The Hard Life

By , manhattan, KS
His feet pounded on the concrete, running as if fear itself was behind him. He ran past the liquor stores with the broken bottles on the sidewalk outside. Past the abandoned buildings that lined the street, past the projects where so many people he knew lived. He kept on running, running past the old parking lots with the empty shells of the machines they once held. His name was Jamie and he held his shoes in one arm and his basketball in the other. Jamie was ready, ready to play the game he had sacrificed so much for. His name was Jamie and he played basketball, it was what he did.

Jamie was seventeen, about six feet tall with blue eyes, short dirty blond hair, and soft features. He was long and lean with toned muscles all around. Jamie lived in south Philadelphia, in a small blue house that his father bought before he left. He lived where 99% of the population was black, and Jamie was white. He didn’t care about race, but it was part of his daily life. He never would be fully accepted in the culture he lived in.

Jamie lived a hard life. He stayed with his mother and stepfather in their small blue house. Neither of his two brothers were around. His oldest brother was killed by a local gang when Jamie was seven, and nobody knew were, John, Jamie’s middle brother, was. John ran away from home as a junior in high school, and nobody had heard anything since. Jamie’s real father left before he was born, and he had lived with his stepfather his whole life.
Basketball was a fallback for him, the only thing he really cared about. When he was young, he started hanging around the local court, watching the kids play from dawn till dusk. He wanted to play more than he wanted anything else in the world. One day while hanging on the fence he got his shot. One of the few kids that he knew needed a player for his team, and he had picked Jamie. That first game was magic for Jamie, and from then on he lived at the court, working harder than anyone one else just because he loved it. Even though he eventually met new people and gained respect, there were always the few people that would run him off the court with their handguns and knives. Today was one of those times.

He finally stopped, and sat down panting on a bench, embarrassed that he didn’t stand and fight. But what was he supposed to do? There was four of them, all with knives and brass knuckles.

Why cant they just let me play? I haven’t done anything to them. I haven’t even talked to them before. Why do they hate me? If it’s because I’m white, they should know that I didn’t have a choice in who I am. I can’t let them control me like that. I’ve got to go back and show them they push me around.

So Jamie picked himself up and started to walk with a slow confidence back to the court. Now in his mind there was a resolve that would allow him to overcome any challenge. He hoped that the gang members that ran him off were still there, and they better hope they leave by the time he got there. If they didn’t there was going to be problems. That was his court and he was ready to fight for it, either with a ball in his hand, or not. It was their choice, he didn’t care, he was sure he’d win either way.

As he approached the court he noticed the looks of astonishment on the faces of the other players. He realized that they didn’t expect him to come back. But the gangsters weren’t there. So he came back every day, hoping they would. Finally a week later, he caught a glimpse of them driving away. Breaking his stride, he started sprinting towards them, but he was too late. They turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
After waiting around the rest of the day without seeing them, he had to start home. It was dangerous for him to be out alone at night. He started walking up his street to his home, past one of his good friend’s houses. As he looked inside at the warm glow radiating from the kitchen he realized how lonely his life was. But he quickly pushed those thoughts from his mind, because he didn’t want to be overcome with self-pity. As he was coming up to his house, he noticed that no lights were on. A little flutter of panic arose in his chest. Had the gang bangers found out where he lived? No, they couldn’t have, no. Slowly he walked up the front steps, sweat dripping off his face. Gently he opened the front door, noticing that it had been shoved open. Inside was a scene of destruction that made him drop to his knees. All across the house windows were broken, furniture thrown across the room, cabinets emptied out and crushed, and holes broken through the walls. Only to make it worse there was hate notes spray-painted in red on everything in sight.
Once he overcame his initial shock his thoughts drifted towards his family. It was then he saw the small paper note that contained a message from his mom. After he finished reading it he once again dropped to his knees. The note said that his mom ran away with his father because there was no future here and the house was destroyed, and that they were gone for good.
Jamie sat there completely stunned, stunned that he had just lost his whole world in an instant. So slowly he picked himself up and went to a loose floorboard and pulled it up. Underneath there was a small .35 caliber revolver. He grasped it in his hands and all the hatred of his short life came back to him. Because people couldn’t accept him they had destroyed his house and this cause his family to run away He was ready for revenge. He wanted to make gang fee what he was feeling right now.
Then a thought came to him from somewhere deep in his conscience,
Why do we hate each other? Is it because we are a different skin color? How could something that small create such hatred? Look at me, someone always loses when we harbor feelings of hatred. Someone always wants revenge, and that leads to more problems. Nothing ever good comes from racism and hate.
So he put the gun back, dusted himself off and walked out the front door. He had one thing left and that was basketball, it was the only thing that he loved that and would always have. Though he wasn’t sure what he was going to do now would find a way to get by. He always did.





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