Every day gets worse. I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist, but it’s true. First of all I can’t sleep. I really want to and I really try my hardest to, but I can’t. It sucks to have insomnia. I’m staring at a wall before father drags his feet into the house, putting mud everywhere. I would be mad if it was our old house, but since our floor is dirt, it doesn’t really matter. He screams at me to get sleep. Screaming doesn’t do anything in my life. All it does is keep me up all night wondering what I did wrong. His version of help is really not appreciated around here. I try to think of Jack whenever dad gets like that. It’s the only way I can deal with his anger.
Jack is sleeping next to me on the other side of the curtain. He doesn’t snore, but he’s not exactly quiet either. I hear a small exhale from him then an even smaller inhale. I was told that I sleep talk and that nobody can get sleep around me. But since I stopped sleeping, nobody has complained to me about it. That’s obviously because I’m really quiet while others are sleeping. Instead of closing my eyes, I close my mouth and watch everyone else sleep. Sometimes I even leave the safety of my house to walk outside and lay under the stars trying to find the big dipper (ursa major). Sometimes I see the little dipper (ursa minor), but it’s rare. I don’t know why, but sometimes I’d find the Delphinus off in the distance and I’d think about mom and how much fun she must be having dancing on the stars.
Dad takes a swig of beer from the bottle one of the neighbors gave him after he screamed that he would kill them if he didn’t get the bottle right that minute. He thinks I don’t know about it, but he has fourteen other bottles buried in the corner of our house, under about five inches of dirt. Sometimes I can feel them under my feet when I walk around that area. Now, he puts down the bottle and lays on his “bed” which is just piled up dirt. He grunts for me to “shut my damn eyes” and I do, but just long enough to know for sure that he’s asleep. Tomorrow’s going to be hard. Tomorrow’s steal day.
I live just outside the city of New York in a small area that is so immensely abandoned that we call it “The Desert”. The Desert is isolated from everything. If you live in The Desert, you’re considered the poorest of the poor. Nobody talks to you if you’re from there and if you try talking to someone outside of our little group of homeless nobodies, they ignore you.
What a great life, right?
My house is one of the nice ones in The Desert. There’s six walls stuck together that my father made when he got evicted from our home. He lost his job because he stole two hundred dollars from the cashier he worked at. He did it so we could pay my mom’s medical bills but he got caught and the owner felt bad about the whole thing when my dad told him that my mom had cancer. So lucky for us, he didn’t go to jail because his boss never pressed charges. Two months later, mom died and dad never got another job. He said it was pointless to try when his hopes, dreams, inspiration, and love died right in front of him. Eventually, the light in his eyes left and I tried to revive it, but it was too late. The best and kindest man in the world, it seemed like, was replaced by the angriest, insubordinate, and rude asshole that didn’t care about anyone but himself. My brother and I have to live with him and deal with it though.
My dad was a sweet man before mom died and he used to tell me stories. Funny ones about how I would act as a child or the way I would lick my wounds after falling down on concrete. When I was in elementary, kids didn't want to hang out with me because I would chase them around wanting blood.
It’s super-hot today, but it seems like a fun day. Even though today’s steal day, I feel like doing it tomorrow. On fun days like today, I usually go and get food from the city, anyway. What I mean about fun days is that it’s just great weather and people are outside walking dogs, kids are playing soccer, moms are walking home bringing groceries in big bags. A man who looks about fifty, with sandy blonde hair and gray streaks, is outside mowing his lawn. He waves to me with a smile, also happy about the nice weather.
I walk past the bakery and hair cut place--where I used to get my hair done--until I get to the grocery store. Walking up to the door, I glance down the road. I know this place by heart because this is where we lived. My dad, mom, brother, and I all loved this place. Past Third Street is Second Street, our road. Take a right onto the road and past three houses and there sits my old home. The only place I would kill to get back because it’s the only place where I have good memories with my mom and it’s the last place she was alive
The street is very pretty and colorful. People walk between the tall buildings and apartments in all shapes and sizes and heights. Buses driving everywhere with padded chairs and metal bars to hold onto in case you didn’t get a seat. The pavement is old with cracks and faded yellow and white lines. Stop signs and sides of narrow alleys are covered in different gangster graffiti. The buildings are tall with purple, green, and yellow walls. Everyone says the sky is pretty and meaningful, but Main Street is better and prettier. The sunrise makes all the buildings fade into light and you can immediately see all the blue come out from all the other colors. There are windows stacked up as high as you can see and tourists crane their necks to see the tops of the skyscrapers.
Many describe New York City as “the city that never sleeps”. I guess that’s true. We think nothing of going for ice cream after midnight in the winter and taking two o’clock walks in the morning with the sky filled with dark grey smoke and the city lights brightening your path on the sidewalk. Sometimes mom and I would walk around as far as possible from our home without getting lost at midnight and try to see a pocket of sky through the layer of smoke covering the black universe above so that we could glance at a star or two.
Mom once told me that New York City could be a very dangerous place. Someone could grab you off the streets and into their white vans. You could get stabbed—or worse—shot. Many gangs and skeptical people hang out on Fourth Street because it’s a bad neighborhood. Of course I knew it was a bad neighborhood with bad people and bad things happening, but I’ve never thought of it like that. I used to stare up and try to see the top of some of the sky scrapers when I was a child and I used to love watching the different people walking up and down the streets. I would mostly fantasize about their lives and make up what they did for a living and who their friends were. One time I followed a suspicious man down an alley and saw him strip a girl. I didn’t see the rest because I was running to the police station. He had punched her in her jaw before anything else just to weaken her and it scared me. I ended up begging my parents for defense lessons at age eight. They agreed and I got a black belt in Krav Maga at age ten. It seems impossible to get that in two years but I studied hard and trained twelve to fourteen hours every day. I knew that I wouldn’t be safe unless I could defend myself.
There’s nothing for me to worry about now because I know every gang and bad person on the street and the next three streets in every direction and they know me. If they see me steal something, they don’t report it. If I see them do something, I don’t report it. They sometimes give me food and I sometimes give them things they need. We take care of each other and keep each other safe.