Welcome to the Neighborhood
by Daniel Carrero ’23
I wonder if I walked like you when I was your age. There was an innocent bounce to your step.
You probably thought me and Coz pulled up on you by surprise. You probably thought you walked onto the wrong block on the wrong day and ran into the wrong people.
Your legs were shaking and your voice was cracking, “I don’t want n-n-no problem, yo. I’m just walking home,” you said.
Coz smiled with all his teeth, “Where you from kid?” he asked.
You felt so small to me then, so insignificant. Your trembling was disgusting to me.
My stomach churned at the sound of your voice, “I-I-I what kid?!” I shouted, “You don’t know how to talk or something?!”
The only word you managed to squeak out, “Pine!”
Coz looked at me, “Oh, he’s up on Pine, huh. Wild ’cause I ain’t ever seen you before.”
I never took my eyes off you—I never blinked.
“So who told you you could walk on Maple?” I asked.
The more I stared you down the more I wanted you to make a move—needed you to. Curse at me, scream at me, or hit me, do anything but not run away. If you ran away then things would be worse. Those are the rules. “I asked you a question!”
Say something—anything, I thought.
“N-no one,” you whimpered.
Finally! Coz nodded and stepped back.
Grabbing you by the collar, I let it all out. I felt your teeth cut my knuckles. Another swing and your nose poured; blood smeared onto my hand. I shoved you onto the sidewalk and you begged me to stop. At that moment you made me hate you so much.
What the hell is wrong with you? I thought, Get up, do something! I kicked and I stomped and you did nothing. You cried. You pleaded for me to stop but you refused to make me. How dare you, I thought.
Coz grabbed my shoulder, “You can stop, Nigel.” I looked up at him but I couldn’t see his face. I only heard his voice. “That was good,” he said.
We knew where you lived. You stepped out your gate and tried to run when you saw us—you didn’t get far. Your eye was black and your nose swollen and crooked. Something in your eyes was different than before. Even though you knew you didn’t stand a chance, you didn’t stutter when you said, “Leave me alone!”
You stared me down and I remembered being you once. I knew how much you hated me—how much you wanted to bury me. That was good, it’s what we wanted from you.
Coz put his hand on your shoulder. “Welcome to the neighborhood,” he said. “Come with us.”