So the other day I thought how do I know that I won’t be on the street all my life like the other people I spend my days with? I wake up every day and think these four things so they will be clear to me like nothing else.
1) 1) I will one day walk off these streets like I was never here.
2) 2) I need to learn all I can in and out of school, before I leave.
3) 3) Staying close with the core people I started with is very important.
4) 4) Almost all the people I see around me will not be coming with me.
I learned the first two within the first month of being out here. I then learned the second two within the first six month of being out here. I get all four reinforced daily
It is made real when my friends tell me stories like this.
Cole, the oldest and most street wise of my new friends and when it comes to loyalty to the Family he’s always teaching us by example. One day after I had known him for about a month I asked him what I thought would be an easy question with an easy answer.
“Why do you still live on the street and turn tricks? You’re a smart and very capable guy; you could get a job and then an apartment and live a better life.”
He looked at me like I had spoken the name of his secret God and was going to unravel his deepest truths.
He spoke quickly and in a clear voice;
“I belong here, this is the only life I was given”.
It was the first of many that my friend would break my rapidly aging heart. He said it so matter-a-factly that there seemed nothing more to say, almost. Well I never give up that easily. In my 12 year old mind there was always another way.
“So have you ever wanted to live in an apartment? Have your own space or maybe your own room?” I said
“I belong here with the rest of the trash.” He said looking me right in the eyes.
“Hey maybe that would make a good tattoo,” I said trying to lighten the heavy mood.
I was shocked, I didn’t know if I wanted to hug him tight or run away fast. What do you say when the person you look up to thinks of himself as trash? Does that make you trash? I know I’m not, am I!
I tried to tell him we were not trash but it came out sort of crazy sounding to my ears.
He laughed and said, “You’ll learn, we all did.”
Rainbow is like our big sister. I also look up to her. I wrote a report about her being my Hero when I was in middle school and I got a completion but I had to see the school counselor to talk about why some street girl was my biggest Hero.
The Teacher didn’t want to talk to me and the counselor had a tough time as well.
“So Ted, your teacher wants me to talk to you about your writing assignment,” said the apprehensive looking man smelling of way too much cologne.
“Why, did I do something wrong?” I said.
“No not really, it just about who you picked as your Hero,” he said.
“I picked my friend Rainbow; because she is the strongest and coolest girl I know,” I said.
“What school does she attend or is she an adult?” he asked.
“She doesn’t go to school because she hates it,” I said honestly.
“Isn’t there someone else in your life you can write about?” he asked all sympathetically.
“I often write about my great grandmother, she’s the best! But I wanted to write about someone different this time. What’s this about? Did Mrs. Cherry not like it that wrote about Rainbow?” I asked confused but defensively.
“Umm she thinks it’s a little inappropriate for this assignment. She wanted me to see if you would like to write another report about someone famous like Mother Teresa or President Jimmy Carter or maybe Magic Johnson, you like him right? You could even write about him.
I gave him a look that said no way.
“No I don’t like any of those people and Mother Teresa is not my Hero and will never be. Tell Mrs. Cherry to give me an ‘F’ if she wants but I wrote my report and it’s good.” “Did you read my report?” I asked
“Well not yet, I read the first page, but I was planning on finishing this afternoon,” he sputtered.
“Well read it and you tell me what you think. If you don’t like it I will write another one. But not on those people you said,” and I rolled my eyes.
He agreed to read my report fully and wanted me to come back the next day to get his answer.
I didn’t care what he said Rainbow was my Hero every since I met last summer. As I walked out of there I thought: Why am I so different from the other students. I know I’m gay and sensitive but that’s not it. They write their reports on their parents or President Cater or this Mother Teresa who ever that is and they are happy and don’t have to talk to a counselor. I can’t write what I want or talk about what I think with some trip to the smelly counselor. They look at me like I’m some sort of freak with two heads. I almost always keep my stupid brain to myself.
Rainbow is the kind of girl that the other girls wish they could be. She doesn’t take stuff from anybody and she does her own thing. Her hair is maybe about 8 different colors and sometimes a big puffy afro and other times curly and hanging down. She is smart and when it comes to her friends she is so caring.
Forget them if they don’t like her, I do.
I sometimes live on the street and sometimes with my cousin Ruthie because she lives across the street from the school. Better than at home for sure. But still don’t fit in anywhere.
I will not be an old man out here on the block. I will not become a junky like this man said I would be the other day. One day I will have the life I want, well as soon as I know what that is.
But why do I know that?
Maybe it’s the extended family I come or the Great Grandmother that raised me for 91/2 years. I don’t know, but I know that I am not a regular kid like the ones I meet at school or here in Hollywood. I have to be OK with that, My Uncle Benji says being different could make me a star one day. I don’t know if I even want to be some kind of star.
I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and maybe I’ll meet someone one day who will explain everything to me.