I watched as my older brother and Arnold, his best friend, stood at the end of our driveway trying to convince a few girls to talk to them. Normally Maxwell had no problem getting a girl, but today Donisha and the twins, Carey and Mary, weren’t feeding into his game.
“Come on D, you know that I’ve been feelin’ you for the longest.”
“Nigga please. Maxwell, you say that to all the girls around here and they all fall for it. Well guess what, I’m not one of these simple hoes givin’ up the coochie just because you throw a weak ass smile my way. I got standards.”
“Did you have those standards when you were suckin’ Demond off in P.E.?” She slapped Arnold and stormed off with the twins in tow. My brother and Arnold stood there laughing, talking mad noise about Donisha and the other girls of the neighborhood.
“These hoes ain’t shit.” They dapped before turning in our direction, noticing that my best friend Elijah and I were watching. “Yo Carlos, what did I tell you about hanging outside while we’re out here? You know Mom would kill me and beat the black off of you.”
“Come on Maxwell, she’s not here anymore. Besides, it’s not like you’re carrying your gun around today. What can happen?”
“You’re not strapped man?”
He looked at Arnold and shook his head. “Nah man, my mom did the pat down before I walked out the door. Couldn’t sneak back in to get it ‘cause she locked the back door and sat in the living room all morning.”
“It’s all good though. None of those Crazy Eights came around startin’ shit so I’m good.”
Elijah stood up and walked towards them. “Man, I want to be just like y’all when I’m sixteen.”
Arnold chuckled and shook his head. “No you don’t kid. You don’t want to be like us at all.”
“Because you’re smart, and unlike Maxwell and I, you have the chance to do more. You’re a straight A student.”
“So, I guarantee you could be the very first male in your family to actually go to college and graduate. Now I know that would make Ms. Ophelia very happy.”
Elijah rolled his eyes before sitting back down beside me. “My mom doesn’t care about what I do anymore, not since she met her new boyfriend.”
“I’m sure that’s not true Elijah. And Carlos, little brother, you better not be thinking about joining a gang either.”
I sighed and shook my head. “You’re in one though, why can’t I join yours?”
“This life isn’t for you Carlos. Besides … one of us has to make it past eighteen.”
“We both will.”
He looked at me and smiled. “One of us has to make it out of Long Beach.”
“We both will. We’ll get Mama that fly crib she’s always fantasizing about and we’ll both go to college. Can’t you just see the big smile on her face when she takes pictures with us holding our diplomas?”
“You’ll do it Lil’ Man and she’ll love you for it. Me… all I got is the streets. And you of course. Anyway, come on Arnold, let’s go and see what’s up with these skanks around the corner.”
“Yo, I heard Tisha givin’ it up.”
“Shit, I could have told you that. First week of school and I was in it.”
“Nigga, I hate you.” They laughed and walked off, leaving Elijah and I to sit and think about what they’d said.
I just don’t understand why he thinks or feels that he won’t be able to do the same things as me. And why do I have to be the good one. I’m ten now but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn about the streets and learn the game by the time I turn sixteen. Shoot, I already know what really happens to black boys like me. We kill ourselves, kill someone else and end up in jail, or get our behinds beat by the police. Maxwell knows as well as I do that college is nowhere in the future for kids like us, not in the neighborhood that we live in. College? Shoot, we’ve gotta make it to see the age of eighteen first.
His hopes for me are higher than the ones I have for myself. I’m not being stupid or taking my opportunities for granted. I’m being realistic.
Elijah and I had been playing for a few hours, riding around on our bikes when we suddenly heard sirens. “Who do you think they’re coming for this time?”
“I bet it’s Pork Chop Harry. How much you wanna bet he broke into the supermarket again and stole about ten packs.”
Elijah laughed in shook his head. “Might be Get Down Bessie. My dad said they finally got tired of arresting her since she always goes right back to her corner.” I was thinking of more of the crazy adults we know when some of my brother’s other friends ran past us.
“Get y’all asses home now Carlos!”
“Where’s my brother?”
“Go home!” I kept asking about my brother but they didn’t answer me, disappearing as they turned on opposite corners. Next thing I heard… gunshots.
I saw more of my brother’s friends, his gang running past us and that’s when Elijah and I decided to speed off in the direction of my house. As messed up as gang wars could be, they never shoot near homes where they knew young kids or elderly adults lived.
Just as we made it to my street, six houses away from mine, I heard another gunshot. It hit my back tire, causing me to swerve before I jumped off my bike and ran as fast as I could. The other kids on the street quickly ran into their homes and I checked behind me to see if Elijah was still behind me. Just as I thought I’d lost him, he turned off of a side street and jumped off his bike, running beside me just as I got to my drive way. I burst through my mom’s door quickly and slammed it behind us, thankful that we’d made it through another shootout.
Trying to catch my breath, I closed our blinds and called out to see if anyone was home. “Mom! Grandpa Pete!” No answer. “Dang. Maxwell!!”
“Carlos… your brother and Arnold are running down the block.”
My eyes grew larger and I ran to open the door, praying silently that they’d both make it. Arnold was shooting but I could tell that he was almost out of bullets. He normally carried two guns but I only saw one in his hand. I could hear them yelling.
“Fucking Crazy Eights! Ain’t nobody selling on your damn block!”
More gunshots rang out and I heard Arnold scream. He collapsed and Pico, the head of the Crazy Eights stopped, shooting him four times.
I called out for my brother, begging for him to run faster. “Get back in the house Carlos! Close the door!”
I stood frozen when those last three gunshots rang out. He was at the end of the driveway, and they got him twice in the leg and once in the back.
“Should have closed the door like your bitch ass brother said, Kid.” Pico shot my brother one last time, taking his life.
Carlos jumped up out of his sleep and took a deep breath, wiping the tears from his eyes as he took in his surroundings. The pitch blackness gave way to the dark blue color of the bedroom wall and there he sat, in bed, drenched in sweat as the ceiling fan offered a little coolness. It’d all been a nightmare. The same nightmare he suffered from for the last eleven years of his life. Every night, like clockwork the murder of his older brother haunted him, reminding him that he’d lost everything that afternoon.
He took a deep breath before getting up and heading into the bathroom, turning on the light just before he turned the shower on.
He peeked back into the bedroom, seeing that his girlfriend Deana was now sitting up, stretching as she yawned. “Go back to bed Boo, I’m good.”
“Are you sure? If you want to talk about the dream you know I’ll listen.” Something she’d done many nights, and he appreciated her for being a listening ear.
“Nah, not this time. I’m good. I’m just gonna shower and head on home.”
“Baby, can’t you just stay the rest of the night. I worry about you being out so late and, well, I just don’t want to be here all alone.”
He walked back in, standing tall with a look of concern etched on his face. “Somebody fucking with you?”
“Somebody trying to harm you and the baby?” Deana shook her head, reassuring him that she and their unborn child were just fine.
“I just worry because you’re always in the streets. I get scared that something may happen and…” Carlos cleared his throat before sitting on the bed beside her, kissing her gently before placing his hand on her stomach. “I just don’t want it to be where I’m raising our baby alone.”
“I’m good Boo, and I’m always careful when I’m out there. You have nothing to worry about. And even if something does happen, you and my seed will always be taken care of. Believe that.” He gave her a quick kiss before going to take his shower, trying to put his nightmare and her worrying out of his mind.