After the Bell

This togetherness while in school needed to be extended beyond the borders. Most of the kids I knew didn’t take the bus, because it would be a closed space where you could easily get surrounded, so many of us resorted to walking. If you didn’t walk with your group though, you were a lone gazelle limping along the plains and waiting to be mauled by countless predators. Fortunately, with your set being from your street, you were all going in the same direction. There would be many times that my group, and the group no the next street would walk across the street from each other for blocks, lobbing glares and insults until we finally branched off.

Living on a longer street gave you benefit, as it meant there was more kids along that route, and with numbers came power. After your group was cohesive enough after the first few years of school together, you would wind up naming your crew, typically in some form of connection to your street. We lived on Dos Santos, which means the two saints, though using the word saint doesn’t really invoke fear into the hearts of your enemies, so one of my crew suggested we use Dos Fatales, or two fatalities, with a twist on the actual translation of course. It seemed hard, and was as close as we could get to saying we were people to be feared without being too blatant.

So my group of four went around acting tough, trying to puff up our chests and be bigger than we were, like pufferfish in the ocean. While other groups in the area would do the same. Eventually hanging out at school and walking home together, became hanging out on the corner of our street and another, trying to claim that area as ours. This of course led to some scuffles with groups that took it as disrespect, which it was meant to be, and others just didn’t have the numbers to do anything about it. We weren’t quite into gang territory yet, but we were younger and more idealistic. I mean that in the sense that, we had an ideal that everyone else, and ourselves could argue, fight, stare at one another, but that was the farthest that it would get.

One evening while standing out on the corner we claimed, one that was on the corner of our street of four and a small side street of two, those two began to walk towards us. This wasn’t too uncommon, but we were already inflated with the sense of self that knew we were going to kick their butts and send them back over the street line. We started lobbing our advanced artillery right away, threats, calling them every name in the book, and a myriad of other insults against their families because we were young stupid kids. As they stepped closer, they remained silent, a look of determination in their eyes, one that was common, yet had a different edge to it. I realized why when one of them pulled out a gun.

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The Fatal

childAllow me to take you back in time a little bit, to a young kid wandering the streets of a neighborhood that you’d probably roll up your windows and lock your doors as you drove through. This was the area I called home, and though there’s not that many good memories of that place, it’s where I came up, where I learned the lessons that shaped me today, and where I made most of the worst decisions in my life. You see, in this area, we didn’t spend our time thinking of where we were going to go to college, or what we were going to do as careers, it was a constant thought of how we were going to get through the day, and how we were going to take care of ourselves in the moment.

School was a place for everyone to gather, group up and try to intimidate the other groups who were doing the same to us. What block you lived on typically represented how many people were in your crew, and those on a block with more people their relative age had the fortune of having bigger crews. There was a spot two streets over from mine where there was seven kids  on the strip, my street had four. So you either grouped with another street of kids, or you stuck to low numbers and tried to be harder than everyone else.

Fights on the school yard weren’t over trivial things like someone said something, it was usually retaliatory for someone in your group getting jumped by another group. We didn’t just circle each other taunting and then throwing a punch or two, let’s just say that the ambulances knew pretty direct routed to our school yard. Across the halls you would see group after group with little mingling in between, and you formed a close bond with those within your group, even if you didn’t like them that much. They were part of the set you represented, and therefore were people you needed to worry about, if you wanted them to return the favor.

            Being stuck on a street with a bunch of scrawny and timid kids was usually the worst situation to be in, the others wouldn’t represent you, they would hide out in the gym or cafeteria at all times, and try to stay out of everyone’s way. These stragglers of people left on their own would usually jump to joining a bigger street, yet this wasn’t always met warmly. Some kids needed to be jumped into their groups, others had to jump someone else to gain cred. The teachers and other members of the school knew about all this of course, but they also knew that trying to get into the middle of it would just turn everyone’s negative attention towards them, and that was something above their pay grade, can’t say I blame them, I would have given up on us to. Just try to educate, and then get the hell out when the bell rang.

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