An old white man with faded tattoos of naked women and a marijuana plant on his forearm sat on the bench beside me. "I grew up in Roxbury," he said. "I robbed and almost murdered two people in this park. I spent six years in Walpole prison."
I smelled the liquor on his breath.
"That's a nice cross on your neck," he said. "Do you go to church?"
Slurred and stammering he said, "I got a joke. Listen to this. Roses are red-ish, violets are blue-ish, if it wasn't for Jesus we'd all be Jewish."
Twenty years ago, I too had robbed in that park. Although we didn't try to kill our victims. Two of my cousins, a friend – Jamal – and I walked through the park. We purposely straddled on both sides of a couple. The couple happily held hands. They were in love.
"Excuse me," I said, "What's the time?"
When the guy glanced at his watch, Jamal grabbed the back of his neck.
"Take off your jacket," Jamal ordered. "Give me your wallet. And the watch too."
We pretended like we had weapons.
The couple was afraid. I could see the fear in their eyes.
After we robbed them we ran high-speed through the park.
We heard sirens.
Then ran even faster through a train station and into the housing complex where Jamal lived.
Out of breath, we sat on the steps. Jamal put on the jacket and the watch. I looked through the wallet. There was only a few dollars in it.
We were scared. We never did anything like that before. We walked to my grandmother's house. My mother answered the door. We sat in the living room whispering about what we did. The guilt stayed close to me. I called my mother into the living room. "Don't tell," one of my cousins insisted.
I pulled out the wallet.
I read the guy's name. "Mommy, we robbed Robert McCarthy."
I handed her the wallet.
She looked through it and found a telephone number.
She called the number, "I found Robert McCarthy's wallet. I am going to drop it in the mailbox."
She gave the wallet back to me, "Go put it in the mailbox."
My cousins and I walked down the street to the nearest mailbox.
Robbery wasn't for me.