We sit at a social distance when trying to understand gangs and violence.
Dex loiters, slouching in the Boston cold outside a corner store.
His head hides under a hooded sweatshirt.
Shizz hangs with him.
Shizz and Dex have been best friends since second grade.
Cal joins them.
They crack jokes.
Pointing at Cal, Dex says, "Whoopi Goldberg."
Dex and Shizz laugh, Cal doesn't.
Cal says, "Alfalfa."
They all laugh.
They walk a half mile.
They stand by a sub shop.
Pooling together eight dollars, they buy a wing ding dinner with rice and salad.
An unmarked police cruiser pulls up.
Police are the only adults who will talk with the boys today; who will ask about them.
"What's up," an officer asks. "Where are the guns? You're a gang, right?"
Dex says, "We family."
Beneath Dex's grueling gaze and backtalk is a young black man who was badly beaten by his step-father, abandoned by his drug-addicted mother, and sexually abused by his aunt. He was housed by group homes, foster care, and Department of Youth Services facilities. He was hospitalized, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
The streets are Dex's savior.
His boys are prepared to crucify themselves for one another.
Dex's silver Smith-and-Wesson is like his Bible, empowering him.
There is psychological explanation for his actions; but what explains our lack of action?