The boys look hard and stone-faced.
Their eyes bully most people.
But not me.
Their frightening form fades the more one gets to know them.
They aren't any different than most youth.
They like playing video games.
They like hanging out and eating pizza.
They like girls.
And they crack jokes about each other.
The inner city’s ills make them thick-skinned and sadistic.
They’ve grown-up too soon.
The streets don’t allow them their youth.
I try to find ways for them to stop thinking about the streets, and what those streets require of them.
I took them to a water park in New Hampshire.
They were excited; they had never been to a water park.
They were 15, 18, 20, 23, and 26 years old.
We drove two hours away from the city.
The highways were serene; the sunshine, the trees, and the wind of other cars as they whizzed by us.
When we arrived at the water park they acted like children.
My son walked beside them, overjoyed too.
One of the boys said, “Look at that ride!”
“Oh, look at that one,” another said.
“I'm getting on that!”
My son mimicked them, “Me too!”
We found some space by the kiddy pool.
I lay on a lawn chair to read and watch their things.
They changed into their swimming trunks and took off.
“See you later, T.”
Every day they’re curbed by their block.
Everyday they’re forced to be fearsome.
Their faces frown so frequently, it becomes their look.
That day, their wet faces relaxed into smiles.