I wasn’t worried about showing up home late, I was just worried about Amanda. She was the best friend that I had and knowing what she was going through was eating me up inside. An overweight Spanish woman came out and told me that she was in recovery and wanted to see me.

The first thing I noticed about her was that she looked relived. She was wearing a white paper gown and her hair was thrown in a messy bun. All the make-up on her face was off making her look younger than her sixteen years. Her smile was relaxed and natural and her face was calm, almost euphorically, which I found odd seeing as she just had an abortion. But, the closer I got to her I could see that beneath her medicated look of content, there was pain inside of her. The recovery room reeked of rubbing alcohol and faintly of blood. I took a seat next to her and gripped her hand.

“How you feeling?” I asked stupidly.

“Ah…I’ve been better….can you give me some water?” She croaked.

“They said that you have to stay here another hour and you can’t walk home.”

“I know, I have some money for a cab.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked again even though I knew the answer. At this point I just was trying to find a way for me to bring her comfort.

“Yeah, I’ll be ----” She began to say, but the tears began to escape and she let out a huge sob that brought water to my eyes. I got up to embrace her and the tears and sobs poured out in agony. She just let it all out. “God, I wanted this baby so bad….. I was going to name her Elizabeth after my Grandma or Patrick Junior after Peanut.” She continued, but there was a space between every other word as her cries got in the way. There was nothing I could say or do to let her know that things were going to be okay because I honestly didn’t know if they were. God, everything felt like it was spinning out of control around me and nothing was going right. I was sixteen, I should have been enjoying my life, but I wasn’t. It felt like no matter what I did there was always pain for me and the people around me. Amanda was a wonderful person and she didn’t deserve to be going through all of this. Joey was one of the most caring and compassionate people that I knew and he shouldn’t have had to do what he was doing. I knew he hated doing it, but like everyone else around me he was forced into something that he knew wasn’t right. Yet what other choice did he have? That goes for Amanda too. She wanted that baby so much, but she couldn’t have it. Even though I doubt Nate would have stepped up and played an active role in taking care of it, I knew that she was aware that if she gave birth to that baby, she would be forever tied to him. I couldn’t blame her for not wanting that burden on her shoulders, but I knew that a part of her had died along with her unborn child. I just held her in my arms and felt our sadness intertwine.………

To Be Continued

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