He was a lightweight of a kid that probably weighed 110 pounds at the most. The eleven year old boy was spunky and arrogant. Overconfident. He took orders from no one. He despised you for even attempting to instruct him. He would hang out with all of the big drug dealers. He seemed to know them all by name. He would carry their poison for them in his jacket pocket.
Whenever I would see him, I would talk to him. And he would listen. I never reprimanded him. I didn’t say anything about the blunt he would smoke, the stench of weed penetrating the air. I would talk about life outside of the ghetto. I would talk about education. He could seem to care less about anything I said. He would never respond. But whenever he saw me, he would come around. Indeed, he began to follow me around as a puppy would.
“Where is your mother?” I asked him once. And he simply shrugged, staring at me with a smirk. Days later he told me that his mother was strung out on dope. His grandmother, he said, attempted to take care of him, but he had seen too much already. He ran in the streets now. No school at all. The streets were raising him.
One day, I saw him in the apartment hallway with a group of older thugs. One of the thugs stopped me to inform me that there may be shooting in the area sometime that day, due to a beef with another neighborhood. He then proceeded to show me two guns in his waistband.
“We ready for war,” were his words. I glanced at the kid, leaning against the wall with a smirk on his face. The eleven year old, looked at me, and then opened his long jacket, showing me its contents. Inside of the jacket was a Mac-11. The gun was as big as the kid.
I wanted to strangle the gold toothed thug who had stopped me. The thug was laughing loudly, as if the situation was hilarious. I walked away in disgust.
11 o’clock at night, there were no street lights. The streets were pitch-dark and if you had no business outside then you were in your apartment with the doors and windows shut and locked. Not this kid.
There was a knock on my apartment door. My girlfriend stirred in our bed, before dozing back to sleep. I glanced at the clock. It was after 11 pm. I flipped the porch light on and peered out of another window. It was the little kid, just standing there. He couldn’t see me however. Immediately I was suspicious. Why was he knocking on my door this late at night? Did one of the thugs send him to my door? Maybe the thugs were hiding, waiting for me to open the door. I attempted to peer out as far as I could from the window, but my view was limited. I could see no one else. So I cracked the door open, my foot and my hand behind the door, trying to pretend as if I had a gun. Upon the door opening, the kid looked up and began grinning. I stepped out onto the porch.
“What’s up homey?”
“You got a lighter?” he asked.
I stared at the child. Is that what he knocked on my door this late at night for?
“Hey, why are you knocking on my door this late?” I asked.
“You had your light on. I knew you were still up.” Simple answer. Indeed, I was still up before he knocked. I silently wondered how long he had been standing on the porch before he knocked.
I reached into my pocket and handed him a lighter. He lit a cigar and sat on the porch stoop. I sat in a chair. And all was quiet.
“You got some more spaghetti?”
The question took me by surprise. My girlfriend had made spaghetti a couple days ago, but it was long gone and devoured by me. How did he know there was spaghetti in my home?
“Your girl gave me some the other day,” he continued, as if reading my mind, and sounding exasperated.
“Nah,” I replied, finding my voice. “I’m sure we have something in there though. Hold on.”
I walked inside and retrieved a plate of leftover chicken wings from the refrigerator. I walked back to the porch holding the plate, and then remembered I should heat up the wings in the microwave.
“Wait a sec; I’m going to heat them up.”
“No, don’t worry about it,” he said, reaching for the plate. “Thank you.”
He grabbed the plate of food and began digging into the wings like a hungry stray animal.
I pretended to look away. My heart seemed to wrench in half. This poor kid! Didn’t those thugs feed him anything? How could I have been so blind? The kid was hungry!
About three minutes later, the kid stood up, and handed me the plate. After thanking me again and telling me how good my girlfriend’s cooking was he walked away down the completely black street. He didn’t even take a drink of water.
About six months later, I moved away from the neighborhood. A better way of saying it may be that I fled the area. The constant drama, fights, and sounds of gunshots did not make it a difficult decision to leave.
Two months after leaving, I watched the local news one evening after a hard day of work. The lead story flashed on the television screen.
“A young boy that was gunned down early this morning has been identified. He was twelve years old.”
A picture was shown on the television screen, and I began having trouble breathing. The kid had been killed.
Who in the world would do such a despicable thing?
I found out where the funeral would be held. But I didn’t go. I couldn’t bear to go and see the kid lying still in a casket. If only I had been more forceful with the kid. I could have made him see that the street life only held two things in store, prison and death.
***This is a fictional account based on actual events that happened in Overtown, Miami, FL. ***
PLEASE SAVE OUR INNER CITY YOUTH!