The Wrong Life This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 31, 2018
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As I looked outside of the window from my room, I could see the burning sun right in the middle of the sky. Not a single cloud in sight. When I looked down on the street, I saw all of the neighborhood kids running around on the street. Someone had popped the fire hydrant so water was blasting out of it like Old Faithful. The kids would be playing until they couldn’t take it anymore and then cooled off by running through the water. Right after they played in the water, right back out into the sun.


I lived on the bad side of Harlem, New York, there was a limited amount of trees, and the shade casted by the trees was even more scarce. The trees looked dead throughout the whole year. It seemed almost as if someone would come and rip all of the leaves off of the tree at night.


“Ayy Rakim!” I yelled from my room as I put my shirt on. “You bouta talk on any females tonight?”


“Son, is that a real f*cking question? You know already know I’m gonna have these girls hanging off me.”

Rakim said while he rubbed his hands together like you do when it’s 30 degrees out and you’re trying to stay warm.


“Yeah yeah, we both know you’re gonna be hella extra around these females as usual. You stay actin’ like you got game but we both know..”


“Shut up that’s why you’re finna sit in a corner and not talk to girls like usual.” Rakim said cutting me off.
While all of the kids were having fun on the street, everyone who has been or is in high school was getting ready for the picnic. We aren’t talking about the normal picnic in a nice park where you have your weaved basket and a nice view and throw down your red plaid gingham. This was a Harlem picnic. Right in the middle of the hood. This was the place where you get dressed up in your most expensive outfit even though there’s no guarantee you’ll come home with your shoes.


Rakim and I weren’t related, but we were still brothers. We didn’t know each other since we were kids, instead it was only freshman year of high school, but in the three years we have known each other, we haven’t left each other’s side. Whenever one of us got in a situation in or outside of school, we were always going to be there to back up one another. We are also both intune when it comes to fashion and art. When we figured out that one another could rap, we knew we would be brothers.


Whenever we would go to these picnics, it was always a fun but very nerve racking experience. On one hand, all the cute females were there so we needed to go for them because there was always the possibility of bringing a girl home, but you also had to worry about some idiot popping shots off into the sky, shooting at a person, or even worse. Shooting at us.


When you grow up in Harlem, it doesn’t seem like many ways to get out. You grow up seeing the same adults doing the same thing everyday. So instead of trying, Rakim and I just decided to turn to the streets doing whatever it took to afford whatever we wanted. We first decided to start selling drugs in the summer between freshman and sophomore year.


But because we have been selling drugs for a few years now, our names are out there on the streets. The police know about us but there is plenty of dirty cops that if you just pay them or even give them some drugs, they’ll make sure that everyone else stays off your back. But it wasn’t only the police we had to worry about. There were other dealers who wanted to get us off their blocks and it started to become pretty dangerous for us to walk into a lot of neighborhoods. But we didn’t care. We were dumb.


Something ain’t feelin’ right. I thought as it felt like the butterflies in my stomach were swarming around trying their best escape.


“Aight Rakim, you ready to do this?”


“Yup, let me get my shoes on.” He said hopping out of the chair that burn holes in it from years of cigarette and blunt ashes falling on it.


I bent over and grabbed the pink MCM backpack that we kept our weed in.


“Might as well try to get our money up while we’re there.” I said with a smirk on my face that you could faintly make out behind the braids that hung over my face.


“Oh sh*t, that’s how were doing it? Say that. Let me get the burners, I am not gonna be caught lacking again.”
The last time we went out to a picnic, someone from another block came up and pressed us. We didn’t have any protection but thankfully for us he didn’t fire any shots.


While we were walking down the street, all the kids playing in the streets stopped and watched us walk buy.

Because we weren’t adults but still were dressed in new designer every time they saw us, all of the  younger kids saw us as role models. They wanted to be able to buy the stuff that we bought, but we both knew that our life wasn’t safe so we never showed them how we got our money, we would always tell them if they did good in school, they would be able to have what we had. 


You could hear the music four blocks away from the park. Rakim thought he was a dancer so the closer we got, the louder the music got and that meant the more dancing he would be doing.


We finally got to the park and as usual, the adults were posted in the far corner by the trees with their grills all in one area cooking up burgers and hotdogs for everyone there. The smell from the meats cooking filled the air, it felt almost like thanksgiving when your mom would be cooking in the kitchen all day making enough food for the whole neighborhood.


As the sun began to set and most of the people finished eating and talking and started to dance. Rakim left my side to go talk to a girl like he said he would, and just like he said, I was chilling in the corner by myself just observing everyone.


As the party got more and more active, people knew what was in my backpack. All of teenagers were coming up to me buying weed. I would spend the morning of the party rolling blunts so the people there wouldn't have too. It also made me more money because I would charge extra for pre rolls. The air slowly began changing from the smell of barbecue to the smell of weed. This was always the most dangerous time. There was always some ignorant people with guns who thought it was cool to start shooting in the air to scare everyone. Even though you knew that, it was still scary because maybe they were aiming for you. When you sell drugs, you can never be too sure.


“Rakim! Get down!” I shouted from 20 feet away.


Right as I yelled that, he didn’t waste any time turning around and asking me why, he trusted my voice. I don’t know how he heard me through all the music and people, but he ducked right as someone was running up on him and was about to hit him with the hardest right hook since Mike Tyson.


All of the girls that were around Rakim began to scream and ran off because they thought someone was about to shoot. The boys that were around started to pull out their phones hoping to get the best video for a Worldstar post.


I ran through the crowd like a teacher trying to stop a fight. When I busted through everyone, I ripped the guy off of Rakim and got him on his back. I began to throw blow after blow into his face.


“Ferg!” Rakim screamed as he tried to push me off.


I looked up and saw someone standing on top of me with a gun aimed at my head. Before he shot, Rakim tackled me off of the man and POP POP POP.


Three gunshots rattled off in quick succession. But I didn’t feel anything. Without reacting, I grabbed my gun to shoot back but the man ran off. Right as I was about to start chasing him, I made eye contact with Rakim.
“Ferg, go get that b****! I’ll be fine!” He said with blood running out of the gunshot in his stomach like a deer when the hunter gets a perfect shot.


Do I leave my brother or chase the man who shot him.. I couldn’t figure out what the right thing to do but I didn’t have any time. I stumbled getting up and began to run. Everyone who was watching got out of our way so there was a straight line through the crowd. The line allowed me to see where the other guy was going.

When I got out of it, there was a man running into an all black car with tinted windows. I knew he was the one who shot.


I fired as many shots as I could. I didn’t take my time to aim. I was full of emotion and rage. The back right window of the car shattered from the first shot. You could see sparks fly from multiple bullets hitting the car. Behind me, I knew everyone was screaming or yelling different things, but I couldn’t hear them. The last two bullets that rang out from my gun hit him. I saw him fall right before he got in the car. Someone hopped out, picked him up and threw him in the car.


As I ran back to Rakim, dark streets usually illuminated by gentle street lights changed. Red and blue lights began flashing. I could see how much closer they were getting by how lit up the surrounding apartments were getting. The crowd began to thin out. Everyone running in different directions trying to get away. A lot of the people that stayed through the gunshots were the type of people who shouldn’t be around the police, especially if guns and drugs are involved.


“Rakim. You’ll be okay. Just stay strong. The ambulance is on their way.” I told him. “Just keep looking me in the eyes.” I grabbed him by the hand and held on until they got there. But I could see his eyes closing and he began to slightly doze off. The squeeze he was giving my hand began to get less tense.


“Sir! Get out of the way!” The medics shouted as they were approaching. “What happened?”


“Someone came up and just started firing shots at him.” I could barely say as I felt like I was going to enter a panic attack.


This is my f***in’ brother, I can’t lose him, the last almost four years of my life have been spent with this man.
I began reminiscing the times we had together. Our first mixtape. The first time we smoked together. The first time we went shopping and didn’t care about a price tag. Our first time running from police. The first time we got arrested.


The medics put Rakim in the ambulance and took him to the hospital. I got to the hospital as soon as possible, but they didn’t let me in the room. I sat in the emergency room until 2am. Pacing back and forth, asking to see him. When they finally came out. They told me one bullet hit him in his right lung, which would have been fine. But then the doctor said a bullet went into his chest, ricochet off of his ribs and went through the lower part of his heart. They said if he was able to get to the hospital just two minutes earlier, there was the possibility of saving him, but it was just too late. He lost too much blood and they weren’t able to keep him alive.


I broke. I lost the person that meant the most to me. The person that was supposed to be there forever. I had no idea of how I was going to continue. In that very moment, I felt as if there was no reason to continue.

Without my brother, I didn’t know how to function.


The doctor let me go in and see him by myself. As I walked in the room, I closed the door and began to cry. It finally hit me. I never thought this day was going to come. I never thought I’d lose Rakim.


If we just didn’t go. If we just would have left sooner. If we just never began to sell drugs. If we just would have tried to make something of our lives. Paid attention in school. Everything that could have been different in our lives that would have changed this outcome began to run through my head, but it didn’t matter. He was gone. I took his hand, told him I wouldn’t ever forget got on one knee and prayed. I told God I am blessed to have had him in my life. I thank him for bringing Rakim into my life. I told Rakim I was going to fix my life. For him.






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