Jayzee saw the movie "Freedom Writers". As he walked the streets he thought about how that teacher was able to pull different kids together and how they learned to respect each other. True story? Maybe, but not here.
He wanted to go to that school, but that was a whack dream world for Jayzee. He wanted more, but he was a member of the Band of Brothers (BoB). They called him to something less and he’d seen the payment for resistance. It seemed easier to give up his soul than confront the painmakers so he walked like he meant it to a place where violence bred in darkness.
Every word and gesture meant something, and respect wasn’t optional. Jayzee could never understand why venom was spewed among the family, but violence was not immune to making family ‘victims’ for the sake of maintaining a whack sense of order. On this block of real estate, no one messes with the band except the band. They take care of their own while they take care of their own, if you know what I’m saying.
Marlboro’s head popped up in anger. Someone had invaded his turf. He saw Steve talking to his girl. Mary. Jayzee knew Steve meant no harm. He wasn’t connected to any of the street families, but he should know better than to come to the BoB turf.
“I’ll handle it,” Jayzee offered as he ran down the alley.
When he got to Steve, Jayzee made a show of being angry. “Look, man,” Jayzee said quietly. “You wanna get killed? Go home and don’t come back. Marlboro don’t want you here.”
“All I was doing was inviting Mary to church,” Steve said gently. Steve was a big kid, but something wasn’t right in his head. He didn’t understand gangs and territory.
“You know Mary’s Marlboro’s girl,” Jayzee said.
“I just want her to meet Jesus, Jayzee,” Steve smiled.
“Whatever,” Jayzee said absently. “Just go home, Steve and stay there.”
Mary was confused, but put on a brave face and laughed as Steve walked away. It probably saved her life. Marlboro had murder in his eyes.
“He ain’t comin’ back,” Jayzee told Marlboro.
“Jayzee,” Marlboro said as he put his arm around Jayzee’s shoulders, “When you ever gonna learn?”
Suddenly Jayzee couldn’t breathe. Blows came from everywhere and deep wounds formed. His eyes were nearly swollen shut when Marlboro leaned down and looked at his handiwork and said, “These are my streets, Jayzee. MINE.”
When Jayzee woke up he was in Steve’s living room. Steve had carried him home, crying as he went.
Steve and his mama took care of Jayzee and even called his mama to let her know where he was. Jayzee’s mama came to see him, but thought it best if he stayed away from the house.
Steve loved to talk about Jesus. Steve said Jesus was kind and loving and He never hurt nobody – He even liked to heal people. Jayzee thought Jesus must have been like that teacher – she accepted everyone even when they didn’t like her.
It took a few days for Jayzee to walk again, but when he did he headed for the door. For reasons he didn’t understand he began to walk back to the BoB. A hush fell over the alley as Marlboro sized up his broken lamb. He smiled and hugged Jayzee, “Welcome back, Brother.”
Marlboro’s smile faded and before Jayzee knew what was happening the BoB ran down the alley tossing their coats to him as they ran. He could tell someone was the object of punishment, but he had no idea who.
As he walked stiffly down the alley he heard a siren in the distance. The BoB scattered. Jayzee looked down on a familiar face and dropped the coats.
“Man, whatchoo doin’ here?” Jayzee was angry.
“I wanted to make sure you was all right,” Steve said reaching up to touch Jayzee’s wounded eye.
“Why couldn’t you just stay home?” Jayzee held Steve’s head in his arms and found it hard to talk.
“I’m gonna be OK,” Steve smiled as he looked on someplace Jayzee couldn’t. The large boy’s breathing was ragged, “Jesus wants me to tell you something important, Jayzee.”
“What does Jesus want to tell me?” Jayzee wept as he watched the life fading from Steve’s eyes.
“You gotta forgive them, and He wants to forgive you,” Steve said calmly. “Forgiveness, Jayzee.” One last breath of air escaped into the night and with it came light.
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