This is the second part of a three part short story. Read part one here
When Jason pulled up I was ready and waiting at the door. I always liked the weekend, but tonight I was super geeked. My school refund had just been processed on Tuesday and I went shopping. I had on some fresh new RocaWear jeans and the cleanest retro Jordan 12s I had ever seen. Plus, it had been a long week at Hamline and I needed to let loose. I hated every minute I spent on campus. It was like a whole different world, and the people there treated me like I was a martian too. It seemed like everything I did was a spectacle. Folks asking me what life in the city was like, had I been shot, did I know any gangbangers. It was enough to make my head spin. Being back in my neighborhood with Jason and the rest of the crew was like a return to normal. I was feeling good.
“Ah shit new gear!” Jason always noticed when I got new clothes, probably because he was plotting on when he could “borrow” some of it.
“Yea man. Hamline is good for something I guess!” I responded as I got in the car.
“Damn man they just cut you a check just like that?”
“Yea man, I take out extra on my loans and they just give me the money.”
Jason didn’t go to college. After we graduated from St. John’s Jason went to East High School, the local public school, and didn’t finish. It wasn’t that Jason was dumb or couldn’t do the work, he was smart and worked hard, it was just that he didn’t see the point. It was always a bit ironic to me because it was Jason’s comment at his birthday way back in 3rd grade that made me transfer back to St. John’s. If he had never said anything maybe I wouldn’t have ended up at Cliffview, one of the best college prep schools in the state, and maybe I wouldn’t have gone to college either. Who knows though, my parents say they always knew I was going to Cliffview. They thought college was the way to a better life. I figured I was smart enough, I got decent enough grades without really trying, and it gave me the opportunity to keep playing baseball so what the hell. Now I was a junior at Hamline, paying the 37k per year tuition with mad loans, and the only part I gave a shit about was getting those refund checks.
“Damn. Maybe I should go to college they just giving that shit away”
“With your dumb ass ain’t nobody giving you shit” Jason just laughed and turned up the music.
“J, you talked to Derek?”
Derek was a friend of ours from the neighborhood. When his family moved in it was a big deal for a few of the other families on the block, they were “ruining the neighborhood.” My family never thought about it like that, we were told to not see color so it didn’t matter that they were black. When the families that just couldn’t stand “those people who just want to continue living off the government” moved out Derek, Jason, and myself became good friends.
“Yea we got to pick him up on the way downtown.”
“Tight” I was excited to kick it with my two closest friends. Tonight was going to be a good night.
We didn’t have any real big plans or anything, just to kick it. While most people our age were headed downtown to go to the clubs we were cool to find somewhere to grab something to eat and just chill.
It didn’t take us long to get to Derek’s and when we pulled up he was already outside on the phone.
“What’s up ya’ll. Damn I need to get out.” Derek seemed extra stressed
“What’s going on man?” something in Derek’s voice made my stomach drop.
“Ah man, it’s all good. You know how it goes, bills are long and money is short.”
“That’s the story of my life man.” Jason replied and he wasn’t lying either, of the three of us his family had come the closest to being foreclosed on. There were more times than I can remember when Jason was skipping meals and taking nap sandwiches.
“Shit sucks.” Derek’s words hung in the air. What the hell you supposed to say to that? Yea it is and we all knew it, no need to confirm that shit.
To break the mood I reached over and turned the radio up as loud as it went. The bass banged so hard it rattled the speakers, normally I would have turned it down because that shit sounds awful but tonight I left it up; in fact, if I could have turned it up higher I would have, something needed to drown out the thoughts. Those only led to trouble.
By the time we got to the restaurant we were all feeling better. We were debating whether or not Iggy Azalea was real Hip Hop and if it was cool for her to rap in a black girl’s voice. Jason was arguing that she was tight and “fine enough to get it.” That got Derek talking about how she clearly wouldn’t go for Jason over him, she was clearly “one of those white girls that loves black dudes.” I just laughed and shook my head. Just as I was reaching for the door someone said my name.
“Aiden!” I recognized the voice and every muscle in my body tensed up. I turned around to see Andrew Johnson. Before I could say anything Andrew started in.
“Still trying to be black I see”
“Who the fuck is this hillbilly Aiden?” Derek didn’t know Andrew because his family was one of those that left NE before Derek’s moved in.
“Hey you even got a real live negro!” Andrew started to laugh.
“Negro? Did this mothafucka just call me a negro?” Derek was already balling up his fists.
“Andrew it’s been a long time since we seen you around NE, I think since your mom was caught sucking off the mailman right?” Jason always went straight for folks mothers; he just didn’t give a fuck. Most of the time people just ignored him but Andrew was clearly upset.
“Fuck you Jason! But I wouldn’t expect anything less, your mom can’t even keep the heat on, probably spends all her money on drugs. Maybe she borrows this one’s welfare check” Andrew slurred his words while pointing in Derek’s general direction. Jason lunged at Andrew with pure hate in his eyes and I was barely able to step in front of him to hold him back. I didn’t want this drama tonight.
“Andrew, you’re drunk. Go home before you end up hurt.” I was genuinely surprised at how calm I was.
“I wish you fucking bums, with your little nigger friend, would try and hit me!” Andrew really thought nobody was going to do anything.
It must have only took a few seconds. I was between Andrew and Jason with my back to Andrew. I turned over my left shoulder and hit Andrew with a right cross. Andrew’s head snapped back, Jason rushed passed me and connected with a left hook. Derek followed with an overhand right that knocked Andrew to the ground. But that didn’t stop us. I was standing over Andrew throwing punches while Jason and Derek were kicking him in the ribs, Jason on the left and Derek on the right.
It wasn’t until we heard someone yelling to call the police that we snapped back to reality. Andrew was on the ground in the fetal position whimpering, holding his ribs and bleeding. We just stood there and stared at each other, all three of us terrified at what might have happened, at what we were capable of.
The patrol must have just happened to be in the area and saw the commotion because they showed up damn near instantaneously after the bystander yelled to call them. Two cops jumped out of the squad car and ran up to us, one already had his gun drawn.
“Get the fuck on the ground!” you could feel the hatred.
We were all still standing over Andrew in shock.
“Get the FUCK on the ground.” The cops repeated themselves as they got closer. Derek was the first one of us to react.
“Ok. Ok. Relax” he said as he started to move to the ground.
“Now!” shouted the cop with his gun drawn. As he made his way towards Derek he pulled out his baton and blasted Derek in the ribs. That was enough to shake Jason and me out of our trance.
“What the fuck. You can’t do that shit!” I shouted at the officer while his partner stood between us and Derek, who was still getting his ass beat.
“Stop that! Help us!” Jason was visibly scared and his voice was shaking.
“You can’t do that shit.” I wasn’t even thinking straight I just reacted and tried to get to Derek. The other cop pushed me back, struggled for a half second at his waist and then pointed something at me. The next thing I know I was shaking on the ground.
“Stop resisting. Stop resisting.” The cop just kept repeating the phrase. By this time there was a small crowd forming in the parking lot and Andrew had gotten to his feet.
“Arrest those fucking punks! They assaulted me for no reason.” He was back to feeling hella strong with the police there.
The cop was finally done tazing me and was now handcuffing and dragging me to my feet. Jason was screaming and Derek was rolling around on the ground. Both cops were yelling to “stop resisting” but nobody knew who they were talking too, and I knew it didn’t matter, they weren’t actually talking to us. It was all for the official story and the paperwork at this point.
As I got to my feet I saw the crowd and noticed Derek’s younger brother, Jamal, running toward us. The cop who had tazed and handcuffed me yelled “Gun!” and let off three shots.
The funeral was heart wrenching. The city was one wrong word away from exploding. The official police report, which of course the media just went with, was full of bullshit. The events that night, according to them, went something like this: We were out looking for trouble and got hungry so we decided to stop at the restaurant. On our way into the restaurant we saw a college going white male from Lillyvale and decided to rob him. We violently jumped him and would have killed him if it wasn’t for a police squad that luckily happened to be in the neighborhood. When the police tried to break up the altercation we fought back and had to be restrained with force. At that time Jamal, who they made sure to point out had marijuana in his system, pulled a firearm in an attempt to keep Derek from being arrested. The lack of a gun at the scene was explained away by claiming that someone in the crowd who knew us must have picked it up before the police could secure the crime scene. Nobody seemed to question this.
Immediately after the shooting people took to the streets but the police and established “progressive” politicians put an end to that. The politicians urged folks to let the process play out and the police were quick to arrest anyone who had been known to “start trouble.” Within 24 hours of the shooting some of the most vocal critics of the police had been arrested and held for 72 hours, none were ever charged.
After the funeral we all gathered at Derek’s house. The air was electric. One minute there would be folks crying the next there would be calls of “Fuck the Police” and demands to know what was going to be done. I mostly felt numb. I couldn’t bring myself to cry and couldn’t even begin to think about what should be done. Becca and my parents said I was in shock, but I’m not sure what it was. I just sat in the corner of Derek’s backyard and stared. Just then one of Derek’s cousins came in screaming.
“Man, Fuck these white mothafuckas!” Everybody circled around him asking what was going on. Some of the folks were telling him to calm down while others were agreeing. He didn’t seem to care about none of that, he just kept talking.
“You see this shit they put out today. They published Jamal’s school discipline report and got an interview in here talking about he was a ‘trouble maker’ at school! Can you believe this shit! Anything they can do to make us look like fucking criminals. They ain’t said shit about them two white boys that were being arrested too! They always get off easy. Fucking Crackers”
I don’t know what it was inside of me but I just snapped.
“Fuck you man! I was getting fucking tazed when that pig shot Jamal, and I was trying to get the other one off of D! Don’t come with that bullshit.”
He got real calm and started to walk over to me. Everybody there stopped what they were doing to see how this was going to play out.
“Oh the white boy was trying to save the poor black kid huh?”
“I was trying to help my friend!” Every word hung in the air. I scanned the crowd trying to find Derek but couldn’t.
“You ain’t Derek’s friend white boy. You don’t know shit about Derek or any black person.”
“Of course I do. I grew up with him. We went to the same school. My family lives right down the street. Don’t you look fucking stupid trying to bring that racist shit into it.” We were almost nose to nose now.
“Typical fucking white shit. You think because you live on the same block and go to the same school that somehow you live the same life as us. How come Jamal is dead and you here in my face then, huh? If you the same as us why we ain’t burying you, White. Boy.” My blood was boiling. I had never even seen this dude before and he was going to tell me that I didn’t really know one of my best friends.
“Fuck You! I know Derek!”
“No white boy you don’t. You got tazed, big fucking deal. You know how many black people getting tased on the regular, for doing nothing! I read you go to college, right?”
“What that got to do with anything?”
“How you get there? You probably don’t even got great grades. Still the school set you up for that shit. How many times you get suspended? How often teachers call your house talking about they were afraid you would get violent? How you pay for that shit? Bet your parents helped didn’t they? They co-sign a loan or two for you? Well we can’t do that shit, we don’t got collateral! We don’t own shit, we rent. Life ain’t that same for us.” He was strangely calm and it was making me feel hella uneasy.
“Color don’t got anything to do with that. We struggle just as much as ya’ll and I worked my ass off.”
“And that WHITE BOY is why you don’t really know Derek or any Black person here. You only don’t think color matters because you don’t got any! You’ll learn though.”
“I…” I couldn’t say anything.
He turned and walked away from me. The rest of the people went back to what they were doing. I could hear them talking about what had just happened. Some agreed and some said he was wrong. Derek came out of the house but his cousin pulled him back inside. I saw Jason sitting at a table across the backyard with tears streaming down his cheeks. I sat back down and zoned out.