I crammed this out under stress so there may be typos, improper formatting, ETC.
The hammering explosions of gunfire still ring through my ears. It’s been at least fifteen minutes since they stopped, but still I can’t feel my legs. It’s as if I’m standing on air; but when I look down there they are, walking forward. They’re shaky, but I trust they won’t give out. Another crack rings out through the air. I feel sticky warmth running down my leg. Just fucking great. I hate this place. I wish I were home.
They say it takes a strong man to admit when he’s made a mistake. Well, I made a huge mistake today. I don’t regret what I said; I needed to get it off my mind. I do regret my timing in saying it. Why I did so while we were driving through Compton I have no idea. And now here I am, wandering in a direction I assume to be westward with no money, no ID and no jacket. With every step I take, the damp cloth of my khakis rubs against my thigh, a chilling reminder of my cowardice. And yet, even with my current predicament, I feel overjoyed. To be rid of her at last is a blessing. It all began two years ago…
The first time I saw her, I knew she would be mine. It sounds rather arrogant, I know, but I have this gift. I’m not really good with women, on the contrary I’m shy and awkward, I break into a cold sweat whenever a pretty girl talks to me. Yet, I ended up dating every girl I ever became infatuated with. It’s like that book “The Secret”. If I wish hard enough, the universe responds to me and hands me the woman I want on a silver platter. Well, kind of. This one was the only relationship I’ve had that lasted more than 3 weeks. You see, my nervousness doesn’t really go away. They all got pretty annoyed with the fact that I’d stutter when I told them how I loved them, or start sweating like a pig when they held my hand, or when I failed to hold an erection at the sacred gate.
She was different. She put up with all of that (except the last one) for four months before I became the man she said wanted. What a load of crock.
She was, is, physically perfect. Forget-me-not blue eyes. Long, blood-red hair, curly. Smell of strawberries. Perfect breasts, large enough to grip firmly, but not too big to fit in the hand. Long, sexy legs. The most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on. The first year was amazing. We’d walk down the corridors of our school, arm in arm, and I’d feel the stab of every pair of eyes on my back.
Every day I’d hear it whispered. “Why is she with him?”
Eventually, we graduated. Both of us went to UC Los Angeles, and we got an off campus apartment together. That was the beginning of the end. She started acting bipolar, getting mad at me for things like not taking out the trash on the day she wanted it taken out, or for talking to other girls, minor things at first, and not that often, only once or twice a month. As the year progressed it happened more and more, once a week, twice a week, until every day last month she would start a fight with me for no reason.
Today we were on the way back from a social at her BFF’s house, and she started lecturing me about proper manners and dress attire for social situations. I finally stood up for myself; I had taken enough. She pulled over and yelled at me to get out. I tried to reason with her, but a flurry of kicks (in stilettos nonetheless) convinced me that it was time to get out. And that’s how I got where I am now, a 5”6 white guy weighing 114 pounds; alone in the most dangerous part of L.A. I’ve been here for seven hours already and the shadows are beginning to elongate and deepen, and the last glints of sunlight are now reflecting off of the broken bottles and grimy newspaper stands.
There is a man lying in a pool of clear vomit on the corner of Fifth and Washington. He smells of tequila mixed with urine (in other words, standard tequila) and some sort of strange basement mold that existed in my uncle’s house a few years ago. I want to just walk right past him, but maybe he has some spare change. Seventy-five cents is all I need to get a bus back home. I cover my mouth with my shirt, but its no use, being within three feet of him makes my throat fill with bile, and I have to turn away quick to avoid vomiting. At least I won’t be the first to have thrown up on this street corner.
“What is it brat? So disgusted by an old Vietnam vet living on the streets that you won’t even get near me?” He’s crawling toward me, trying to get into a standing position but failing miserably, until he collapses again.
“N-n-no sir. I was just wondering if I could have a buck to get home?” I’m stuttering again. Just like always when I get nervous. Goddammit. The man tilts his head upward in my direction. I can see now that his left eye is swiveling around wildly, but its color – its something I’ll never forget, a blood red crimson, and in the last fading seconds of sunlight, there’s an unnatural glow to it, then, the only light is from a streetlamp overhead.
“Let me tell you, boy. In the ‘nam I watched my best friend die by my side. I found the gook that offed him, and you know what I did? I cut through his belly. One by one, I pulled out his liver then kidney then stomach while he was gasping and dying on the floor. And I felt happy to be doing it. Do you know what killing feels like?” As he finishes his sentence, the man’s face begins to turn a pale shade of blue and he’s coughing up more of the foul smelling tequila. I turn around and run. I don’t know where I’m going, I just run away from this man as fast as I can.
The neon sign flickers, goes out for a bit and then comes back to life, a bit dimmer than before. I’m walking past a liquor store, hopelessly lost with no idea which direction I’m heading. There are no streetlamps here, and the “CLOSED” sign on the store window is the only thing providing me with light. I start sweating profusely just thinking about the absolute darkness that awaits me in a couple dozen feet. I can’t see the moon right now, its disappeared behind a thick cloud layer.
There is another gunshot in the distance. I don’t even react. By now, I’m desensitized to them. I do react when I hear the voices. I’m at the corner of Olive and Pine when I hear them and see them at the same time. There are three of them, all dressed in baggy shorts and an odd menagerie of what they would call “bling”. The man in the center of the group appears to be their leader, he is wearing a backwards baseball cap and an extra large t-shirt, and hanging from his neck is an extremely large gold chain with a diamond studded (real, I wonder?) dollar sign. The others have dollar sign necklaces too, but theirs aren’t nearly as large. The one on the left of their little group points in my direction. Their leader stares at me, I can’t see his eyes, but I can feel them, probing, piercing, determining how much of a threat I am. For the second time tonight my bladder decides to empty itself.
“Hey, cracker, you lost?” The one at the left, who first spotted me, jeers at me, making some bizarre gang symbol in my direction
“No Shit, Maurice. Crackers don’t dare show their faces in our territory. Little bitch must not know where the hell he is!” The one on the right begins to advance toward me, followed by his friends. The middle one speaks up.
“You must be shitting me, cracker. It ain’t safe for your kind after dark.” The one on the left has to pause to adjust his shorts, as they have slipped past his knees and are lying at his ankles. Then, they are breathing down my neck. My left foot is suddenly behind my right foot and I’m in free fall for what seems like hours. Then there’s a sharp pain in my butt.
“Get up cracker.” I try to get obey, but my legs won’t respond to my brain. I stare up at the leader hopelessly, silently pleading for mercy.
“Well, I’ll be damned. You’ve got Rigby’s class, don’t you? Two through Three, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” All of a sudden, he’s like a completely different person. “The names Jeremy. I sit in the front row, two seats to the left of you actually. These are my friends, Steven and Robert.”
“Charmed.” Steven says with a wink. His shorts are already falling down again, so he hurriedly pulls them up once more.
“Pleasure to meet you.” Robert smiles and extends a handshake to me. I timidly accept, and he nearly breaks my hand with his grip as he lifts me off the ground to my feet.
“So, what brings you to this neighborhood at three in the morning?” Jeremy puts his arm around my shoulder and begins moving me toward… something, my vision is beginning to get blurry and I can’t really tell what. “And did you just wet yourself? That’s nasty man, use a toilet.”
Jeremy and I are headed back to UCLA campus in his beautiful Ferrari. I dozed off for a while, but once we got to Robert’s beach house in Malibu (and got me a shower, some food and water, and a fresh change of pants) I told them the full story, then we dropped Steven off at his mansion in Beverly Hills. It turns out all three of them are rich. They just enjoy the atmosphere of Compton. I finally have cleared my head enough to ask the question that’s been bugging me since I first met Jeremy three hours ago. “So, why is it that you guys were threatening me at first?”
“Is that why you looked all freaked out when we got near you? All we did was ask if you were okay, man. Robert asked how many fingers he was holding up, and then Steven asked if you were with someone. I was asking if you needed a ride home when you fell flat on your ass, then we knew there was something wrong with you.” He makes a sharp swerve onto the off ramp, and we are on the way to University Avenue.
“So… I just imagined all of that? The gunshots and the hobo and you guys trying to mess with me? Why?” I feel rather queasy as I say this.
“Not everything. The gunshots were real. There’s a shooting range on Olive, it’s not too well soundproofed though so you can hear the shots all the way down the neighborhood. The homeless… I don’t know. We were at Fifth and Washington earlier, and the only homeless person there was a sweet old woman. She said you tried to have a conversation with her dog. You were probably dehydrated and hallucinating, you were looking pretty delirious back there.” He swerves into my driveway and puts the car in park. “This is your place, right? And let me guess, that’s your stuff lying all over the lawn.” All of my belongings, my clothes, TV, CDs, everything is scattered across the lawn of my former apartment.
“I… it… wha… what?” I can’t even speak, I feel like a deer in headlights. My way of life is completely over. I’ll need to find a new house, move all my stuff, and get situated again. I feel as if I’m about to cry. Luckily Jeremy speaks up.
“Alright, I’ll tell you what. I have a pretty nice condo in Bel-Aire. It’s a four bedroom, but I only use one. You can be my roommate until we get you a new apartment. Now help me load your crap into the trunk.”
It’s been three months since I moved in with Jeremy. I’ve been back to Compton several times since that night, Jeremy took me to the shooting range, and to my surprise I proved to be quite capable with a pistol. All those shooter videogames paid off I guess. Another time, we ran into a homeless lady with an Irish Settler. The dog smells of piss and tequila, so I was almost tempted to believe that it was all some whacky sleep loss/dehydration dream. Almost. As we were walking to the car, I saw a small spherical object glittering in the sunlight. I picked it up to investigate. It was a glass eye with a deep crimson iris.