Catching up with Kin and our Past

It’s strange how fate works and particularly it seems when you put temptation in its way. My twin, living as I told you in Worthing, has been unwell these past few weeks. We’d grown apart, separated by distance as well as divided by our chosen paths in life.

They say blood is thicker than water and sometimes these old sayings have more than an atom of truth. When summoned by his wife to pay a visit in case the worst should happen, how could I refuse? How could I resist the pleas of my sister-in-law when I know in my heart that my brother would be there for me were the tables turned? So with a heavy heart I left for Sussex, what they call Sunny Worthing.

I hadn’t intended to write about my twin in this blog since our lives are so different, but since the cards have been drawn I’ll tell you he was Christened Edmundo, though now he’s known as Ed as a more Anglo-Saxan version of his given name. To me though he’ll only ever be known as Edmundo. He’s a builder of course as I mentioned in an earlier blog, but currently he’s become more of a painter and decorator since the work became too heavy for his frail frame. He even set up his own business, called Worthing Painters and Decorators – so you can see originality and profound thought had never been one of his blessings!

Frail was how I found Edmundo when I arrived in the seaside town of Worthing. It’s not a place I’d visited before but pleasant enough with its sea front and Victorian pier. They say it was once a place to recuperate from tuberculosis and take the sea air but my twin looked as though he could do with more of a tonic than Worthing could offer.  He looked drawn, thin and wan though the doctors had been unable to determine what was wrong. Sometimes I think the tests they put you through at times like these are enough to make you feel bad and fear the worst. Certainly Edmundo was demoralised, though he was pleased enough to see his twin arrive unexpectedly.

I stayed two weeks and was pleased to see my brother improve during that time. We walked along the beach, threw stones in the sea and talked about our upbringing in the poorest areas and the gang life that surrounded us. Although he long ago moved away from such things, Edmundo seemed to need to talk about his early life and who else could share such conversation but me?  Perhaps he had guilt about the things we did as youngsters, though we were certainly no worse than others in our town.

We prayed together and our closeness once more seemed to make him grow stronger as our bond grew back. I suppose twins never lose that special attachment that can only come between those who shared a womb. In any case, I follow his progress and it’s been positive since my visit, which I was glad to hear. His painting and decorating is picking up and maybe he’ll even go back to building once his strength properly returns. After all, it’s in our blood to be builders.

And that visit made me think about my own life and where I go next. That’s a subject for another day but one thing is for sure – my family will always be a big part of my journey



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Into the Rabbit Hole

I wish this was the point in the story where I could tell you that I turned my life around, and changed everything for the better, but it’s not, it’s where I got worse. You see, by a few days later, everyone in the neighborhood knew what had happened, who had did it and who they did it to, and if we didn’t do something about it then our fates were sealed. Everyone would know that Dos Fatales was an easy mark. I hated the situation, because I didn’t want to do anything about it. I wanted to forget it happened, be glad it didn’t happen to me, and be one of the kids that would sit in the cafeteria all lunch trying to be unnoticed. But I still had my walk home from school, and I would be an even bigger target than before.

When our group stood in the halls, or out in the yard at school, we could sense the other groups watching us, gauging whether or not we were going to be weak, or strong. And waiting for the opportunity to be first in line to take advantage if we proved to be the former. We mad many discussions that day, whether we were going to retaliate, what we should do and with three against two now, how we could come out on top in a way that would keep them from just coming back again later with that gun. That one gun counted as an easy dozen of us, but without being able to get a hold of it, we had no chance of coming out on top if we weren’t willing to meet them on the same terms they would come to us.

We had one vote for jumping them and breaking a few fingers to teach a lesson, and we had another for leaving the situation completely and trying our best to survive the school year. My vote was the tie breaking vote, which made me hate the situation even more, but all I could think of was what the remainder of our year would be like, how much more pain we would have to endure, and not just emotional, but the physical pain that everyone would inflict on us because they knew they could get away with it. My choice to stay quiet didn’t earn me any points, it simply kept me from going into the red.

On the walk home, we had two groups following us this time. The usual block over crew, and the two from the event days before. That same look was on their face, but I noticed a small difference, a little less confidence, which made me think that this time they didn’t have the sure fire means of victory in the form of a firearm. As we rounded the corner to a walking path that cut between the back yards of two streets of houses, the two followed us, just as I hoped they would.

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The Bell Tolls

Even though we were raised in a pretty rundown and gang ridden section of the city, I had never seen a gun up close, and certainly hadn’t heard one go off, minus of course ones way in the distance that could be mistaken for anything. But as I stood there, the realization of the severity of the situation dawning on me, I forgot about all sense of group loyalty and started running home. Just a direct bee line, thinking that if only I could make it to the door, I would be completely fine. As I ran the few hundred feet, I heard a series of popping sounds, and at one point, the cement near my feet jumped up at me. I didn’t slow down, or change my direction, I just ran at my house.

When I got inside and slammed the door behind me, I leaned back at the door and started panting harder than I ever had in my life. My heart was racing, I could feel sweat building up on my face and body, and was shaking uncontrollably. Neither of my parents were home at the time, so thankfully they didn’t have to see me in this state. I  reached behind me and locked the door, like the fastener was going to be bulletproof. I kneeled down and put my ear against the door, listening intently, dreading hearing footsteps coming up our meager driveway. But all was silent at the moment, before screams started to break out.

I ran from the door to the living room window, and pushed aside our cheap pull down blinds, and saw the source. The mother of one of the kids in my group, stumbling in the street, arms splayed out like she was trying to crowd control a crowd that wasn’t there, and about fifty yards ahead of her, her son, laying in the street like he was taking a nap at the most inopportune time. I watched without blinking, trying to force my eyes to be able to see whether or not he was breathing, looking for signs of blood, wanting to believe he tripped in his scramble and somehow knocked himself out.

I can’t recall if I blinked before the police arrived, or when they draped the sheet over his body in the middle of the road. When my parents came home they sat at the end of the driveway, arms crossed, watching the scene unfold. They sat in that exact fashion when the police arrived and started questioning me about whether or not I had seen anything. But how could I? I was in the house all night, I heard some noises and watched from the window long after it was all done and over with. I knew nobody believed me, but I knew my fate would be much worse if I had chosen to say anything else. So I stuck to my story, and within hours the police, ambulance, and everyone was gone, save for that boys mother, kneeling on her lawn with her family around trying to console her.

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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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