• It was hard growin’ up in the ghetto. Everyday someone was dyin’, gettin’ shot up, and crying. Hell, if we had some kinda event for the community, someone always gotta act a fool and start somethin’. I’m only seventeen, but somethin’ in my heart tellin’ me that stuff ain’t going like it’s suppose to. It’s only my moms, my lil’ bro Kal and I where I stay at. My older brother doin’ his thing in college over in Los Angeles. As for my pops, I don’t even know where he’s at. Though one day when I see him, I hope me and him get along or something. I felt like everything was up to me now in my household. I came home after school to find my mama standin’ out in the yard. She didn’t look too happy.
    “My son, come inside . . . We need to talk.” she said to me softly. I nodded and followed my moms inside of the house. Eventually, we got to the living room and we both say on the couch, “My son . . .” she held my hands and began to tighten and shake a little, “We are going to have to cut down on some things.” I looked into her eyes and she looked away and cried, but I wiped her tears away. I didn’t want to have this feeling of the struggle anymore. I just want to one day have a great feelin’ comin’ up out my lungs and a smile on my family face and for them to say that they are proud of me and my achievements. I’ma tell ya I’m not really a golden child in my family. I do get into major fights over petty things, jumpings,and if the homies get messed with then I’m down as well. Oh, and if a brotha put his hands on a female then its over hands down.
    “Don’t worry ‘bout it moms. We’ll make it through just like always, aight?” I rubbed my mom’s back and smiled at her. I mean that’s all I could do right now for her. I can’t just let her go on with this on her own then have my little brother to take care of. Kal’s only three. My mama nodded her head and smiled back at me. I just let her lean on me as I rubbed her back. I mean I’d do anything for my mama. Life or death I don’t care. She had started to fall asleep and I didn’t want her to sleep on the couch. I ended up carrying her to her bed ‘cuz I don’t want her to fall on her face.
    My little brother Kal stood by the doorway quietly then slipped back into his room shuttin’ his door. Usually he’s playing around or asleep, but this time he’s just standing and being quiet. After I put my moms to bed went to see how he was doin’. I could already tell he was needed for a nap because he started to cry a little and push me off then he gave up and laid his head on my shoulder holding on to me. When I started rocking him he began to fall asleep and lose his grip on my shirt. It’s cute when he does that. He finally fell asleep fully and I put him in his room on his bed. Now I’m by myself to just sit and think. Even though I’m still in high school, I don’t think a part-time job will save me now. I need a full-time. Maybe I should drop out for the survival.
    I decided to go job searching around my block so I can be close to home in case anything happens to my family I could run straight home. I walked to Indigo Street taking a shortcut to one of the stores and there was some cats in the alley. When I say cats, I ain’ talkin’ about no animals either. They checked me up then took their cigarettes out of their mouths and laughed. I ain’ want no trouble at all, but it looks like I’m gonna have to get some and throw hands if they wanna. I wasn’t gonna show the fear in my eyes of me losin’ my life bein’ at the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, four people versus one person ain’t nothing to be brushin’ off your shoulder. You can really get murked behind this just be walkin’ past ‘em and lookin’ at the ground they walk on.
    “Aye, youngin’.” One of them said to me. I looked up his direction on bit my lips in and raised my brows to let him know I was listening, “West up wit’chu, cuz. Where you from?”.
    “Leland Ave . . .” I said low looking at him still. I forreal didn’t want to fight or get into something I didn’t want to do. They looked at each other and laughed, then they began to circle around me. Here comes the pressure.
    “What’s ya name, cuz?” the same guy that had caught my attention got a little closer to me. I recognized who he was, I just didn’t really have a good sense of memory of the cat.
    “Damien. . .” I looked him in the eyes and kept my lips bitten after I spoke. He nodded his head and looked me up and down again. Forreal, I don’t want any trouble, but why does it seem like everything is getting worse. I don’t even know if I’ma see my fams again just be lookin’ and bein’ in the sit’chiation that I’m in. He nodded at his boys to go back over to where they was and went back went them. So I take it he the leader of the lil’ clique. I noticed that they started to huddle up and converse. I wasn’t tryna stick around while they was foolin’ ‘round so I started to leave off. They wasn’t havin’ non’uh that though.
    I stopped movin’ then they turned back to me and ganged up on me like they were gonna jump me and the boss hopped up in front, “So where you think you finna bounce off to, huh? We ain’ done wit’cha.” I started to back off a little. Yeah, I showed a little fear in my face, but then I straightened up and got right, you feel me? He looked me up and down again, “So what’chu doin’ walkin’ down this neighborhood, cuz? You belong here or, or nah? Wanna get robbed?”
    “No, sir.” I stood straight and kept eye contact with him. He took the hardness off his face and smiled with a small chuckle under his breath. Maybe I done said somethin’ wrong. I shoulda kept my mouth shut or stayed home.
    “Iight then. On a real note we got somethin’ we want you to do. You fit for the task, you feel me?” he posted up on the wall and looked off to my direction, “Now listen, the name is Tee. You need some dough right?” He pulled out a fat stack of hunnids out of his pocket and waved it at me. I had a feeling it was all coming down to what I didn’t want to do in the first place. Sellin dope.
    “Yeah, I do.” I looked at the stack and wanted to reach out and grab it.
    He smiled and chuckled softly under his breath and came close to me, “Then you tryna sell, or nah?” I never thought in my life that the struggles that I faced would lead me on to this. I never thought I would even be in this position with my family. Definitely never would have thought I would even be facin’ what I’m going through at the time bein’.
    “Yeah I’ll do it. Anything to help my fams out.” I looked hard at the ground and bit my lip. I really did just make that decision. He nodded his head and patted my back.
    “Look, I understand what’chu goin’ through, cuz.” He took his hand off me and stood in front of me, “Your family wouldn’t be proud, but they’d appreciate you doin’ what you doin’ ‘cuz that’s you doin’ hard work and doin’ it for them, feel me?” I nodded and sighed softly and rubbed the back of my neck. I was sweating from the pressure and just the thoughts runnin’ through my head. I ain’t gonna tell my moms though ‘cuz I know it’ll kill her more than softly. I’ll just keep it to myself. Me and Tee exchanged contact information so that way I could start up whenever he called on me. We ended up talking more on what to do and how to do it. Then a hour later after watching the crew sell their work and gettin’ tips on how to do it and who’s the customers and who’s the snarks, I went home with just no expression on my face. I was just hurtin’ on the inside. Just this heavy feeling on my chest. If this comes out, how will I tell my moms on why and who from.
    “Damn.” I said to myself. I was disgusted at myself. I am now a low-down, dirty black teen that may not even make it to see the next minute. I unlocked the door and headed inside. To my surprise, everyone was still asleep. So I had went to sleep too. No dinner, no goodnights. . . Just straight sleepin’ on the couch. The next morning I had woke up and got a call from Tee. I had to go out and hit a mission down the street from me and sell to a few people. I was out there for a couple of hours just sellin’. Day and night I’d sell. Each time when I came with all my dope sold, I’d get more than a couple stacks. I kept the stack hidden in my closet behind a hole in the closet wall near my jackets. I sold work for about a couple weeks.
    One time I came home from school, this car had pulled up behind me and it had tinted windows. Nothing else happens, but just that white Cadillac pulling up and stayin’ posted by the crib. I wasn’t worried ‘bout it though. I came up inside the house and called out for my mama. I didn’t get an answer. I shrugged it off thinkin’ she probably left to run errands . . . Until I get to my room and find her standin’ with the stack in her hands. She looked at me and her eyes were filling up with tears. That just tears my heart down.
    “What. . .Is this?” she asked me. Her voice was shakin’ from her holdin’ her tears back. I shook my head and all I could do was just look at the ground and stare at the floor. I couldn’t stand it. The way she was looking at me. The hurt and pain behind each tear. I bit my lip and looked up at her tryna hold the tears back, but I knew she wouldn’t care at all for my tears at the moment. I couldn’t figure out a way to explain myself and why I did it, and before I could I seen my moms chargin’ and swingin’ at me. I covered my head makin’ sure she ain’ catch me in my face. She swung hard screamin’ and shoutin’ at me. Askin’ questions like why, who, and what would my brother say about this.
    “I don’t know. I was just scared and wanted to help. You’d never understand, mama.” I held my mom close to me. After ‘bout to minutes of me holdin’ her, I got pushed off by her. She was mad at me, but I don’t think mad is the word to describe how she feel ‘bout me right now.
    “Do you want to end up like your father? Huh? Do you?” she kept pressin’ on me and pushing me. My father got shot up sellin’ work, but he ain’t get killed though. At least that’s what my big bro told me. I shook my head no and looked at the floor.
    “Stop this right now, Damien. Right away! I’m not gonna have my son become a drug dealer just to make quick duckits. You wanna help, then do it right!” she stormed out of my room. I never felt so ashamed. My heart began to beat hard and I could feel tears startin’ to come on up. I ain’ wanna cry. It’s been since I was little that I’ve let a tear come out. It hurt so bad to see my moms so furious with me. I just couldn’t do it nomo. I jus’ can’t do it. While I was in my feelins, I had to think about the actions and what I caused. All I seem like I did was cause hurt rather than to help. I know who I am as a person. I know deep down that I’m good. I shouldn’t be doing this kind of stuff knowing them people don’t need to be on them kinda drugs an’ the yougins who just gettin’ into the business or either gettin’ addicted to takin’ it and me bein’ the provider for ‘em is no help at all to anyone including myself. It’s got to stop before anyone’s future get worse than it already is. The only way it’s gonna begin to even stop is if I make a change and stop myself first. I hit up Tee, but I was nervous ‘cuz I ain’ know what the outcome of wanting out of sellin’ dope. I would think anyone that wanted out to better themselves would get murked behind it. When it comes to the game of survivin the hood and it struggles, ain’t nobody care. All about survival of the fittest.
    “Hey West up, part’na?” He was in a good mood I can tell. I hope I don’t kill his mood. . . Then he end up killin’ me.
    “Oh nun’ much, but hey, I got somethin’ I need to tell. . . I mean ask ya.” I didn’t want to mess up on anything.
    “West hannin’?” He asked me. This was the big moment. I started tellin’ him how I feel about me doin’ this dope dealin’ business and why I just couldn’t do it. Even the feelings on the future part of people’s lives and makin’ changes within ourselves. I even threw in some Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and asked would they be proud of us and they didn’t fight for our equality just for us to fall back and end up bein’ locked back down from tryin’ to make a quick buck from dope and other illegal things. Especially when they helped us get access to better jobs in our African-American community amongst other color like Whites so that way we could have good pay an’ provide for our fams an’ those we care fo’ without havin’ to go out an’ feel the temptation of sellin’ just to get by. It got quiet over the phone and I just heard a sigh.
    “Y’know what? You right.” He said. I smiled and sat down on my bed waiting for him to finish talking. He accepted the fact that I ain’ wanna do it and end up gettin’ myself caught up or be anymore hurtful to my family an’ do right. He even said himself that he was gonna have a fam meetin’ with his crew and spit some truth on ‘em about life. I’m glad that my input on someone’s life is making a change in the way people see themselves and others in the near or far future. We had a good laugh or two and jokes around on the phone.
    “A’ight, man. I’ma dip out. I need to let moms know I’m doin’ right now and gonna find a real job and provide for my family the right way.” I told him as I got up. I was excited to tell my mom I was gonna do right and help out the right way. After we hung up I ran to my moms room and let her know the situation. I mean, for only a few short hours of pacing, thinking, and seein’ my moms hurt like that I tighted up quick an’ got right. Y’feel me? She was in her room sittin’ down at the edge of her bed. She was holdin’ a picture of me, my older bro, and some other cat. He looked like us. Matter of fact. . .
    “Aye, ma. Who that?” I asked quietly. I started to sit next to her and smile softly to let her know that everything will be okay.
    “Your father.” she said wiping her tears. I froze and looked back down at the picture then back up at her. The crazy thing was I look just like my pops. Same nose, eyes, but I got my mama’s head shape and lips. I wasn’t sure how to feel because I ain’ never seen my pops before. Is this how I’m gon’ look when I grow up to be a better man than I am now? Just more mature in the face as some people say. When I got done lookin’ at my pops, I turned to my moms and started to talk about how I’m gon’ do right and what all happened on the phone. She smiled at me and rubbed my face gently.
    “I know you only meant for the best, but that is not the way to go about things.” she looked me in the eyes an’ I smiled back.
    “I know ma. I just don’t know what got over me. I as just pressured and felt so low that I probably wasn’t gon’ make enough money gettin’ a regular job.” I hung my head down in shame. I still felt that pain in my heart and had a little flashback at the look she gave me. She patted my back and I let her know that I was gon’ go out and settle things out with Tee and give the dope back to him. Then hopefully me an’ him can go whip down the street an’ get us some real jobs. As I started out, I seen the same car that pulled up to me and left. This time the car stopped and parked. Pro’lly just one of the neighbors. I went off to meet Tee at his house and I ended up seeing the car again. This can’t be right. Somoene is followin’ me. All of a sudden, I see five guys run out of the car. Their faces were covered cowardly and the bursted through Tee’s door. A few rounds shot off an’ then I heard a baby cry and some girl screaming no over and over again. Then they all came out and looked at me.
    “That’s one of them.” One of the cats said. My immediate reaction was to turn around and run, but before I knew it, everything seemed to be in slow motion. I heard my heartbeat gettin’ heavy. All I could do was close my eyes and hope for the best. Three shots rang out. One hit me in my arm. . . I grabbed it an’ kept runnin’ for my life. The second one hit me in the chest. . . I felt sharp pain in my heart as everything started to turn to a blur. My breathin’ was heavy and the pain got worse. Third shot hit an’ all I saw was a flash of red. . . My own flesh and blood. I hit the concrete hard . . .
    “We got ‘em! We Got ‘em!” I heard em leave into their whip and sirens comin’. There my body was lyin’ on the ground. It’s all over for me. Never to see my family again or tell’em that I love ‘em. Never get to see my lil’ bro grow up an’ for me to teach ‘em how to be a man. I started havin’ flashbacks about the good and bad memories of my family and friend . . . Then I’d flashback to what was in front of me in reality. The cops was an’ ambulance was around me. I flashed back to more memories an’ then woke to my mom holdin’ my hand up in a hospital bed. Flashblack an’ tears rollin’ down my cheeks ‘cuz I know I won’t be able to tell her how much I love her for the last time..
    Fading off. . . Fading. . . Fade . . .