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The Beginning of a Long Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     In the Catholic religion, St. Jude is the saint one prays to in hopeless cases.

It seems so obvious, now that we can laugh about it. As I sat drinking coffee at 11:30 one night with my aunt and my grandmother, I realized why I made my first communion at St. Jude's Catholic Church: we were hopeless.

In 1995, my father schized out on us big time. Let's just say that smashed windshields, ice-picks, and a handgun thrown off the Canarsie Pier were involved.

We knew all the 69th Precinct of the NYPD by first name. They came to our house on random Tuesdays and brought crumbcake. We were hopeless. When we walked down the block to go the movies, my sister and I following our cousins in dirty Nikes, old neighbors would stare and whisper, "Those poor, poor children."

We went to church on Saturday nights to avoid getting up early on Sunday. They saw us coming in, my mother and aunt herding us out of the car, telling Christopher to lower his voice and chiding, "You're in church, comb your hair." They saw my mother and grew sad. They saw my aunt and frowned, her husband off at prison camp. They saw my little brother, in a dirty t-shirt, his little teeth stained orange by Tic Tacs. We were the hopeless cases on 91st Street.

I have a cousin. When I was ten I nicknamed him Forrest Gump because of his big, dumb ears and his ability to fall - not walk - into a room. In 1995, though, he more closely resembled Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia." Poor, poor child.

I remember my sister in 1995, looking much like Kurt Cobain right before he put that gun in his mouth. She disappeared through the railings on my aunt's staircase and constantly twirled her greasy, blond hair as she swallowed her sanity with orange juice. It was a shame, they said. Those poor, poor kids.

So there we were. A brick house full of kids, watched over by three wayward women (or so they were known around the neighborhood). An array of beleagured cops, detectives, therapists, doctors and the occasional Fed wove a worn path through my aunt's high iron gate.

To a fifth-grader there was enough hopelessness suffocating our lives as there were anti-depressants and restraining orders floating around to fill up all the rooms in my aunt's house. At the time it seemed there would never be enough statues to pray to. But when you are almost eleven years old, standing high above it all in your Spice Girl shoes, you don't believe in the word hopeless. It may have been a coincidence that we prayed to the patron saint of hopeless cases every Saturday night, but if I can sit and think about that now, over my midnight cup of coffee, I must have been that poor child who escaped relatively unscathed.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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