By Angel Leon
In San Bernardino, California, ordinary kids graduate from high school attend good colleges and go out into the world to find great jobs. When I graduated Curtis Middle School I told my homie Casper that sometimes I wanted to be ordinary and go to college. My homie said that ordinary was for white people and people like us were not meant to be ordinary. At the time I actually believed what he said. I had never heard of ordinary people getting shot from drive-bys, or ever witnessed ordinary people fighting in large groups just to keep other gangsters off their backs. No matter how much I wanted to be ordinary, where I grew up ordinary was not for people like us.
I had a good rep among my homies; back in middle school I was known for being crazy. The night before high school started I had received about fifteen calls from homies that I didn’t know telling me how they were ready for me to put in work when school started, whatever that meant. I still remember that first day like it was yesterday. I had a white t-shirt on, khaki pants and some Nike Cortez shoes like some gangster from a movie. As I walked in, I noticed all the kids with their books and back packs looking around for classes and for the friends they knew back from middle school. Me, well, I had a drink from am/pm, a 44oz iced tea, a pencil in case I needed it for self-defense, and a blue bandana to show my colors, and to represent where I was from. It wasn’t long before I was approached by some other gangster asking me who I was.
“You must be shadow?”
“Yup! That’s right.” I said.
“They call me Chuco,” he said.” I’m from Florencia trece.”
I stood tall, holding my drink with my left hand and with my right hand searching for my pencil. I had to make sure that if I needed to use it, I didn’t stab him with the eraser part because that would look stupid on my first day.
“Well, I never heard of you.” I told him.
Even though I had heard of him, I wanted to burst he’s bubble by not acknowledging who he was.
“Well I know you,” he said.
“Of course you do, everyone knows me. So I suggest next time you approach me, you don’t come alone, Chu-co.”
A few minutes after the bell rang. All the ordinary kids just walked to their classes not having to worry about getting jumped or whether or not their pencils were sharp enough to break some skin. While, walking to class I recognized some of my homies and clueless of where I was I asked them if they knew where class P505 was. My homie Flaco pointed out that P classes were on Florencia territory, and that it wouldn’t be smart for me to walk by myself. I told Flaco that I was a big boy, that I had this one, and I walked off. But before making it to my class that 44oz I had gulped down had its effect. I headed into the nearest bathroom to release some of the ice tea and to make sure I looked good before going into class.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I saw Chuco out of the corner of my eye. I remembered telling him earlier “next time, don’t come alone.” The words rang in my ears. He had actually taken my advice. What happened next happened too fast: I got jumped in the bathroom by Chuco and his guys. But, I never gave up. I should have listened to Flaco. “Three against one, three against one,” that’s all I kept saying while the blood spilled. I smashed one of the guys’ head on the bathroom toilet, and the other guy met the sharpness of my pencil on his cheekbone. Chuco, who I know gathered his troops to ambush me in the bathroom, left his friends behind and ran like a road runner going off to hide somewhere. I had to stay in the bathroom for an extended period of time. When I got out to chase Chuco the light from the sun hurt my eyes. I had trouble opening them all the way, so I couldn’t see much, but I did make out a shiny, golden star with a name: Officer Gonzales. I was put against the wall and handcuffed.
All I had wanted was to attend class, maybe learn a few things, and perhaps go to college. But where I grew up ordinary was not for people like us.