Unlawful Acts

April 30, 2009
By , San Diego, CA
If I were ever asked to recall a time in my life that made me think—seriously think—my mind is immediately filled with memories that were not delightful in the least. Memories that struck hard. But there was one incident that I will never be able to forget, even if I attempted to. I was eight or nine at the time that my cousin’s home was broken into, in our neighborhood of Bayview Heights.

I recall quite vividly the shock that my siblings and I had felt when there came a very frantic knocking upon our front door, right in the middle of our very terrifying movie. Our babysitter opened the door, allowing my hysterical cousins to pour in, sobbing and clinging to my older sister, for she was the closest to them. I was too shocked to say much of anything as, after the babysitter had gotten her to calm down, the oldest of my cousins recounted the recent events, tears streaming down her face.

After another bout of sobs, she led us outside, commanding the smaller children to stay with our babysitter, rather than risk them getting hurt. I haven’t the slightest idea why the babysitter had let two eleven-year-olds and a nine-year-old out into the night, but I will never forget how, when my sister and I walked into the apartment across the lot from our, the damage that their home had been subject to made my stomach turn as I realized that the culprits could have still been inside the apartment, and we were defenseless against a group of people who had ripped a pantry door off its hinges without a second thought; who had gone into a young girl’s bedroom and threw her bed against the wall and stolen the little she had saved up from working odd jobs for her kind neighbors; who had taken a poor family’s valuable family treasures for kicks.

My sister must have sensed this as well, for she announced that if we wanted to stay alive, we had better “beat it.” So, without a moment’s hesitation, we broke into a run out of the apartment, dragging our sniffling cousin with us. The home’s state had left a sick feeling in me as I ran to my own home, making my eyes sting.

When my mother arrived home from work, we told her of the occurrence, not stopping for breath until we had gotten to the very end. My mother had called my aunt within seconds; she could not contact the authorities—what was done was done, correct? When my aunt had arrived, in a rush and out of breath, my mother sent us to bed while she comforted the grieving family, grieving for their loss of security in their own home.

Just remembering the raw emotion on their faces make my heart ache and makes me realize: that could just as easily have happen to my family it could have been my siblings and I watching as strange, terrifying people pushed open the window above the kitchen sink and attempted to break into an unguarded apartment filled with tiny, defenseless children with nothing but throw pillows to protect themselves with. It could have been my siblings and I barely escaping being seen by said terrifying persons and rushing to someone’s house, shaking with dread and horror. It could have been my siblings and I feeling terribly in our own home, even more so than before, for we lived in a terribly unsafe neighborhood.

I remember finding out that, just days after the incident, if you would call it that, those same criminals had attempted to kill the ice cream man for not giving them free ice cream. I watched the ambulance had taken the severely beaten man away to the hospital while the policemen had arrested the malefactors, who were but seventeen years old. I remember very clearly the looks on their faces as they were shoved into the police vehicles. They were ones of victory, something that I never had expected to see on someone about to be taken to jail. It still boils my blood how satisfied those boys had looked as they were all but hauled off to what was supposed to be their doom.

Two thoughts had hit me then: one was that I was glad that I was not them, nor the injured ice cream vendor; the other was that the beaten man could have been my father. What if it had been a taxi rather than an ice cream truck? What if my father had been driving that particular taxi and those boys had felt that nearly killing the cab driver was a nice pastime? While I am not saying that my father is defenseless—he can hold his own in a fight, believe me—those boys had weapons; bats and knives.

That ice cream man had a family somewhere most likely, and those miscreants decided that severely injuring a working man, who was just doing his job to support his family, was a fun thing to do, not once stopping to think that the tables could turn somehow later on and they could be the ones being subjected to such harsh punishment.

In the moment that it takes to hurt someone, another’s life could be destroyed, and I learned that indirectly from a tragedy that struck some relatives of mine as well as that dreaded event that left the kind ice cream man injured beyond belief. Part of me still resent my aunt for leaving her children unattended, but what could have done but try to protect her children from the ruthless creatures that dared call themselves “human beings?”





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