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The Things You Ran From

CCO

The summer comes, high school ends, but you don’t notice. The flash of a gun, cryptic hand signals exchanged, and the two colors suddenly grab center stage. Red and blue, “Both the color of blood,” you think, “One removed from the body, one not.”

In your little town a teenage boy takes three rounds to the chest and one to the face on an otherwise passive Saturday night. Experts are called in from the Bay Area’s gang cities. “Dead before he hit the ground,” you over hear, and think, “Yeah, and dead before he turned sixteen.” They tell you what to look for and what to look out for, but the violence still comes. You over hear black words and thoughts emerge from your neighbors.

Soon you hear streets like Sycamore and Mahogany, benign names normally, whispered in fear. You hear little voices of the old quietly marking each bloody transgression against the neighborhood.

“Don’t go down there no more, they’ll kill over nothing these days.”

“They sawed the boy’s head off right after they shot him.”

“That’s a bad house, sell crack right on the front door step.”

You watch the safe little 7–11 on the corner close down with ten bullet holes in the window and a dead cashier behind the counter. You hear everyone start talking, talking about shotguns, pistols, and car-jackings, and how not to be a victim. There’s talk about taking back the town and guns come out of the dresser drawer and nightstands. Anger and fear carry words like “niggers” and “wetbacks” deeper into the daily conversations.

You feel something breaking down inside you, something you don’t understand, but you can feel the tension and the fear twisting and tearing your thoughts. People’s faces change — change to threat or non-threat. The blood colors are no longer the only ones to fear. You see T.G.I.W appear tattooed in black on the shoulders of friends you used to understand and now can’t accept.

You lock yourself away in your apartment, ignore the occasional gunshot, and let the anger simmer in what’s left of your middle class memories. But it gets closer; the death of a friend of a friend in the newspaper puts it in your living room.

Then it happens. You’re at a local fast-food joint waiting in line at the drive-through. A man walks along the line of cars waving a pistol demanding money. You see the driver of the brown Ford Bronco two cars ahead aim a sawed-off shotgun. You tear your car out of line and drive away not wanting to see what happens. That night you lay in bed thinking. You’re on the fringe, neither a color, or a racist, but what a frightening fringe it is.

Late that night you remember the green of Seattle, Eliot Bay, Mt. Rainer, and a lack of fear. The next day after no sleep and without thought you leave town, just throw a few things in the car and drive north leaving all colors and connections behind.