Sunday, April 04, 2010

Random Thinking

Sometimes I hate this fucking town.

Met a kid got jumped into a gang a few weeks ago. Football player, hard worker, naive as all fuck. Spent a couple weeks playing gangbanger until he realized, dimly, how much it was going to fuck up his life. Still doesn't get it.

Even after they beat him senseless, gave him a concussion, loosened some teeth. He still can't grasp it. "You wouldn't understand," he tells his mother, a woman who cleans houses for a living, who skimps and saves to bring up her children right. She's such a fucking saint, she's a cliche.

"You wouldn't understand. It's man's business. Men do what they have to do."

And he believes it. Doesn't know what it means, but he sure as fuck believes it.

He's been fed this line of bullshit over and over throughout school. He's a mama's boy, he's a pussy. Maybe he's a faggot, they say. He's sixteen and changing identities the way the French change mistresses. The way we all did when we were sixteen.

Trying to figure out what being a man is. What it means to be male and a teenager in Los Angeles. And the only guides he gets are a long distance trucker father who doesn't want him and some guy named Julio who "just wants to be his friend."

Gives him a bit of manhood to try on for himself. It smells like Tecate and pot. Tastes like heroin. Stings like a black eye so severe he needs a good cutman in his corner.

But these people understand him.

And that's worth its weight in fucking gold.

Sure, kid, here's some cash. Give it to your mom. This is what men do. They provide. Nah, there's nothing wrong. It's money, right? Get some dinner on the table.

All you gotta do is run this package down to Palms for me and bring back a fat envelope full of twenties.

The kind of man we turn out to be depends on what we do here. At this moment. Because it's not just temptation. It's a turning point. It's a deal with a devil who offers salvation.

'Cause Christ sure as shit ain't handing out Benjamins.

So he thinks about it. And eventually he makes a right choice. Because he's a good kid, if not all that bright, who listens to his mother and his sister and his little brother, too, who are all telling him the same thing.

Get out. Get out now. Get out while you still have legs to walk out on. Before the gunfire starts and the razor blades come out. Before you spend a night, then a weekend, then a year in County. Before you end up with a habit you can't break, or a bullet in your leg, or shitting in a bag instead of out your colon.

So he makes that right choice. And those boys who think they're men, who think they know what that means, who only see possibilities through their tiny, violent windows on the world where everything's painted in streaks of Krylon and blood and twisted ideas of honor?

They hurt him for it.

Hurt him more going out than coming in. Make him bleed. Make him burn. His face swoll up like a goddamn clown balloon. All purple, red, twisted.

But he's out.

Until the next time they call him a mama's boy, a pussy, or maybe a faggot. And they wheedle at him and fill his head with more of that same tired line. When he feels alone and scared and no one understands him. When he's angry. The kind of visceral anger that only teenage boys can pull together.

He'll wonder.

I only hope he makes the right choice then, too.

5 comments:

Gerard said...

That was depressing. Even with a happy ending.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

What makes you think it's got a happy ending?

Gerard said...

He's alive. It's happy for now.

Mike Dennis said...

A real eye opener, Stephen. Very well said.

Keith Rawson said...

Powerful post