One of them.

Because the majority of my teenage years we’re spent in the system, most of my friends, and acquaintances we’re also from the system. Kids who we’re running rampant in the disease of our city. The ally kids, the downtown street hustlers. Kids who we’re there by their personal choices and actions, and some by no fault of their own. Kid’s with no foundation, children of severe addicts and low-life bottom feeders. These are the kid’s that break your heart. The ones, who we’re born into a situation, you could never imagine for yourself. Or, your own children for that matter.  For example, this one guy, who will always jutt out in my mind. He was one of those white guys who wore do-rags and let his pants slide far down his ass. Who talked with a gangster accent, and always acted like he was planning some next big hustle. To meet him at first, your impression would be one of judgement. For sure. His act and facade was so obvious, you’d feel sorry for the guy.

He rarely shared his business with any of us, keeping to himself, and was often locked up in his room for hours on end. We’d be banging on his door, harassing him to come smoke weed with us or whatever, but when he was busy in there, nothing could get him to come out.

Turns out, over time, I found out that he was cooking crack in those confined hours of his room. Cooking crack to sell, so he could financially provide for his Mom and Dad, who we’re out on the street. Both of them being severe addicts. This made his behavior and stress level all the more understood. He’d be gone for hours out in the street, hustling his way to make enough money to pay for a hotel room. For his parents. Knowing full well that if he didn’t make it that day, they’d be sleeping outside somewhere, and it would be on his head.

Could you imagine? the kind of weight that would put on a kid? I couldn’t. I’m blessed to have amazing parents, who would NEVER expect me to carry their financial burdens, or keep them off the street for that matter. But this was his reality. This was what he understood about life, and to him, it was normal.

One night, I happened to find him outside. He was sitting on the front steps, holding his face in his hands. It was night time, late.I sat down next to him, and reached out to help. He was crying, and embarrassed to be doing in front of me. Hardly breathing in between each quiet and controlled sob. I hate when guys cry, it friggin’ kills me.

He was upset, because he hadn’t made enough cash that day, and was heartbroken and scared for his Mom. He couldn’t find her anywhere, and even if he did, he didn’t have the means to pay for her shelter.He told me, he had been out looking for her for two days. No sign of her at all, even his Dad was at a loss over it. Obviously, what could be said. I’d be ignorant to tell him it would all work out, that he’d find his Mom and we’d figure it out somehow. So, I just sat there with him. Quiet. Understanding, so young still, that this world doesn’t give anyone a break. No matter how young you are, or awful it is. So many things about living at the Y, taught me that this world is dark and unforgiving. Every single day being knocked down, one notch at a time. Even now, I still think of him every so often. Feeling guilty almost, that I had been given an easier out. Not that my out was easy, but at least I knew my family was safe. That I was in no way responsible for their future, or well-being. The Y, was filled with a medley of people, with situations similar to this, some worse than others. Some vastly different. All in all, it was a place of struggle. Survival of the fittest. If you didn’t have your back up all the time, you’d likely get crushed under the chaos. Fast.

Something happens though, when you spend time with people like this. You begin to care. A lot. You find yourself, believing and agreeing with the fact that you’ve all  been victimized. This mentality sets in and you begin to hate the world and want nothing to do with it. You morph and transform into this hard, angry thing. You begin to defend your community, a community that even a couple weeks ago you had disdain for. You become one of them, and at one point, that makes you feel safer. Like your part of some vigilante group or something, some self-made gang of sorts. That’s where the life altering lie sets in. That you belong here now, and you sign your soul away to the circumstances you’re in and the people surrounding it. That you created, all together. You convince yourself at some point, that this is how it’s supposed to be now, and that comforts you in a sick and twisted way.

Yay, for ignorance and denial.

Yay, for being sixteen.

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