I stare at the white wall as the record in the background kept going. I was the only one in the house and it was about 30 degrees but it felt like it was 500. The air conditioning wasn’t working. Again. I lie down on the worn out mattress without a shirt and some shorts. This is the weirdest time of the year. No ones in school, everyones doing their one thing. Some people are scattered across New York, dreaming of being in Manhattan while they’re stuck in Harlem, others are making deals to make sure they stay and rule the streets. It’s rough. I don’t know if I’m one of the dreamers, or if I’m one of the folks who loves Harlem so much all I want to do is stay on the streets and play the same old game. It’s hard. I don’t know what I want. Then again I am just 21. I don’t know, it would just make more sense if I knew where I wanted to go. I graduated valedictorian of my class, but I didn’t take the scholarship because I had to help my mom with my younger brother. He’s autistic and that’s hard to be when you’re black and poor. I wish it were better than that, but it’s not. I don’t notice the record fading out and all there is, is the scratch of the record, the faded off voices, the proof that everything stops at some point. If I were to become a street hustler, I would be the first woman head gangbanger. But if I were to go to college like I wanted, I would be the first person on my street to actually get an education further than high school. Then again, most of the people on my street had the wisdom of someone whose 80, and some of them are younger than me. It’s difficult. I could try and start rapping again like I did when I was 16. But my moms don’t like it when I rap. It’s “unladylike”. If only she knew that the most eligible gang of Harlem 1987 wants me. Not wanted in the sense of wanting to kill me, want me in the sense of want me to be under their wings. They think I’m smart enough to run them and keep them of the raider. The only reason why I’m considering is because then I could get money for my moms and my brother. Help her out. But other than that, they aint no f***in’ chance I’m doing that. I’d rather rap. Rhyme. Be the hype. Be that beat on the radio that no one can get out they mind. I pick up my notepad and a pencil and write. “You see, I’m an intellectual, / I’m always gonna be perpetual, / Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, / their aint gonna be no city that aint heard of me. / Down on the streets, / they got people on they knees, / theres so much crime / and aint nobody got the time. / There’s too much pride, / that nobody got they eyes on the prize. / It aint nothing tho, / because all this s*** be too difficult. / Maybe if there was a sign / So that our people could reside / in hope that we can build something up / instead being crumpled like a paper cup.” I stop. I read what I just wrote. It’s good considering I ain’t got no beat to it. Maybe it can just have no beat. Maybe that’ll get the word through and hit that place in peoples minds where they realise what its been about. Maybe. Maybe I’ll make a difference. I hear the phone ring in the other room. I know it’s Red Dawg and his crew asking me if I wanna take their offer. I get off the bed and slowly make my way towards the living room. I remove the needle off the record first. I take a deep breathe and make my way to the phone. I put my hand on it.