At first, I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. But they’re not. I’m temporarily sane as a red Corvette sharply turns the corner from the road up ahead and charges down the block in Antonio and I’s direction. I freeze, unable to budge an inch when the vehicle slowly creeps up on us. Antonio is at my backside in seconds, his hand rested on my shoulder. He seems to be prepared for this altercation, whereas I left my gun in the faraway depths of my bedroom. The only thing threatening I have on me is my cell phone, which I could use to call the police if I wasn’t in a gang.
“Get behind me,” Antonio whispers, and as soon as I do a figure pops out of the car.
I feel my brain stop working when I witness a tall, heavily-clothed gang member with a red bandana around his mouth get out of the car and walk around it to approach Antonio and I on the street.
I have never felt so terrified in my entire life. Well, that’s a slight lie, but it’s also true. I’m not terrified in the sense that I feel like I’m being watched or followed by a creepy person. I am terrified in the sense that the gulps of fresh air I’m breathing in could be my last. I have no idea who this guy is or what he will do. My mind is on a rampage with sick, twisted scenarios of how this moment could end up. All I know is, as soon as the guy is within touching distance of us, he actually looks far from creepy and more like a regular person. He removes the bandana from his mouth, revealing the finality of his face.
He is a fair-skinned black person with almond-shaped eyes and poofy hair that stands upwards on his head. His jaw looks like it’s carved from stone itself, and his features are tight and alarming. I realize there’s a second gang member with him, but this one is darker skinned and poised in the passenger seat. He also looks like he has an Ak-47 just chilling on his shoulder like it’s a toddler. We accidentally make eye contact and that’s when I really die inside. I can’t even bear it. I burrow my face into the back of Antonio’s shirt and hope to God that we don’t die tonight.
The gang member in front of Antonio finally speaks.
“I knew you’d be around these parts Antonio. You know, you and Blake really need to learn how to switch up ya’ll whereabouts every once in awhile.”
“What do you want?” Antonio questions, and I feel his back muscles tightening.
I hear the gang member let out a short chuckle. Antonio reaches down the front of his pants, which takes me a moment to realize that he is reaching for his gun. I shut my eyes as hard as I can, feeling every shift of movement Antonio makes and praying that it’s not the last move he’ll ever make.
“You on our turf now esé. You tell me what you want and things don’t have to get ugly.”
“Oh, it’s already ugly ’esé’,” the boy snaps back, and I feel Antonio’s build clench. I feel like I’m gonna piss on myself any moment, as I try and hold in all the anxiety wanting to burst from within me. Antonio shielding me can only do so much.
There’s a moment of silence that feels like it’s taking forever to pass. I then feel Antonio shift again and I’m looking into the eyes of the rival gang member. He smiles at me, which feels so forced and fake I’m not even sure why he would bother acknowledging my existence.
“Hey there pretty face,” he teases, and Antonio steps aside to allow me to be seen in full view. The light-skinned boy just stares at me. Doesn’t say anything, just stares. You would think I was naked or a science experiment gone wrong the way this guy wouldn’t take his eyes off of me. It belittled me with no context needed. He chuckled again, looking over his shoulder to talk to the big guy still in the car.
“Blake likes his pets real pretty don’t he?”
I’m unaware if he’s using the word, “pretty’ in the actual way it’s meant to be used or if he’s using it in a demeaning and secretive way to say, “bitch.” If so, I do not blame him. We got pulled up on and instead of me standing my ground, I hid behind Antonio.
Why did I ever think I was cut out for this life?
Antonio intervenes and blocks me off from him again.
“Today yo. What the hell you doing over here?”
“That’s what I was going to ask. Why the hell is Blake over in my territory dealing in my area?”
The tension multiplies by tenfold. It gets harder to breathe.
“Shouldn’t you take that up with Blake himself? I don’t know what the hell he be doing in Chicago.”
“Well let’s make this short and sweet then.”
He snaps his fingers and the guy with the AK-47 exits the car. He stands like a bodyguard, solid and unflinching. My gut drops to my ankles. Antonio stands just as fearless. He has not moved an inch.
“Don’t make no sudden moves either. We’ll smoke yo ass right here and get away scot-free.”
Antonio stands like a statue. I can’t tell if he’s being really brave or if he’s just as scared as me and plays it off really well.
Finally, the gang member gets his message across.
“Tell Blake that I said he better keep his business in his own territory. I don’t want no war popping off, but if there has to be one, then I’ll for damn sure start it myself. If Blake don’t want those type of problems, then he’ll happily oblige. If not, then the Chicago Saints is coming for ya’ll ass. Believe that on everything. Stay in ya’ll fucking lane.”
If looks could kill, Antonio and I would be dead meat right now. His eyes clarify everything.
Do not fuck with him.