As Us

A Space for Women of the World

Lionel Scott

The Best I Can Do

What I am going to do is share some of my personal thoughts and experiences. I hope that somebody will be able to use some of this. I have survived for fifty-seven years, and I’ve also been in some of the deadliest prisons in America.

* * *

I knew a young female. I didn’t want to get involved with her business, because in that neighborhood when you do that it might hurt the person’s pride you’re trying to defend. I grew up in a rough place. We learned at an early age stand up to anybody, but when you’re wrong, always leave the other person a way out. Anyway, the girl stood up for herself, and the bully backed down. I saw the same girl crying a couple of blocks away. She was alone, so I asked her why she was crying. I also told her that I was impressed with the way she stood up for herself. She said she had wanted to be friends with that person, but instead she might have made an enemy. My advice was to catch her alone and tell her how she really felt. A few weeks later, they were friends.

* * *

Whenever I talk to anyone treating me badly, I always try to get them alone. For some reason, when you talk one-on-one with people, they seem to be more understanding. I’m not an expert, but I do believe that we can learn from each other.

* * *

I remember there was a guy in my class, and he used to yell at people. Most of the time, he would make people feel awkward and uncomfortable. So one day when he yelled at me, I just stood there. When he walked away, a female I knew asked me, “Why didn’t you yell back at him?” I had never thought about standing up to that guy. I had heard him yell at other people, and they never challenged him, so I just thought it was what was supposed to happen. It took awhile, but the next time I was confronted by that person, I yelled at him, and he apologized. Other people saw. He noticed that we were being watched, and from then on, he calmed his tone when talking to people. I was looked at as the bully-buster. I have to admit it felt good, but now I see that although at the time it was the right thing to do, I should have left arrogance out of my victory.

* * *

There are a lot of things that you can’t see when you’re young unless somebody points them out to you, and even then, you have to be able to accept information and put your pride in your pocket at times.

* * *

I had a friend whose attitude was “don’t take crap from anybody.” Listening to the way he talked, I believed that he would kick anybody’s butt. But he mostly just blew hot air out of his mouth. We had a lot of stuff going on, and we got into trouble. We went to jail and that was a dumb thing on my part and his. While we were in jail, I had a lot of fights. Eventually, I noticed that my friend didn’t have any fights and was afraid to be around me, because people were always challenging me, and he didn’t want to get involved. This was the guy who put all this stuff in my head about not taking crap from people.

Well, I learned from that. I figured out that sometimes just because somebody talks tough doesn’t mean they have the heart to follow. I just sit here and try to think about all the experiences I’ve had and hope if you read this, you’ll be able to use something to get you out of a situation, so you don’t feel the anger and hold the thought of hatred in your heart.

* * *

I have so many ways to release anger without reacting to violence. I wish I could have said that years ago. Most of the people you know during your school years you probably won’t see in your adult life. Even if you do, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about them bringing up your past.

* * *

One day, a dog followed me to school. I didn’t know that he had followed me, but one of the teachers saw him. He was a beautiful, grey German Shepard. One of my neighbors told the teacher whom the dog belonged to. The teacher called me out of my classroom and told me that the dog was outside, and I needed to take him home. We walked outside of the building, and I told the dog to go home. The teacher was surprised that the dog stood up and walked off. She asked if the dog was going to be all right, and I said, “Yeah, he knows better.”

The dog was beautiful, so word got out, and my schoolmates were asking about my dog. I guess I got too much recognition, because after school, I was being followed by the same people who were praising me—only this time they were following me home, because a bully didn’t like the attention I was getting and was threatening to beat me up. As we walked down the street, I turned and asked the guy what we were fighting about. He said, “Because I don’t like you.”

In the group, I noticed a girl I knew and liked and who used to tease me a lot. She was watching, and as soon as he answered, I said, “Linda don’t like me either, but she ain’t trying to beat me up.”

Everybody laughed, so he joined in, and that ended that fight. I learned that if you have one minute to think about harming someone, you have enough time to come up with another way of dealing with the reason you feel that way without using violence.

* * *

I should be considered an expert on being bullied, but I don’t think I am. What I do know is that I grew up poor, and we were teased and made fun of and had to keep it real. We also got beat up and had to fight. I remember at one time we lived in a three-room apartment, and there wasn’t a bathtub. When we needed a bath, we had to heat up water in pots on the stove and dump it in a tub. There was seven of us—and nine if you counted our parents. I don’t think you can imagine how people made fun of us. We didn’t have the money to dress good, but we did the best that we could.

I remember a girl making fun of my sister’s shoes, and my sister put on a show for us. She told the girl that she was sorry she didn’t like her shoes, but that was all she had. If the girl had any old shoes that looked better than the ones she was wearing, the girl could bring them to school the next day. My sister was being sarcastic. But the next day, the girl pulled her aside and invited her home. When my sister returned, she had a bag of nice, not-new clothes and shoes. But more importantly, she had a new friend who stuck by her and always tried to defend her against other people who put her down. It was nice to have somebody to visit us and not have to worry about them going to school and making fun of us.

* * *

There was a lady who stayed next door to us, and I played with her son a lot. Whenever we were at his house, his mother would make sure he had something to eat and the toys he wanted to play with. But every time we were together, he would want to come over to our house, which was always busy with lots of different things to do. We could hardly find space to be alone. I used to wonder why my friend would feel so comfortable whenever he was at our house.

What I noticed was his mother didn’t talk to him that much. I never saw her hold long conversations with him. She only went into his room when she cleaned it. He always acted as if he was a total stranger in his home, but when he came to my house, he was full of joy and laughter. When my parents yelled at us, they also yelled at him. When they complimented us, they did the same to him. When we ate and he was around, he also ate.

One day, he asked my mom if he could go with us to visit a relative. It wasn’t surprising that he asked, but he called my mom, “Moma.” It shocked me, but I guess my mom had experienced something like that in the past, because she didn’t hesitate. She just looked over her shoulder and said, “Go ask your mom.”

* * *

I used to like this girl when we were in grade school. In my mind, the only way that I could get her attention was to pull her hair. Whenever I pulled her hair, she would turn around and look at me. One day I pulled her hair, and she scared me, because she turned around faster than I expected. She screamed, “What do you want?”

I stumbled over my words and said nothing. She asked, “Then why do you keep pulling my hair?”

I didn’t know how to answer, and she knew it. I was walking home from school a few days later and felt a sharp slap on the back of my head. I turned around, and she was standing there. I asked her why she do that, and her response was, “I like you.”

I told her that she didn’t have to hit me just because she liked me. She said, “Now we understand each other.” After that she was a good friend, and I never pulled another girl’s hair.

* * *

I’m sitting here thinking about how many people have done or been through some of the things that I’ve experienced. I’m also hoping that out of one of these incidents somebody will be able to apply or accept something that will change a situation for them in a good way.

* * *

One thing we all have in common: when we hurt someone we know, it’s usually because of the way we feel about that person. Even if someone goes out and hurts others, it has something to do with being hurt by someone else. We don’t just wake up and say to ourselves, I’m going to make a plan to kill people, because I’m having a good day. It’s the complete opposite. We only look for revenge after we’re hurt.

Where a woman will normally throw a man’s clothes out on the lawn or set them on fire, it seems to me that a man is more emotional. Most people say women are, but I notice that I don’t see women doing the reckless things that men do. Of course there’s always an exception to the rules, but normally it’s the man who goes into rages.

* * *

I had a friend who couldn’t read, but he could count all right. He was able to fix cars and knew his way around the city better than I did. Some of the things he taught me were amazing. I still wonder how he could know his way around without being able to read the street signs.

* * *

As parents, we have to teach our children the truth. That truth being that everyone doesn’t learn at the same speed. And when encountering the ones that don’t, try to be understanding and useful. If you do this, your reward will be greater than you can imagine.

* * *

I think it’s helpful to know that some children were raised by their parents to fight. It was supposed to be something like: if somebody hits you, hit them back. But somehow that got lost into who could be tougher. I remember if one of us got into a fight, and the others were around and didn’t help, they would get their ass beat at home. I was raised in an area where at times you would see a whole family out in the streets fighting another family. Sometimes there would be one person fighting another person that was a friend, but it didn’t matter, because that person had to stay loyal to his family. The weirdest thing was that after the fight, they would let a few days go by and try to patch up their relationship.

* * *

Even in my adult life, I still have a funny feeling when someone close to me has problems. I don’t think I would react the way that I used to as a kid. But my point is: some of the things that we learn early on stick with us for a lifetime.

 

* * *

 

I already know that there are things I should turn the other cheek to. Although most of us know this, there’s something inside of us that turns off all that reasoning when we get upset. Some of us can hold things in for very long periods of time. Then there are those who explode in a second.

 

* * *

 

I had a good friend who was a few years younger than me. I had just moved into the neighborhood. Before we knew each other, he was always by himself. We rode our bikes together all over the place. He would often come to my house and eat with us. Sometimes, my mom would get on both of us about washing our hands before raiding the frigerator.

 

As for his house, I visited it just a couple of times, and when I did his mother was asleep on the couch. There were bottles of beer and vodka with smokes sitting on the end table in front of the couch. I never said anything about it to him, and I never mentioned the fact that we both knew he was sneaking in and out because of the hospitality I had shown him. This lasted for a couple of months. One day, his older brother, who was with some of his friends, saw us walking together. I had seen his brother a couple of times before, but then he just ignored us. This time he called us over and asked what we were doing. My friend said we were just playing. I was standing beside my friend when his brother slapped me in the face. I looked at his brother and asked, “What did I do?”

 

His brother’s answer was, “It’s not what you did. It’s what you are.”

 

* * *

 

Lamount was young, and he seemed to be a good person, but he had a problem voicing his opinion. I’m not sure what all happened at the store one day, but he came home and told his brother that some people called him names and hit him. Because Lamount was the youngest in his family, his older brothers were always protective of him. I believe that his pride was hurt more than anything. But Lamount acted as if he had been beat close to the end of his life, which was not true.

 

When Lamount’s brother, Angelo, heard what had happened, he didn’t take time to think about what he should do. Angelo just grabbed a knife and ran with Lamount to the store. Unfortunately, the other people Lamount had complained about were still there. Angelo stabbed them as Lamount looked on.

 

After a couple days passed, the police came to get Angelo. He accepted the responsibility and served his time in a juvenile detention camp. I believe that was one of the worst things that could have happened for Lamount. He didn’t learn anything from that situation—except that violence and fear was a powerful weapon. That cost him his life. He was killed in an armed robbery.

 

* * *

 

I think pity is a poor thing, and I believe that there should be other ways to express ourselves to people we view as not fitting in. When you show or display pity, people around you pick up on it. If someone shows pity to another person in a crowd, there might be someone who will feel jealous, because of your pity for another person.

 

I remember this female that didn’t dress as well as her friends or the other girls. I don’t know if I should even call them her friends, because they used to tease her about her clothes. I never saw this female dirty or smelling bad. When my friend and I would see her, we would always be nice to her out of pity. But her peers would be jealous and ridicule her in front of us. So one day without her friends present, this female called us aside and asked if we would please stop acting like she needed pity. She actually took the time to explain to us that it caused more harm than good. I was surprised and didn’t know how to respond. But after that talk, we treated her differently, and she got along better with her peers.

 

* * *

 

Now there was this apple tree in our neighborhood, and we use to get together and pick apples while they were still green. The owner of this tree didn’t appreciate us climbing his fence and tree. I don’t know what it was about those apples, but we did this every summer or late spring. Maybe it was because we took them to my mom, and she would make apple pies. I know it made me feel popular when everyone depended on me to get my mom to cook the pies.

 

Some of us had never thought about peoples’ color. We just thought about grown people and young people. That was until the man would chase us out of his yard and call us all kinds of names. Then we began to call him names as we ran. It got to the point where we were so mad we couldn’t get those apples that we would ride to his yard and throw rocks. I believe that was the first time I really paid attention to the words “nigger” and “honky.” He would shout out that word, and we learned the word “honky” from one of our friends who helped steal apples. After that, we used the words more and more.

 

* * *

 

One day, I was walking to the bus stop. It was storming outside. A lady wearing a bus driver uniform was trying to get to work, but her car was stuck in the middle of the street. Three young men offered to help her push it to a place that would stop the wheels from spinning in the snow. One of the guys told her to get out of the car, so she did. They pushed the car, and it finally got some traction. The guy’s friends ran after the car while the lady stood there waiting for him to back up and bring her car. But instead his friends got in, and they drove off.

 

I had seen people get robbed and shot. I even got shot before, but I had never seen an act like that. But she didn’t look to upset. Her words were, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about that.”

She just walked to the phone booth and called the police. By the time the bus got there, she boarded it with me as if we had something in common. The only thing I could think of to say was, “Well, at least you’re safe.”

 

* * *

 

I noticed in grade school that there were so many different gestures. Some meant: I don’t want to be bothered. Some meant: I’m scared that my peers won’t accept me if I acknowledge you. Some meant: I just don’t understand how to accept you or if I open up to you as a person by trying to be your friend, you will you reject me. I learned a long time ago that I don’t like the feeling of rejection. I don’t think anyone does, but some people hide it better than others. As for me, I know there’s always something that will bring those old feelings of rejection and fear back.

 

* * *

 

I’m wondering how many of us have bullied someone and felt bad after? I have. I know the reason I did it was to impress someone else. The time that I spent trying to receive praises from one person, I was hurting someone else. The person I was hurting would have been a better friend than the person I was trying to befriend. But I was so busy trying to fit into that person’s circle that I didn’t realize in the meantime, I could have crated a circle of friends on my own who didn’t think it was necessary to inflict harm on other people in order to impress anyone else.

 

It was hard to break that image once I got that pat on the back a few times. The worst feeling is when you bully a person around your so-called friends, and then you see that person when your peers are not around. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling to look a person in their face when it’s just that person and you.

 

* * *

 

I believe that most families are so busy worrying about how to get ahead in life that they don’t give their children the time and love that they need. I remember when I was young. I came from a very large family, and as long as things were going smoothly, you didn’t get much attention. On the other hand, as soon as I did something wrong, the whole family was focused on me.

 

Sometimes I might get punished, but all that was worth it just to receive the attention. So whenever I see or hear about someone doing crazy stuff like shooting people, the first thing that comes to my mind is who are they mad at? It certainly couldn’t be all the innocent people they’ve harmed.

 

* * *

 

We lived in a neighborhood where people were poor, and they didn’t trust neighbors or outsiders. The problem I had with that was if some of the people you hung out with didn’t like somebody, then you were expected to feel the same way or you would be an outcast.

 

Sometimes we would get together and go to the movies, and you were expected to stick with your group. If you talked to someone else, then the rest of your group would be on guard to verbally attack or jump the outsiders. Sometimes I would meet other people I would have loved to have a conversation with. I had to miss out on a lot of opportunities just to save face and protect other people from getting hurt. Sometimes I would be mad at myself, and other times I would be mad at my peers. Sometimes I wished we lived somewhere else.

 

As I got older, I began to take charge of my own life and stopped worrying about what other people thought. When that happened, it was scary at first. But as time went on, I became the most popular person in the neighborhood and had more friends than all my peers.

 

* * *

 

Tommy was an all right guy when Mike’s friends weren’t harassing him. Tommy and I were neighbors, so it was convenient to be friends with him. No matter how his friends put Tommy down, he would still come around. Mike wasn’t the toughest guy in his crowd, and he was afraid to make too much fuss.

 

One day, things were going as they normally did, and Mike’s friends showed up. I don’t know why, but Tommy wasn’t taking any crap off anyone. Maybe he had a bad night or something else happened. All I know is that one of the kids said something to Tommy, and Tommy beat the guy up so badly that everybody around was scared to break it up. One of the boys even ran. When Tommy had beaten the guy unconscious, Mike finally yelled, “Stop!”

 

Without another word, Tommy stopped and walked away. The other guys didn’t call the police, but they never visited Mike again, and when one of them saw Mike or Tommy, they would keep walking. I thought to myself, all they had to do was be polite.

 

* * *

 

I was walking down the streets with a man I thought I knew, and it was raining. At first it was just a sprinkle, then it started pouring. We began to run. As we ran, we came to a lady holding her umbrella. For no reason, the man hit the lady’s umbrella with his fist. I was shocked. I didn’t understand why he did that. But he looked at me like I was crazy and even asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

 

Once we got to where we were going, I asked him why he did that. His response was that if he had to get wet, then other people should too. After that I started paying attention to the things he did. I figured out that I didn’t want somebody like that around me. What was confusing was that I wasn’t really sure how to leave him alone. I felt that if I did, he would do something stupid.

 

* * *

 

One day I was sitting on the porch watching two children play and one told the other, “I don’t want to play with you, because you’re mean.” It was that simple. I had to get that from a couple of four-year old kids.

 

* * *

 

Once I witnessed a couple in a fight. When I got between and tried to break them up, they both turned on me. It wasn’t such a bad feeling, because I saw in the female’s eyes that she was looking for help. I was just happy that they used me to forget about their own problems.

 

I think that when you help someone, you shouldn’t expect to be complimented. If you help someone, it should be something that you chose to do, and you give yourself the reward.

 

* * *

 

I knew some boys that used to go around beating up other kids, because they didn’t like them or they just wanted to show off in front of each other. But one of the boys lived in the opposite direction of all the others. After this boy finished running around with his crowd and doing all kinds of mischief, he had to go through the same neighborhood to get home. I used to see that kid’s whole attitude change. Sometimes he would encounter some of the same people he had bullied with the other boys. I believe that he was terrified every time he had to go by the people he had done wrong.

 

One day, another boy challenged him. He tried to hold face and wiggle out of the situation, but the boy wasn’t going for it. He whipped him fair and square. After that, whenever he saw that boy he would run. Eventually, they talked, and I’m not sure what the conversation was about, but he didn’t come through the neighborhood with his friends bullying anyone. As time went on, he began to spend more time away from his old crowd. Everyone that knew him sort of accepted him back. What was amazing was that the people he had bullied acted as if nothing had ever happened.

 

* * *

 

I thought that I had a girlfriend one time, but maybe all she wanted from me was protection. At first, she would walk past me in the halls and smile. Sometimes she would say a quick “hi” and keep walking. Once she told me that I was going to be late for class. When she walked into the school cafeteria, I began to take for granted that she would sit beside me. I would look forward to meeting her every school day. After a few weeks, people knew that we were together. Some people would greet us, and other people would look at us and roll their eyes at her. When I questioned her about it, she was honest. She explained to me that before we got together, those girls treated her badly, and now that she was my girlfriend, they were afraid to mess with her, because I had a lot of sisters, and they wouldn’t just stand by and let some other girls mess with their brother’s girl. At first, I was upset, but she was so much fun and pretty, so I went along with the program, and it lasted for a couple years. I never knew if I had won her heart or was I just a good source of protection.

 

* * *

 

One day, I was visiting a friend, and the police showed up at his house. They had his daughter in custody. He was told that she had hit another girl and boy with a stick. The outcome of their interview would determine if they would lock her up or not. She apologized and cried. She told her dad and the officer about how they would poke fun at her and even kick her in the ass when they thought they could get away with it. She explained that all she wanted to do was go to school and come home. They would even follow her part of the way teasing and hitting her. She was crying so hard that one of the officers gave her his handkerchief. At that point, we knew they wouldn’t lock her up, so we thanked them for bringing her home. That’s when the other officer said that the reason she’s was getting a break was because she had personally called them, and after talking to the other kids, they couldn’t do much. Her father didn’t know that she had called the police before. When the police had gone, he asked her if she was all right, and she said no. He asked her what was the matter, and she looked him straight in the eyes and said, “What do I do next time?”

 

* * *

Larry and Mike got into a fight because of something that happened on the football field. After talking to the coach, they seemed to have worked things out. But when they met up with their friends later, the attitude on the field returned. Things would have been all right if Mike’s friend hadn’t pushed Larry while they were talking. Deep down Mike and Larry didn’t want to risk getting kicked off the team, but neither one of them wanted to back down in front of their friends. You could tell that they really didn’t want to fight, because after everything was done, neither one of them was seriously hurt. You could also see them looking at the crowd for approval. It took a female to stop the fight. Once the fight was over, things were so messed up between them that it affected the whole team. Coach picked up on it and threatened to kick both of them off the team, so they used that as an escape out of that situation. After awhile, the two of them became friends, and the rest of the bunch was just happy that things were back to normal. The girl that broke up the fight never dated them, but they both treated her as if she was their girlfriend or big sister. If it hadn’t been for her, things could have been so much worse.

 

* * *

 

There were two females that I knew who were sisters and both liked the same boy at school. Before they met this boy, they hung out together. But once this boy came into their lives, you could see the change. Whenever he came around, the sisters would distance themselves from each other. The situation turned two sisters into enemies. They went as far as to set rules as to what they considered fair. They started out playing by the rules, until the boy gave more attention to Jane than Jody. Jody felt that if she gave something that Jane wouldn’t give, she could win this guy over. But instead of winning him over, she embarrassed herself and lost her friends’ respect. What really surprised me was how fast the pictures got around. She sent the pictures to the boy, but out of excitement, he sent them to his friend, and his friend passed them on with a flick of the finger. Every time someone walked past her at school, they would pull up Jody’s pictures on their phone. Once Jane found out about it, she was so furious that she stopped chasing the boy, and did everything that she could to comfort her sister. The only bad thing is that the pictures are still out there.

 

* * *

 

I think about when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I thought that I knew the answer to the question. I don’t remember what the question was, but I do remember that my answer was wrong. This student laughed at me. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but when he laughed, so did the rest of the class. I was so angry and humiliated. Now I think the reason for this happening was because the girl that sat behind me was cute, and I had a crush on her. What’s crazy is that I don’t remember her name or the boys’ names. All that seemed to stick with me was that I had been embarrassed. I don’t recall how long it lasted, but it wasn’t one of those things that went away real soon. It changed the way that I felt in class, and it also made me feel uncomfortable about asking questions in class. So I went from being the spunkiest student in class to the quiet little boy in the back of the room. I never talked to that boy even when he spoke directly to me. You see after a week or so, he forgot all about what had happened. But to this day, I don’t think that he understood the impact that his statement had on me. I’m mentioning this for those of you who don’t know or understand that the things you say and do to other people might slip your mind, but some people hold on to those things, and I think that eventually they come out one way or another. So pay attention to what you say about other people.

 

* * *

 

Charles was the only child in his family, and his mother raised him. He didn’t know who his father was, and whenever he asked his mom about it, she would yell at him and tell him that she was his mom and his dad, and he didn’t need another person in his life. Charles would spend a lot of time at my parents’ house, and sometimes I would get a little jealous, because he was stuck up under my dad more than I was. I didn’t understand until later on that he was seeking a father figure in his life.

 

So we got used to him being around. After awhile, I think we just looked at him as one of us. Charles found some friends, and they started spending a lot of time together. The more time he spent with them, the less he stayed around us. I think it was because the new friends showed him excitement that he couldn’t get from us. One day, I went to his house, and we were talking, and he got a phone call. After he got off the phone, he told me that he had to take care of something. When I asked him what was so important, he showed me a gun. I don’t know where it came from, but I said, “If you go to prison, my dad’s not going to visit you, and your mom don’t have a car.”

 

He looked at me like I was crazy, but he didn’t go and stopped hanging out with those guys.

 

* * *

 

I came from a large family, so I was used to people around me arguing and fighting. As a matter of fact, sometimes there would be fighting before getting out of bed. There were times when one of the girls would pee in the bed. You would hear them shout out a bad word or two, and then the fight would start. I would watch, and thank God that I was a boy and didn’t have to share a bed with them.

 

But when it came to the bathroom, it was a different story. Sometimes I would have to go outside and take an early morning leak. This happened to me a few times until a friend caught me. He asked why I pissed outside, and I explained that in my house the morning was like rush hour. I felt so embarrassed when my friend gave me the solution to my problem. What made it so embarrassing was that she was two years younger than me. I had a hard time getting to sleep that night, because I was excited about how I would deal with the situation. I learned that it’s not important where you get your information from—just as long as it’s good information. The next morning I got up an hour earlier and had all the time and space I needed. Imagine that.

 

* * *

 

He noticed that the girl gave him more attention when he was with those men. Sometimes they would let him run an errand and use their car to do it. Once, he convinced the female to ride with him. I think that’s when he was sucked in. He always talked about getting his own car, and the men let him use their cars more and more. They bragged about him being a good driver, and they also told him that he would be a good getaway driver. They even put money in his pocket to flash around his friends and the girl. He drove for them while they robbed a bank. That was how he intended on getting his car. That was going to be the first and last time he did anything like that. All he wanted was his own car. They all got caught, and he told on everybody. Two of the men threatened to kill him, and the other one said, “We should have know better. He was just a kid with a dream.”

 

* * *

 

It’s been so long that I can’t even think about the last time I had a fight, but I know it was over something that could have been avoided.

 

* * *

 

I remember that I had a newspaper route and how early it was when I’d ride through the neighborhood delivering papers. I knew all the shortcuts. I knew where all the dogs were that chased bikes, and I knew where that bakery was. Even if I didn’t know where it was, I could be led by the smell of baking bread and cakes. By the time that my delivery was over, it would just be turning light outside. I would see morning traffic getting heavy and people on their way to school or work. It didn’t bother me that I had to rush home and get to school. That was a part of the agreement with my parents.

 

My parents allowed me to have the job on the condition that they would know I was all right. I didn’t notice that I was being watched by a couple of boys. I had no reason to pay them any attention. One day when I had picked up the money from my customers, these two boys stopped me. It wasn’t a big deal, because I always had a couple of papers left over, and I’d give them to anyone who asked. But these guys didn’t ask for the paper. They demanded the money. I couldn’t believe it. That is until one of them hit me in the jaw. It still took a minute to register that I was being robbed. I tried to fight back, but every time that I hit one of them, the other one would get me. They got away, but they didn’t get the money. I knew who they were, and I didn’t turn them in to the police, but they were always afraid that I would. I think that was the best punishment that they could receive. The black eye went away, and I never got robbed.

 

* * *

 

I had a crush on a girl. I still don’t know her real name. Everybody in the neighborhood just called her “Candy.” I had a lot of sisters, but they would only braid my hair when it was convenient for them. Candy stayed a few doors down. Whenever she was sitting on her porch and saw me, she would always call me over. She would ask me where I was going and when I was coming back. Sometimes she would ask me to stop by the store and pick up a Pepsi for her. Whenever she saw my hair braided, she would check and make sure it was all right. If it wasn’t, she’d take it all down and re-braid it.

 

One day I noticed a couple of females I attended school with. They didn’t usually come past my house, but for some reason the rumor was going around that Candy was my girlfriend. It wasn’t true, but it felt good until I ran into her boyfriend who was several years older than me and bigger. I immediately stuck out my chest and was ready to accept whatever this guy came with. He called me “little man.” He said, “Little man, come here,” and some people were watching and waiting to see what was going to happen.

 

When I answered him, Candy said, “Go straight home. Your sister is looking for you.”

 

Then she walked off. That helped me understand a little about humility.

 

* * *

 

I don’t fully understand what makes us do the things that we do. I do believe that if we shared what was going on more openly, then so much anger wouldn’t be able to build up. As for me, I was forced to go into a behavior modification program, and I hated it. I hated the counselors, and I hated the people in it. The reason that I hated it was because I didn’t understand it, and more than that, I didn’t understand what it was they were trying to give me. I never completed the program, but the things that I got out of it were useful. After I understood what it was that they were trying to give me, I could have kicked myself for not getting more. I think sometimes we let fear cloud our judgment. I know that there have been a lot of times in my life when I felt that I was hiding the fact that I didn’t know something by displaying anger. What works for me now is talking about it. I talk about things with people I know will not make fun of what I say. Whatever it takes, always find someone you can talk to.

 

* * *

 

I knew a boy who had a crush on a girl, and he didn’t know how to tell her. What he did know was that she didn’t have a bike nor did she know how to ride one. Whenever he saw her walking, he would ride up to her and offer her a ride, which she would gladly accept. They got to the point that whenever he saw her, he would ride up to her, stop his bike, and she would just get on without saying a word. Sometimes he would go a little out of his way to buy her a soft drink. They enjoyed each other’s company until another kid moved into the neighborhood and became friends with her. You could tell the boy was jealous.

 

One day, she was walking down the street. When the boy got close to her, she expected him to stop, but he kept going. Her feelings were hurt. When she asked him what was wrong, he didn’t have an explanation. He just shrugged his shoulders and rode off. After passing her up the second time, she yelled out to him, and he stopped. When she caught up with him, she asked him again what was wrong. But he said nothing, so she forced her way on the bike. While he was riding her around, she said, “I already told him you were my boyfriend, so you don’t have to worry. Next time ask me what’s going on. I can’t read your mind. I just got lucky this time.”

 

* * *

 

Sometimes the people you care about the most can disappoint you. I had a couple of friends I walked with to school. Sometimes we might see someone dressed strangely and laugh, but only if that person couldn’t see or hear us. One day on our way home from school, a boy came out of a doorway and bumped into James. We didn’t think twice about it, since we could tell that it was an accident.

 

But James didn’t see it that way. He took a few steps and grabbed his nose, where the boy had bumped into him. Then James turned around and rushed into the boy and beat him up. We stood there and looked in disbelief. Not until James start stomping the boy did we jump in and pull him off. The boy was lying on the floor, scared to get up, and bleeding from the nose. While I helped him up, he repeated the same thing over again, “I’m sorry.”

 

Finally, the boy walked off, and we went on our way. Nobody talked about what had happened on the way home. The next morning we all felt uncomfortable walking with James. We all tried to act like nothing happened, but we couldn’t put it out of our minds. It took a few more days for James to figure out that we didn’t want him around us anymore. This bothered James so much that he apologized to the boy and made sure we knew about it. But we thought he might do it again, so we kept our distance.

 

* * *

 

There was a girl I worked with. She would always complain about coming to work and the people she worked around. I did my best to keep her in a good mood. Sometimes I would make up songs, and sometimes I would tell her jokes. We got along well. But whenever someone else came around, she would go into a shell, and when I asked her about it, she wouldn’t give me a real answer.

 

One day, I saw her on the way to work. I figured that she was having car problems, so I circled the block and pulled up behind her. When I got out of my car, I walked to the passenger side, opened the door, and slid in. I said, “Here I am to save the day.”

 

She gave me a strange look, and before I could say anything else, she was hugging me so tight that it hurt my neck. Still it felt good, so I didn’t mind. After what seemed like hours, but was really only seconds, I said, “Come on. Let’s get this thing started.”

 

She smiled and said there was nothing wrong with the car. She said, “You just fixed the problem by being nice.”

 

For a minute, I was puzzled. She wiped her eyes, and I got back in my car and followed her to work. When we went on our lunch break, she told me that she was going through a bad break up. I saw another coworker walking by, and I called her over and asked, “How’s that break up going?”

Once our co-worker started speaking about it, I couldn’t turn her off, so I left her and the other girl talking. They became good friends, and before you knew it, they formed a group of them that had been going through the same thing.

 

* * *

 

It was hot outside, and most of the kids in the area were at the park or the local swimming pool. The adults just sat on their front porches with fans. Some of them were watering their lawns and spraying each other at times with the hose. Johnnie didn’t go to the pool, and he didn’t sit outside. Instead, he was washing his car when two teens came up to him. He stopped what he was doing and talked to them. I must have been in the house longer than I thought. When I came back to the porch, they were drinking beer and had turned the music up a lot louder.

 

Miss Jones just couldn’t take it anymore: the loud music, the heat, and the fact that two of the teens were strangers to her. We were surprised when the police turned the corner. As soon as they came, she walked down the steps to meet the police. We all wondered what was going on. After a couple of minutes, the police went over to the boys. They had a short conversation, and the police put the boys in the car and drove off, leaving Johnnie behind. Johnnie went over to Miss Jones’s house. It looked like he was cursing her out. But when they got finished talking, they hugged. I couldn’t wait to ask Johnnie what that was all about. He told me that one of the boys had snatched her purse at the grocery story a month ago, and she recognized him by the way that he wore his hat. He thought she was crazy, but she said that she also remember his tennis shoes.

 

* * *

 

Everybody I know enjoyed drinking a cold Pepsi in the middle of the summer. So that’s what we were doing when we saw the girls coming down the street. They all wore tight blouses and tight jeans. They would have been cute if we didn’t know what they were coming for. There was a new female in our school, and these girls were supposed to be the toughest and boldest females. When they walked past us, we gave out a couple of catcalls but they didn’t care one way or the other.

 

The girls surrounded the new female and asked her what school she came from. She responded in a nice way. Then one of them walked so close to her that the new female had to be able to feel her breath on her face, but she maintained her cool. They asked why she came to our school and what did at the other school. I guess the girl got tired of all the questions, so she started to walk off. But when she did that, the other girls grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. Before they could say another word, the new female ran. A lot of students laughed and some looked on. The next morning, we saw her beating up one of the girls, so we broke it up. I looked at her in disbelief and said, “I thought you couldn’t fight?”

 

She just smiled and said, “I don’t fight when other people want me to,” and walked off.

 

* * *

 

We were in McDonalds, and a man came in to eat. We didn’t pay much attention to him until we saw him later that day. We knew that he must have been hot, because he wore a jacket in the middle of a hot summer day. What we didn’t know was that he was a cop. Not until Larry came walking down the street. Larry had been doing small stuff like stealing bikes and shoplifting, so we knew that if the cop was snooping around it was because of Larry. What we didn’t know was that Larry had hooked up with this female who was a few years older than him. She always had pot and pills that Larry was helping her sell. He got into a couple of fights and won, which the girl must have seen as an opportunity to use him.

 

When Larry came around the corner, the cop just grabbed Larry and slammed him to the ground without a word. Larry struggled to free himself, but he wasn’t strong enough. Police cars seemed to be coming from everywhere. Finally, things were under control. When we looked in the backseat of the police car, Larry’s girlfriend was sitting there. We overhead the cop say, “This isn’t the first time that she’s used one of these kids.” Then they opened the door of the car and let her go. But Larry went to jail, and he was gone for a long time.

 

* * *

 

Sometimes I think we embarrass ourselves and then get angry with others just because we made a fool of ourselves. Once, when I was about sixteen, I was coming out of a store, and a man approached me. He lured me to his car, where he had four or five boxes in the trunk. He asked me if I wanted to buy a T.V. I told him that if I wanted a T.V., I’d buy it from the store. When I said that, I felt so good about myself that I stuck my chest out a little bit.

 

Then the man said, “Maybe not for a third of what they normally cost.”

 

That caught my ear. I asked him what was the catch?

 

He replied, “Just don’t tell nobody.”

 

I didn’t have enough money, so I told him that I’d be right back. I went home and asked my dad for some money. Of course my dad asked me what for, so I told him. He said no problem. Just have the guy bring the T.V. to the house, and he would give him a few extra bucks for bringing it.

 

When I did, the man refused to come with me. But I really wanted that T.V. I didn’t see the actual T.V. I just saw the picture on the box, but I knew it was new and would look good in my room. Just then two men jumped out of a car, and the man I was speaking to took off running. They couldn’t catch him, so they took the boxes and threw them to the ground. The only thing was in the boxes was wood and sticks. When I told my dad later that night what had happened, he said that he already knew, but I probably wouldn’t have believed him. He was right.

 

* * *

 

We saw the kids going into the house, so we knew that there was a party going on. We also had an attitude, because they didn’t invite us. So we just sat across the street on my front porch and watched as more and more people showed up. The music got louder, and the people began to hang out outside. You could smell the pot every time the wind shifted. We knew it was just a matter of time before the fight would break out. We also knew that Miss Anderson would be the one who called the police. She always sat in that chair by the window, and she didn’t miss much that happened on our block.

 

It happened just like we thought it would. At first, there was shouting. Then people gathered outside. We watched as the first punch was thrown, and the knife was pulled. The smart kids were hurrying to leave the party. Others were watching, and a few tried to break up the fighting. But before we knew it, there were two different groups of people fighting each other. We didn’t mind when a few girls ran over to our porch. To us, that was the beginning of the show. The police came, and people were running. People were getting handcuffed.

 

* * *

 

I hated shoveling snow, and I would let my parents know it every time. Even worse, I only had one pair of shoes, and they were not boots. After shoveling snow, I would have to go to school. I had it in my mind that I shouldn’t have to shovel snow and go to school—at least not on the same day. It was embarrassing sometimes. My feet would be wet, and because it was cold outside, the heat would be on high to warm up the classrooms, and I could smell my socks. I’m sure other people also smelled them, but only one person would try his best to get attention by making fun of me.

 

I used to sit up and think about what I could do to him. I even considered punching him in his nose. But I wasn’t the only one who had to shovel snow, and she might not have ever noticed me had it not been for the boy making fun of me. After school one day, the girl approached me and was acting strange. I had seen her several times, but I only said “hi” and “bye.” She stood there, and trying to be cool, I said, “What’s happening.”

 

Her response was, “Shoveling snow, I guess.”

 

At first I thought that she was going to make fun of me, but she explained she had to shovel snow also, and did I know an easy way? That turned in a friendship, and every time that the boy would try to make fun of me, she and her friends would make fun of him. He finally got the picture that it wasn’t cool, so he stopped.

 

* * *

 

We moved around a lot when I was young, and almost every time we moved, we had to make new friends. Sometimes as soon as we made friends, we’d be moving again. It got to the point where every time we moved somewhere, we would have to prove ourselves all over again in order to fit in. I started out trying to be tough, but there was always somebody tougher.

 

So I tried something else. I just didn’t talk a lot, and I would listen to all my new friends’ complaints and all of the things that they liked to do. Then when something came up, people would use me as a go-to-guy. Most of the time, that was a good feeling. But one day, a female came up to me and explained that she liked this guy, but he didn’t notice her. That was the wrong kind of problem for me. But I knew that if she didn’t think I could help her that she wouldn’t have come to me. At first I thought maybe somebody was setting me up to look bad, and it scared me, because I thought if I couldn’t help her, I would look foolish. Just then, my sister walked up. She asked me what I was doing. I told her about the girl while she was standing there, and my sister took her by the arm and walked away.

 

I saw the girl a couple of days later walking with the guy, so I asked my sister what she told the girl. She said, “Nothing. I just took her to the boy and told him that she liked him. They figured out the rest on their own.”

 

* * *

 

I try to think of things that aren’t going to put me in a bad mood—although at times, it seems like that can be a lot of work. I was waiting for a bus early one morning, and I saw a lady walking her dog. She kept yanking on the leash whenever the dog got close to a tree. The first thing that came to my mind was she had a certain spot she wanted him to use. Then I saw her hit the dog with the leash and kick him. I couldn’t take it anymore. Watching her abuse that dog ruined my day so early in the morning I had to ask her what her problem was.

 

Instead of telling me something about the dog, the lady immediately started a conversation about how her boyfriend didn’t come home last night. The she told me how much she loved her boyfriend, and how could he treat her that way? While she was telling me this, I was thinking that dog must feel the same way she did. But I listened to her story, and I tried to comfort her without getting into a deep discussion. When I saw the bus coming, I was truly relieved.

 

She seemed to know that the conversation would end with the bus’s arrival, and sure enough, the closer the bus came, the more the tears started to flow. I knew I was going to be late for work, but I couldn’t just leave her there. I was thinking about rescuing the dog, and the only way to do that was to listen to her story and hope she would take my advice about not abusing it. Of course we all know that the dog belonged to her boyfriend.

 

* * *

 

Every time I think about the girl in my complex, I ask myself would it have made a difference? Gloria and her husband got along good when they didn’t have money. They would get creative and do all sorts of things to come up with cigarettes and beer money. We noticed how they would be in the store kissing each other while they were shopping. We also knew that it wouldn’t be long before they were arguing with each other again. Sometimes when they would fight, somebody would call the police, and for some strange reason, they would take up for each other.

 

Their daughter would take as much of the noise as she could. But when she couldn’t take it anymore, she would come over to our place. We never questioned her about what was going on, because everybody in the complex already knew. So whenever she was there with us, all of us—including her—just acted as if nothing were happening. Even when the police came, she wouldn’t show that she was upset. Sometimes she would look out the door or window to see if the police took one of her parents, but that was the most interest that she showed. Sometimes she spent the night with us. We had become so used to her coming and going that nobody paid much attention when she disappeared. She was gone two days before anyone noticed. When they called the police, it took them about seven hours to locate her. She was a really nice girl, and we all liked her.

 

* * *

 

Tim always stayed with his mom. He could stay with his father on weekends, but he chose not to. Whenever his father came to pick him up, he would come up with an excuse about why he couldn’t leave. Although his dad knew that Tim was just making up the stories, his dad would let Tim get away with them. We didn’t know why Tim wanted to stay home by himself. He very seldom came outside, and when he did, he didn’t talk to many people. He would speak to us, and sometimes he would hang out just long enough to be considered one of the boys.

 

One day, he invited us to his house, and we were surprised by how he had everything organized in his room. The way that he dressed, we just assumed that he would have been a junkie. So we started believing that he was weak or a “mama’s boy.” Then he offered us something to drink, so we had some beer, and the beer led to vodka, and the vodka led to us being drunk.

 

Once everyone was full of booze, we needed something to do. Bobby started pushing Tim around and calling Tim names like “punk” and “sissy.” But Tim seemed to take it all in stride. Bobby broke a chair, and we all knew he did it on purpose. That’s when Tim told us to leave. Although the rest of us were feeling uncomfortable and ready to go, Bobby wasn’t. We tried to grab Bobby by the arm, but he snatched his arm away. That’s when Tim walked into his bedroom and came out with a gun. We thought it was a toy until he shot into the ceiling. That’s when we all ran. Bobby wasn’t drunk anymore, and we never went to Tim’s house again.

 

* * *

 

We used to wait for the city bus, and when it stopped to pick up people, we would get on the outside of it and hold onto the sign in the back. We had bus passes and could have easily gotten on the bus, but that wasn’t as cool as riding on the back. At almost every stop, we would jump off, and our friends would talk to us before they got on board. The girls inside the bus would hang out the back and blow kisses at us.

 

There was only one girl who was bold enough to ride with us. At first I didn’t mind, but then the other boys started to complain. They elected me to talk the girl out of riding with us. I felt it wasn’t fair that I was the one elected to stop her from riding. So what if she was my sister? Anyway, I wasn’t sure how to go about it, because not only was she my older sister, but she was the one who showed me how to jump on.

 

I tried putting it off, but they continued to press me. Just about the time when I built up enough nerve to tell her not to ride with us anymore, one of my friends lost his footing, and while everyone else watched in shock, my sister grabbed onto him by the back of his jacket and steadied him until the bus stopped. We all jumped off and ran, so that we wouldn’t be late for school. I felt badly about it, so I waited a long time before I told my sister that they had wanted to vote her out. When I did tell her, she said I already knew. She also knew that we would never hop on the back of a bus again.

 

* * *

 

We used to go swimming at the lake in one of the parks. At that time, we didn’t know about pollution and the effects that swimming in dirty water can have on you. All we knew was that it was hot outside. If there were enough of us, we would ride our bikes to the lake, strip down to our underwear, and jump in. I don’t know if Linda and Lindell thought that they were boys or what, but they would take their clothes off just as fast as we would. It was hard not to notice them when they weren’t wearing their bras, but somehow we managed not to be too obvious. After the swim, we would always lie on the banks of the lake and dry off beneath the heat of the sun. Every once in awhile, someone would pass by, but it was usually the old fisherman. We didn’t pay much attention to him, and he didn’t pay much attention to us. We had been warned about sneaking off to the lake. To avoid trouble, we would arrive home before dark.

 

* * *

 

There was a makeshift ramp that we would ride our bikes over, and I fell and hit my head. I was knocked out cold. When I woke up, the only person still there was holding my head in her lap. I was so thankful to her and angry with everyone else for leaving. I threatened to beat them up. But she told me, “Don’t be mad at them. I was here with you. Besides there’s no need for everyone to get in trouble.” I still love her.

 

* * *

 

Alfreda didn’t hang out with the rest of the girls at school. She was tough, and the other girls knew it. Most of them had seen her in a fight with a boy her age and size. She won the fight, and it wasn’t an easy fight. The boys didn’t make fun of their friend for getting into a fight with a girl because it was a real tough fight. After a couple of weeks, the boy apologized for making fun of her. What was good about that was he did it in front of a large group of people.

 

Alfreda stayed to herself at school, but when she was out of school, she hung out with a few boys in her neighborhood. She felt comfortable around them, because she had known them for most of her life. They also knew she wasn’t into boys. She liked girls just as much as they did, and sometimes she was even better at meeting girls they than were. She would introduce females to them when she went out with other girls, and Alfreda taught them how to talk and act around females. Maybe that’s why they respected her so much.

 

The girls always tried to hook Alfreda up with a guy, but she just wouldn’t do it. One evening when she showed up with a female on one arm, everybody was happy except for the girl she was with. The girl didn’t like Alfreda’s friends. It really hurt Alfreda, but she had to accept the fact that her friends had always been there for her, so Alfreda let the girl go.

 

* * *

 

I met this lady whose daughter ran away from home nightly. The mother would go out looking for her, but when she found her daughter, the girl ran. The mother knew that she had to do something differently, so she paid me to make friends with her daughter, gave me money to give to the girl as a friend, and sometimes asked me to take her shopping for clothes. I always made sure that the girl had a safe place to sleep, and at times, I would have to protect her.

 

But after awhile, I began to feel that it was my responsibility to take care of the girl, and it felt like too much work. I became close enough to the girl to figure out that I needed to convince her to go home. This didn’t take as much effort as I thought. I just started bragging about my mom during our conversations. I would brag about my parents, and she would put hers down. At least that’s how it started. But then she began to tell me stories about a trip she had taken with her family or something funny her mom said, and we would laugh about it together. Finally, one night I asked the girl if she wanted to go home. At first she said no, but then after a couple of minutes, she said, “I don’t know how to go back home.”

 

So we came up with a plan. The girl would pretended to be sick, and I would bring her mother to her. Of course I let her mom know what was up, and she came. They went home together, and as far as I know, the girl didn’t leave again.

 

* * *

 

Once when I was walking, I saw a man and a woman trying to enjoy the day, but a group of guys kept annoying them. The man tried to be nice about it, but the guys wouldn’t go away. The guys were doing outright stupid stuff. While the couple was lying in the grass, the guys would step over them and laugh about it as if it were funny. Finally the couple decided to leave.

 

A couple of months later, the same guys who were teasing the couple that day got shot. We didn’t see the shooting, but we heard the gunshots, so we ran to see what was going on. There wasn’t much we could do. We didn’t know anything about helping people with gunshot wounds. All we knew was, you were supposed to call the police.

 

* * *

 

At first I couldn’t figure out why everyone would avoid Carol. She always seemed nice to me. So I asked the other girls why they didn’t hang out with Carol that much and found out that it was because of her body odor. I made it my business to wait after school and ask her if I could walk her home. She agreed, but she would only let me walk her to the corner of her block. This happened a few times. One day, I walked Carol to the corner, and when I was about to leave, she pulled me by my hand and gave me a hug. That’s when I could understand what the other kids were talking about. I liked Carol, and I wasn’t about to turn my back on her because of her body odor, so I told her a story.

 

“Once, we lived in a small house. We didn’t have a bathtub, so we would take our baths in a washtub with water that we heated in pots. We didn’t like doing that, so we would get up early in the morning and wash up in the face bowl. But we would have to do it every morning to avoid body odor. It was hard, but we didn’t it, and nobody ever knew that we were bathing in the sink. Our biggest wish was that we would have a bathtub, and finally we moved and had a bathtub and a shower. Everyone in my house uses it even if they don’t smell.”

 

After that day, Carol smelled differently and nobody complained about her anymore. Except for me. She stopped letting me walk her home.

 

* * *

 

I still don’t understand why brothers compete against each other. I think in my case, I was looking for approval. Our mother and father always showed us love, and they never encouraged us to get ahead of each other. If anything, they told us to stick together.

 

Every time there was something that needed to be done around the house, neither of us would do it unless my dad asked. Then one of us would try to outdo the other. Once the phase came when we were interested in girls, it was as if we were property owners. I would just look at one of the girls my brother liked, and I’d see a “No Trespassing” sign on her forehead. That didn’t necessarily mean the girl liked him. It just meant that the girl was hands-off, and “I can show you what all I can do to make her like me.”

 

I have been in a situation where I thought my brother and I would throw blows at each other. Although in other situations, we stuck together and came out winners. Sometimes I used to think that my brother and I would be best friends all our lives. But things can’t always turn out the way you imagine. I love all my family, but just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you can share a life together.

 

* * *

 

Kelly’s parents got divorced, and when that happened, she was walking around like there was a death in her family. When we finally asked her what was wrong, it was hard for us not to laugh. Almost everybody in the neighborhood was on their second or third dad. We all seemed to accept that was a part of life. Some kids used to make statements like, “You’ll be my second wife,” and we would laugh about it.

 

* * *

 

There is a question that each and every one of us will ask ourselves. Most of us will be bold enough to ask other people or family members. If you haven’t figured out what that question is, by the time you finish reading this, you will know.

 

Every time I went to pick up this girl, I’d never go into her house or talk to her family. Our relationship started when I met her in the McDonald’s restaurant, and she didn’t have enough for her order. She was only short some change, so I paid and thought nothing more about it. But after she got her order, she came over to my table, sat with me, and started a conversation. We exchanged numbers, and before I even knew what was going on, I was picking her up for school and giving her rides home. Sometimes we would go for rides and meet up with our friends, and sometimes just the two of us would go to the park alone and do what teenagers do.

 

Once we were on our way to her house, and she saw her brother walking, so I pulled over to let him in the car. We didn’t talk other then say “hi.” She made small conversation with him, but I could tell that he didn’t feel that comfortable. She didn’t care. She just kept on talking until we got to her house. Her brother got out of the car, and as he was walking away, he turned and said, “Thanks for the ride.” That’s when her mother came outside and waved for her to come. The girl said to me, “Come on. I want you to meet my mom.” That’s when I asked myself that question, “Will they like me?”

 

* * *

 

I believe that there is no family in the world who doesn’t have problems. I remember when my friends and I would ride our bikes out to the neighborhood where wealthy people lived. From looking at the houses and the cars, we just figured that their lives were all good. On the other hand, sometimes I thought that everyone around me had a dark cloud over them.

 

One day, we were riding our bikes in the wealthy neighborhood when we saw two men throwing blows. We stopped and sat on our bikes watching, trying to figure out what they were fighting about. They fought until the police came and broke them up. Of course we were upset when the police let them go free. We had never seen a fight in our neighborhood when the police got involved and let both parties go.

 

* * *

 

Well, these are just some things that I was a part of, witnessed, or heard about. I hope that somebody will get some use out this. If nothing else, I hope that they will understand some of the strange stuff around us. I now believe that when you help other people, your life will change for the better.

 

As for me, I think about my mother and her cancer. I believe a mother will always be proud of a son or daughter who has a good heart. I vow 25% of the profits from this book will be given for cancer research. I don’t consider myself important, but what is important is doing something for someone else.

Lionel Scott is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.

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Countdown to Launch

Issue 3February 14th, 2014
Online version of Issue 3 goes live!

As Us Indigenous Women’s Literary Journal

As Us Literary Journal

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