In those first moments, I had hoped for a convincing way to get up and walk away. But then I was flooded by images of the circumstances that had put me there -- my once-heroic father; my destroyed home; the crime I still couldn't quite believe. I realized I was as away as I could ever hope to be. Melting into the sidewalk was the only option that would have been more preferable.
From that moment, I began to live up to the vow I had made to myself. The day before, the life I thought had been promised to me was revoked. Like a roller coaster out of control, the world had spun about and thrown me off. Now I was on my own, and I had resolved to remain that way. I was officially a non-person. Visibly invisible.
But it wasn't easy getting to this point. I was constantly prodded by temptations to abandon my life on the street. A few days without food, a rainy night without shelter - like taunting school kids, the elements of life continually nagged at me. However, the more I struggled against them, the stronger I became. I soon realized that instead of real alternatives, the temptations only offered more questions. It was when I finally gave up struggling that I was able to believe I was no longer anybody. And then an incredible rush of freedom rained through my body and dissolved my fears and shame. After a few years, this freedom simply became a way of life. I rarely heard the people around me and, when I did, I didn't care what they thought of me. They were movie extras passing through scenes in my existence. Once I got used to sleeping on the streets, I felt as if I never really woke up; I just moved from unconscious dreaming to conscious dreaming.
The morning I dreamt of the beans, I felt a gentle prodding in my ribs. The hot sun massaged my eyelids and numbness nagged my lower back. Although half-asleep, I was aware of my body's usual contradiction of shivering in the heat. I blinked and then looked up. Eurotrash was standing above me, with his head framed in a green halo of spring leaves and his patterned sweater tucked into his pants. He looked like a Roman soldier off to a disco. I blinked again and inhaled. The aroma of coffee pulled my head to the side, and I saw a Starbucks' cup sitting on the base of the statue I'd slept under.
"Morning," Eurotrash said.
I sat up slowly. We were in the median on Commonwealth Ave., not far from the place I had killed the pigeon the first time Eurotrash and I had met. Straight ahead was the Common; to my right and left rose the brownstones. Some of these building were luxury apartments or townhouses, while others were old-time social clubs like something out of a Salinger novel. Taking up entire city blocks, these buildings were all three and four stories high, with many of the window frames and gutters stained the same blue-green color from oxidation. Some of them had wrought iron fences that surrounded curt, manicured courtyards.
A dog barked and I saw some children squealing with delight, playing keep-away with the mutt as their two Irish nannies looked on. Both were plainly dressed, and one wore a faded kerchief around her throat that looked as if it could have been an heirloom. I could hear them talking, their lilting voices playing musical chairs with their sentences, moving words around to fit their native vernacular. They were speaking of some boys they had met at a local pub and, while one girl was advising against sex before marriage, the one with the scarf mockingly let her rosary beads slip in her fingers. They both collapsed into giggles.
Eurotrash gestured for me to take the cup. I wasn't used to eating first thing in the morning - usually my stomach was empty until well into the day, so as soon as I took a sip, I was famished. I began to gulp at the coffee.
"This is how you make your own way, huh?" Eurotrash asked.
Slowing down, I said, "It's not so bad."
Copyright 2001 Andrew K. Stone. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be printed in any form without permission. For permission to reprint this excerpt, please contact www.sotherebooks.com.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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