My husband and I were browsing for a new laptop when we ran into an old friend, Eric. He and Danny embraced each other, their eyes big and excited because they hadn’t crossed each other’s path in over ten years.
I stood next to Danny; Eric looked, but didn’t recognize me. “This is Talia,” Danny said. “Talia!” Danny explained that we’re still together, after 17 years, since the days of puppy love and being high-school sweethearts (well, sort of - both of us only went through tenth grade). Listening to Danny and Eric talk brought back many memories. Eric was once exactly like the young men that I work with now. I vividly remember being told by Eric to stay out of a particular duplex in the projects – he might be shooting up the place.
But what really stood out in my memory was the night when my best friend and I were at a playground and Danny called me over to him. When I turned the corner, I saw Danny and Eric standing with members of a very powerful female gang. I was sure that I was being set up. So I just stood there. Clearly, I was outnumbered. Eric told me that they were going to jump my best friend. I said, “Alright,” and walked away. When I got back to my best friend, I said,”Let’s walk.” As we walked, the gang members began to chase her. I told her to run. There was no way that we were going to be able to fight five or six girls. I will never forget that night. (In the end, a few punches were tossed, but nobody got hurt.)
I looked at Eric, a changed man now, married, with two daughters, working as a welder. A gang banger turned husband, father, and computer geek. He said that after spending most of his young adult life in jail, he was tired. And so changed his life.
I, too, remember what being tired felt like.