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She hadn’t been jumped.
She wasn’t physically hurt.
No one had touched her.
But she was scared.
As the young girl walked to school, she couldn’t help thinking of how much she wanted this day to be interesting; she didn’t want it to be just like every other day. Later she would look back on these thoughts and swear never to be unhappy with everyday life again. Not today, today she was oblivious; she wanted this day to stand out. It did, but none of the thoughts were worth the events that made it so or the nightmares after them.
As her footsteps echoed through her head, she was unaware of the horrors that lie ahead of her, just around the corner. She had no idea that her next turn into the alley she had walked down so many times, would change the way she thought of the world. She had absolutely no clue, hint, or warning that she was to find in that alley her worst fear.
A street lamp at the other end faintly lighted the alley. The light meant the beginning of a new road, the end to this tunnel of dangers. From that faint light, the young girl could see a body lying limply in the middle of the alley, blocking her path. She had met homeless people in this alley before; all relatively nice people, but stricken with poverty and misfortune. This, lump, didn’t look like a poverty stricken hobo. His clothes weren’t new, but they were clean, except for large splotches of something rust-colored. Tie-dye, she wondered dumbly.
Her next steps toward him were interrupted by a long, deep gasp that her whole body seemed to contribute to. She rushed to the side of the man, of the boy she realized, who had twitched suddenly when she had gasped. The young girl would look back on her next thoughts as hazy and blurred. Though the face she saw as she turned over the body that now lay at her knees, is forever inscribed into her memory. Her innocent soul screamed in despair and terror as her wide eyes wandered around the boy’s bloody, swollen, and eternally scarred face. Hot angry tears ran down her cheeks. The soul that now lay in her arms groaned, as if searching for its last breath, almost as if begging for some merciful hand to sweep down from the sky and end the pain.
The girl lifted the body that was now breathing short, separated breaths. There was no doubt in her mind; she had to help him. With more strength than she would ever be able to muster again, she began to run with the boy that she would later find out in horror was her best friend.
Nothing would ever echo the emotion that pulsed through her as she raced the boy to the closest neighbor’s house she knew of. It was a feeling like no other, with almost every emotion you can think of mixed into one boiling pot of adrenaline. Anger, fear, compassion, and hatred were some of the few ingredients to the mess her heart was in. The girl ran and kept running as fast as she could until she came upon the house of a familiar neighbor.
The next thing the girl remembers is standing in an ambulance while doctors stuck needles into the boy’s arms.
“He’s gonna be okay, right?” she asked the doctors. No one looked at her. They acted as if she wasn’t there, as if she hadn’t seen the pained look they had all exchanged when she had asked the question.
“ANSWER ME!” she screamed, surprising even herself. They looked up at her with faces that she now despised. Faces that said, “You already know kid, now just sit strong”. Tears were pouring down her face like a waterfall. This boy, he didn’t deserve the look the doctors gave her, he didn’t deserve to be lying on a stretcher while cold and emotionless doctors treated him like he was just another day’s work.
As the doctors pushed the stretcher into the hospital, the girl followed running. The run had the same strength she had used to carry the boy to Mr. Henderson’s house, but it was more desperate now. As they pushed him into the hospital room and shut the door, her mind came to a pained realization. Her best friend was dying. Behind the very doors in front of her, he was dying, and there was nothing she could do. Not now, it was too late.
She fell to the ground. Speech was lost to her; her eyes dry of tears. The only thing familiar to her was pain; piercing, merciless, unforgiving pain. She didn’t think, she didn’t move, she just lay there, giving in to the hurt. There was nothing to live for now, she thought. But she was wrong, and she would later dedicate herself to the thought that she was wrong. There was something to live for, future, change, life. Everything was there to live for.
All too soon, it seemed to the girl, her friend’s family arrived. The lonely brother of a dying boy came marching in. The nurse immediately told him in some foreign language of big words, what was wrong. There was no verbal communication between the girl and this young man as he sat, half fell down. They were both scared and they both knew it.
In the next two days that followed, three lives changed forever. Demarcio Williams died, at the age of twelve. His brother and his best friend both aged about 30 years in the mind. Thirty years that hardened them. Thirty years that gave them a new outlook on the world. Never again would either of their hearts or souls be completely whole. Never again would or could they be able to love anybody the way they love Demarcio.
A life was brought up to the stars when Demarcio died, and along with it, temporarily, went two souls. With time, the two souls came back, and were woken up to a new day on earth. The life will never come back. Demarcio went off, moved on, whatever you want to call it, he died. The signature comical smile he wore will never again flash across his lips. When a young and broken girl calls his name, there is no answer.
Sometimes, tears will come to her eyes, as the girl will dream of the days when Demarcio paraded by her side. On some nights, his face will plague her dreams with hidden memories of once-happy days. On other occasions, her small hands will ball into fists as she remembers the reason for Demarcio’s death.
The reason for the deaths of so many. That is the inescapable place we each are given in this society. The place we all get for being who we are. In Demarcio’s case, the black son of a single, hard working mother who had birthed him at the age of fourteen. Demarcio shared that place with a young girl he called his best friend. There are expectations in the place that he and that young girl shared in society. Things that you are expected to do, things that secure your role as the downcast. You are expected to dull the threat of your own potential.
Demarcio and the young girl had decided long ago in unspoken and solid terms that they were going to rise above the stigmas and expectations. That is the reason he died. His own kind, someone who shared that spot in society with him, was dead scared that Demarcio was going to execute his threat of potential. The man that killed Demarcio was scared of what he himself could accomplish. Scared of a different type of expectation, the kind that involves a future (you know that thing we call tomorrow). To this lousy excuse of a man, Demarcio was the very omen of what he could achieve. Demarcio didn’t die like his killer will, a coward. Demarcio died swinging all the way down.
The young and broken girl will someday look up at the sky with hope again. The way she used to when her best friend was there to look up at it with her. She will realize that her partner is still there with her, begging her to get back up and fight. Fight the expectations and the stigmas; defy gravity, get back up. Someday, but not today, she will get back up.