I can barely walk. Hell, I can barely breathe. I don’t know how I’m managing to keep a pace with myself because at any moment, I feel like I’m going to fall.
Blood had trickled everywhere. Valerie’s punches and jabs were getting harder and harder. I knew I wasn’t gonna make it. They knew it too, which is why they stopped. They had too, or they’d kill me.
“Val! Fuck! Stop!”
“He’s fucking weak! I don’t know why Blake recruited him.”
I was on the ground, shaking. That girl had no mercy or blessings on my soul. She was giving it to me with all the power she had most likely because she couldn’t stand seeing some punk repping their gang. Who would honestly take them seriously if they saw wimpy little pale Ron trying to act “cool” and “tough?”
I know I would start questioning.
But my beating was finally over, and that’s all I could be thankful for. Barbara said I was tough. Antonio just kept telling Valerie she was insane for going so hard on me. Valerie argued that if I want to be one of them, I need to be able to take a few licks. The funny part is, she hardly delivered what I would consider a “few,” and those weren’t mere licks she was throwing.
But did I complain? No. I proved to them that I could take it, despite how much I felt like my insides were drowning in blood. I proved to them that I’m a warrior, and every scar and every cut and every bruise on my body means something. No tears, no hollers, just fatigue.
I stop at a cross light to balance my head in my hand. The world is looking disoriented. In my head, everything is rearranging. I feel the soon-to-be-purple lumps on my stomach throbbing and crying. The cut under my right eye keeps bleeding down my face in red waves, and the hot swelling of my bottom lip and collarbone is in desperate need for medical attention.
But do I complain? No. I needed it. Better yet, I deserved it. For all the things I’ve failed to do. For all the times I let myself go.
I make it across the street and start to smile with different eyes. I took the test. I’m pretty sure I passed. I’ll officially be one of them and now I can start all over. I can be a new me.
Abruptly, everything I’ve been thinking about bomb rushes out of my head. I stop walking.
Reality says that I’m in this gang now. Reason for it is that I’m tired of being disrespected and neglected from everything.
I could kill them all. The taste of blood lingers in my mouth and I wish it was Brandon’s blood. And Daniel’s, and Trisha’s, and those obnoxious twins, and the boy from first grade and anyone who has ever played apart of making my life a miserable hell.
I laugh. Really loud. My predicament is hilarious. I’ve skipped school to get my ass beat, I feel like I’m near death, and I might collapse at any moment due to internal bleeding or something. The rain starts up again. It’s not a downpour, but it comes fast and rapidly.
I open my mouth to collect some water. It feels amazing in my mouth. It may be childish, but it feels amazing. Oddly, my beaten body feels amazing.
For a moment, nothing matters to me. I can be what I want, say what I want, and think what I want. That is the most amazing feeling ever.
But all of this takes a left turn when a black Chevrolet slowly creeps up on the curb. My thinking process is a little altered right now, so I’m unsure how to react even when the window rolls down. I’m unsure how to react even when Blake laughs and throws his head back, saying, “Damn man...you mad as hell.”
It is finally now that my heart feels settled because I see his eyes and I hear his voice. Smiling from ear to ear like a mad man in the rain, my only reaction is to soak in how great this moment feels.