My old neighborhood… what a shit hole. But, I still have love for the place. It taught me many things. It pushed me to understand the value of a dollar: approximately one punch to the mouth. It nudged me along to grasp the importance of true friends: ones who stick with you even AFTER you were pulverized and humiliated in broad daylight, in front of your peers. It helped me understand that justice is indeed blind. Hell, it’s pretty much deaf, dumb, and clinically retarded too. But we all have to find our way within its boundaries. Otherwise, chaos ensues.
And my old neighborhood, Alief, definitely helped me understand the value of avoiding chaos at all costs. And by "chaos", I mean my neighbor's crazy-ass girlfriend.
After high school I took a semester or so off. Actually, I was told I could not go to college until I had taken some sort of college-level skills-assessment (total bullshit) test. I did not schedule myself for said test, because I was under the impression that I could wait until AFTER I had completed fifteen hours of coursework. Oh no. Not me. The rule changed to TWELVE the year I hit university. So I was delinquent.
Anyhow, I had a semester off. Well, not “off” per se. My mother made me pay rent and cough up the dough for my health insurance (“what the fuck is a “Cobra Plan” mom? It doesn’t sound too “healthy” to me.”) so I worked like a dog and had lots of free time. I spent that free time as a freelance street entrepreneur by night (I will leave the meaning of that one to your discretion), and garage monkey by day. To be a garage monkey meant that one had to spend half of their free time working on their car. That was me. Sweatin’ like a slave in the Houston heat, trying like a mutha to get those cross-drilled rotors on to my Acura Integra. All so that I could go illegally race other monkeys on the back roads off Westheimer. It was a much simpler time for me.
That poor car. It never did anything so wrong as to deserve the likes of me as an owner/operator/destroyer.
My garage was set behind our house, at the end of a long straight-shot driveway, so you could see the street while in there. It was dark and cluttered. Full of bugs, broken tools, lawn equipment, scrap lumber, abandoned home-improvement projects, leftover garage sale items, and my red ’87 Integra. With the hood popped up, and the front end lifted, all the damn time.
One especially hot and sunny afternoon I was trying, with extremely limited success, to replace some suspension parts when my younger neighbor from across the street, Eddie, dropped by to see what I was up to. Eddie was a little guy at the time. Maybe eighty pounds. Somewhere around twelve years old, so he was a bit awkward. He had the physique of E.T.’s upper torso, and a similarly disproportionately large head. Eventually he grew into his skin and head, but at the time, not so much.
We chatted while I ratcheted and inspected things until we heard some shouting coming from the street. Looking up, I could see three kids, probably around fifteen years of age, on the other side of the street, talking shit to the front of my neighbor’s house. My neighbor, Eric, was a colorful character. Car stereos were his thing, and he owned a mid-eighties Cutlass which was spotless, with a chandelier hanging in the interior and a chrome crown for a hood ornament. Two eighteens thundered Ghetto Boys from the trunk whenever he returned home from working the graveyard shift at his second job as a midnight-shift warehouse manager. He had a steady girlfriend who was ALWAYS giving him hell about his other girlfriends, of which there were many. He was not formally educated, or well traveled, but the man was smoooooth. His charisma was immediately felt and he carried himself with quiet confidence. Recently, I had seen him hooking up with a white chick, which was totally cool by me. I mean, she was fine as hell, so I thought it perfectly reasonable. But Eric is black. And so was his steady girlfriend.
Another thing that Alief taught me: a strong black woman who can control her emotions during normal times of stress will completely lose her shit if she finds out her Nubian Prince has been hitting side-skins with a white chick. Sure, it sounds discriminatory. And that’s because it is. Don’t believe me? TEST it. I DARE you to challenge this empirical fact. If you get set on fire, then it’s your own damn fault because I already warned your ass. I’m telling you, she won’t play that shit. For real.
So the argument on the street is obviously between these three kids and Eric, who I saw out front earlier in the day, talking with his steady girlfriend. They were inside her Suzuki Samurai, chatting with each other about whatever. Obviously, these three kids had wandered by, started talking mess to Eric, and he was returning their ire. Standard business on my street, and I saw the three kids continue on down the block (after yelling some probably-offensive-but-I-couldn’t-understand-them bullshit at Eddie and me).
For safety’s sake, I made sure to have a machete handy, just in case Eric said something about somebody's dead mother, which would give them cause to return with greater numbers or semi-automatics. Not that a machete does any good against a Tec-9, but it is certainly better than stern words.
The shit-talking kids are gone, so I get back to working and shooting the shit with Eddie. After about ten minutes had passed, gun shots start popping off in front of Eric’s house. I grab my machete, a torsion bar (two – three foot solid metal pole used mostly in truck suspensions), and Ed and I head down the driveway to see what the noise is all about. Initially, I assumed that the kids had returned with some firepower, and Eric was probably ducking the heat.
Well, he was definitely ducking some heat. And the heat had definitely arrived in the form of bullets. But it wasn’t the punk kids. It was his loon-ball girl.
When the kids strolled past earlier and words were exchanged, Eric went inside and got his chromed .38 revolver and had put it on the front seat of his girl’s Samurai. Just in case the kids returned (perhaps he did dog on someone's dead mother). So there it sat, waiting to be used. Eric apparently forgot a couple of things about his relationship when he decided to do this: 1) They ALWAYS fought about his supposed philandering and 2) the woman was certifiably crazy. So, it might be best to keep her away from sharp objects, let alone a loaded pistol.
Inevitably, their discussion turned to an argument, which jumped into a heated exchange, which pushed him to not only admit, but apparently flaunt his ongoing sex-time with some blond white girl from around the way, which ended when she picked up the pistol and started to fire it. At him. As he ran around her truck, begging for her to “put my pistol down, girl! We gots to be civil about this shit!” But she kept coming at him, because like I said, she was crazy like that.
She squeezed off about four shots by the time Ed and I reached the bottom of the driveway, armed with weapons a-la Khmer Rouge. As soon as we rounded the corner on his house, I saw him scrambling around the rear corner of her Suzuki, ducking left and right, trying to fake her out. She fired one over at him anyway, hitting his mom’s car behind him. “DAMN WOMAN! PUT MY GODDAMN GUN DOWN! I AIN’T PLAYIN’ WITCHU!” But she was having none of that. Calmly, in what I would have to say was the closest to the coolly words of a cold-blooded psychopath as I've ever heard, “Nah nigga. Come on out here and talk to me face to face.” BAM! Ping-ping! Dead panned delivery. “You thought you could just fuck that crackah-ass bitch and I wouldn’t say nothin’. Well fuck dat.” BAM! With a little more emotion: “Come talk to me like a man, you little bitch!” BAM-PING!
Come talk to me like a man? Whoa. It was obviously a little late for that. She was all The Shining and no Breathe Again by that point. There is no reasoning with a person once they are asking you to "face me" while firing a weapon. There's death in them thar directions.
Ed and I stood there for a second, stunned at the insanity of the thing. Like it was on TV instead of in front of my house. And then I realized how ridiculous the whole thing was. But before I could stop myself, I was already nudging Ed and saying loud enough for the scrambling Eric to hear, using my outdoor-voice, “damn Eric, that bitch has a gun!” At first, I almost thought it funny to say. My, my, my how wrong our first notions can be.
There are many things a man can say to a woman to thoroughly piss her off. And context can easily amplify her irritation, depending on how and where you say whatever potentially irritating thing it is you plan to say. And I learned that day, that for even ten seconds, calling an armed woman a “bitch”, even if used in the informal “yo whussup _____” method, can make her mad enough to forget that she was trying to KILL her boyfriend. That's right. For a brief moment in time, she just might consider your calling her a "bitch" to supercede her man's inability to keep his dick in his pants.
I have, since my days of youth, learned to curtail my use of that word. I reserve it for special occasions. It rarely gets used, and certainly not in my daily vocabulary. But some women, whether they'll admit or not, act like complete fucktards and in all honesty, demand to be labeled as such. But it generally is not smart to do so when they are armed, and you are in range.
After I said it, she gave her chase pause. For a second, I thought to myself, "nah, she didn't hear that, did she?" Oh, she heard me alright. “What the fuck did you just call me, peckerwood?” Shit. She’s throwing out the terms, so she’s beyond consoling here. And now the barrel is rolling around my way, just to put an exclamation point on her general irritation with my grand entrance. Lucky for me, she knew she was running low on ammunition, what with already plugging a few into neighbor’s houses and cars, she would be remiss if she ran out before tagging Eric at least once. But Eric had already seized the opportunity I had accidentally afforded him. He took off up his own driveway to get into his house through the back. She didn’t seem to notice, and kept her eyes and barrel pointed at me. “Get back in yo’ house, punk.” I could see the tears in her eyes. She was sadly resolute. “This don’t concern you.” She was stern and firm, but completely fair. Get back in my house? Oh hell yeah. She was right, that situation was NONE of my doing or concern. Peace, I’m gone.
Ed and I ran back up my driveway and back into my garage. I got back to whatever I had been tinkering with (breaking is probably a better word), while Ed decided to wait until we were sure she had run out of ammunition before he returned home. Meanwhile, my mom called the cops. She, understandably, was not too keen on the neighbors trying to kill each other. She was never much for suburban blood lust. As long as she wasn’t shooting at me, I was totally cool with it. Eric could handle his own.
About an hour later, the cops arrived. They pulled everyone out of Eric’s house and had them lined up on the curb out front. Eric was sitting in handcuffs by his mailbox, alone. His girlfriend was up the driveway, gesturing wildly to three uniformed officers, obviously telling her side of the story. Eric looked worn down. She must have run out of ammo though, because he wasn’t bleeding.
Ed and I decided we wanted to get Subway for lunch, so I grabbed my wallet, which was what was called a “file-a-fax” back in the day. It was like a man-bag, really. But small. You could fit a check book, small notebook, and a .25 pistol in there (but I never felt it necessary). Before crossing the street over to Ed’s, I stopped off to make sure that Eric was alright. Again, he wasn’t bleeding, but she had taken everything out of him in the process. He just looked up at me with bagged eyes, and said “why man? Why your moms got to call the cops, man? You know they’re just going to arrest me, right? It don’t matter what anyone say about this shit. Damn, man.” I just nodded in admission. What else could I do? I mean, it wasn’t me who called. I was cool with letting her crazy ass run out of shells.
But I can’t control mom. That’s silly talk right there.
I started to walk off when two fluffy cops in way-too-tight plasticky uniforms and crew-cuts stopped me and asked me where I was going. When I told them I was going to Ed’s, and pointed at his house with my file-a-fax, they grounded me flat to the pavement. Apparently, they had experience with people using their wallets to conceal pea-shooters. Damn. The pavement was HOT, and the officer with his knee in my back was FAT. With my hands properly zip-tied behind my back, they started going through my wallet. I could hear their brutish dick-speak as they discussed the contents. “Damn Joe, looks like the kid does live right there [presumably pointing at my house, but he could have been pointing at his crotch].” “Yeah, I guess he’s alright. Should we wait until we’re done with these others before we cut him out? I mean, he did just walk up and start talking to the suspect. We can’t have that.” Shit. The dirt in the cement was grinding its way into my chin and chest. Plus, I was not on the sidewalk, or on a driveway. I was IN the street. In traffic. Where fucking cars drive. “Nah, just tell him to fuck off, and that should be enough.”
While one of the geniuses was cutting my bonds, I looked over to see Eric staring at me, with his face sunk down between his shoulder blades, shaking his head. He knew we were both equally not-guilty, but he also knew who would be going to get a Subway steak and cheese, and who would be forced to spend three days at the West Side Command Center holding facility.
If he had been shot, by her, the story may have turned out different. He would have received quick medical care, avoided any jail time, and had a good case for a getting a restraining order against his obviously-disturbed girlfriend.
But as it ended, he was pissed that my mother called the police, did his three days, and stayed with that batshit-loonball woman a bit longer. I got some scuffs and a hearty lunch, so I was cool with it. Whatever.