Leave. That's What My Family Did

January 10, 2008
By Abby Loranger, Essex, VT

Leave. That's what my family did.
It may be hard, but you need to do this. You owe this to yourself
to turn this around.
You're almost there, less than a year. You can stay in state,
but please, at the other end of it.
Get another job, please. One where you shouldn’t have to fear for
your life everyday.
I know your brother would tell you the same thing, if he were here.
You would think you would have learned from him. But you haven't.
I wouldn't be able to live if you passed like he did.
If I were still there, who knows what my life would be like?
Would I be where you are? Lower down?
You have to remember; I know what it feels like.
To have your life confined to a block. A section. A zone.
Yes, I remember that feeling.
But no, we weren't ever scared. We were strong.
Every morning we went outside, met at the corner,
held hands and walked to school.
A place where you're supposed to feel safe.
For us, we felt safe. But we never were. Remember?
Even when we were young and didn't understand, it's scary
to understand now.
Remember how we had an occasional recess outside, where
we played in the cement jungle known as the playground?
Even if we did this once every couple weeks, it would be cut
short. Gunshots. Less than a mile away. And then we all had
to drop our toys and hurry inside.
And now, you're one of them. One of those people
who made our childhood even harder than it already was.
Did they not pay you? Did they pull a gun on you?
Probably so.
You're just like him.
So many nights we saw fights and blood. Drive-bys and handoffs.
You're a good kid; this is not you.
My best friend since I was born.
One of my first memories of life.
I'm sure you remember that day well. You remember the
searchlights and the helicopters flying overhead?
How my mother wouldn't let me outside of the house,
and how the windows were bolted closed?
I saw him. He ran across my backyard. Then he fell.
And all we wanted to do was play in the sandbox together. But no.
Leave. That's what me and my family did. That was the best
decision they've ever made for me, and although I'm proud
of where I come from, I'm even prouder my parents had the
strength to leave it.
You can too.
I remember the final straw. And how they had to delay our
moving. How they unburied that woman from our backyard.
That could have been me.
That could be you.
Remember, I know the feeling.
My school, with hundreds of bullet holes implanted into its walls; and leaving it.
How I moved up north, where I fit in.
It was different. It was the first time I ever remember feeling scared.
I looked the same as everyone else. Blond. Pale. Blue eyes.
I was different.
But it changed my life.
Just like my family and I did. Make a better life for yourself.
Before you leave like your brother had to.

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