POOR CHOICES (SHORT STORY)

July 4, 2014 is a date I remember too well, not mainly because of the Independence Day celebration, but the day I lost my best friend. What was supposed to be a day of cookouts and fireworks ended in a violent exchange. The Fourth of July always start as a good day for me. Getting up out of bed, looking at that new outfit I had bought the week prior. Isn’t that something, spending a significant amount of money on an outfit that I only intend on wearing for one day? Not actually the moral compass for having your life together. But does that doesn’t mean your life isn’t together? It’s like, come on, I’m contributing to the economy. Anyone who works a job just to pay for an outfit celebrating a day of freedom should be commended. Especially considering the day is one of choice.

Wow, choices, that word sure does resonate since last year’s incident. Waking up that morning I chose to go into the shower and I chose to get dress. I chose to eat breakfast and I chose to leave the house and make my way to the parade that day. Something I chose to do, that probably wasn’t in my best interest was hanging with a group of friends who were known to start trouble. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten into trouble myself, yet not like this group.

One of the boys I was hanging with has been involved in drive by shootings. He’s been sought after by numerous gang members who have yet to get a hold on him. Another boy likes to dabble in theft from time to time. He has a warrant out for his arrest by the police. The third in the group has alleged sexual assault allegations from a few girls our age in the neighborhood. When their brothers catch up to him, that’s all she wrote. And the fourth boy is a known stickup kid. For those of you who don’t know what a stickup kid is, they’re people who hold others up for financial gain. He has hit a few drug dealers’ spots, yet they don’t know it’s him. All I know is that he stays dressed in the latest fashion and accessories. I know one thing, if they ever find out it’s him robbing their dope spots, he’s a dead man.

Then there is me, who have never done as much as these guys, but still quite undesirable myself. And here we are, five knuckleheads, headed to the parade with only one intention; getting girls. Remember I told you I bought an outfit to wear just for this day. Well, it’s almost like tradition to buy an outfit to wear on the Fourth of July in the inner city. The shopping malls are packed full of young people trying to impress their peers. The girls do it to look cute and the boys do it to look cute enough to the cute girls to approach them. Yet none of them have the money to go shopping, but nonetheless everyone is there.

Now back to the parade; my friends and I did as we normally did for the fourth. We stood, leaned-up against the wall with one leg rested against the wall and the other touching the concrete. Our hats were wore real low so the ladies could see our entire outfit, not just the face attached. So, the moment they made eye contact that was it. We had ourselves an in, an excuse to speak as the females would pass in a variety of scantily clothed attire. Some females wore tight leggings and tank top shirts. Others would sport fishnet bottoms and tight t-shirts. My favorite were the ladies who wore the jean or boy shorts with the piece of buttock showing at the bottom. In addition, these females usually wore t-shirts cut off all the way to their breast. This meant you could see the roundness at the bottom of the breast. To top it all off was the high heels some of them wore, yet sneakers was a fashion statement as well.

My friends, I’m telling you, we were like dogs in heat. Any one of these female that walked by usually was inundated with cat calling and whistling. You might have the occasional guy try to grab one of these females. This resulted in an argument or even a slap across the face. Me personally, I like when the ladies walk in groups. This meant not only me but all my friends could get a girl. I never saw much fun in all of us hitting on the same female. A couple of the guys in my clique loved to run train. And for you lames who’ve been sleep for the past century, pulling a train was never my thing. Two guys having sex at the same time with one female. Naw man, I’m too selfish for that, I need a chick all to myself.

But, from looking at the females walk by, scoping the ones who we’ve never seen before always was a treat. This day started off as no exception, until this real sexy female dressed in red, white, and blue walk past. Before I tell you what happened, let me paint the picture for you. She was about five foot seven, five eight, pretty face, slim waist and flat stomach. She sported a red scarf, white cutoff tank top, and blue jeggings with red and blue heels covered in spray painted stars. This girl was a true dime, sorry about that, more slang terms. What I meant to say was, this female was a perfect ten. Everything was hitting all in the right places.

Before I could open my mouth to say something, one of my friends had already gone in for the kill. He grabbed a handful of the female’s buttocks, causing her to quickly turn around. The young female slapped him across the face and yelling expletives as the other guys laughed. I was the only one not laughing because I felt like that ruined my chances of talking to her. My strategy was to get her out of sight away from my friends. This way I could say what I really wanted to say. You see, I am different with girls in front of my friends than away from them. When I am around my friends, I turn into my alter ego. The moment I step away from the group, I’m a different person. But my friend groping this girl’s behind, left me with no choice but to intervene. The only problem is as soon as I stepped forward to speak to her, she responded cursing and screaming at me.

Understandably so, I mean, my friends violated her as she went about her day. How would I feel if someone felt me up as I tried walking up the street? Within her cursing at me, I tried explaining to her that it wasn’t my hands feeling on her. In my efforts to apologize she took a swing at me just as she did my friends. Just like that, she gave me a right hook to the face. I stumbled backward, nearly falling to the ground. She smiled, standing proud of her accomplishments. For the life of me, I don’t know what got into me, but I just did it. Quickly regaining my footing, I approached her as she stood firm with her fist balled up. My friends stood in place laughing, as the female grinned as if she took pride in her attack on me. Pride overcame me as I slapped her with the palm of my hand.

She immediately fell to the ground. Gently rubbing her face with one hand, tears filled her eyes as she got up and ran away. My friends ran over to me, co-signing what I had just done, “That’s right, that’s how you check a bitch!” “Teach these hoes a lesson!” “If you want to act like a man, treat her ass like a man!” “My boy got a mean pimp hand!” As they patted me on the shoulder and applauded what I had just done, the feeling was not that bad. In fact, I felt good slapping her in the face. Hell, she deserved it for hitting me first. I was only trying to show her my deepest apologies for my friends.

After that, the five of us just left, but there was something that stood out to me unlike my friends. It wasn’t just being hit by a woman, not my friends congratulating me, but the look from spectators. People were not too thrilled by a man striking a woman in the face. As the five of us walked away, people began to converse among themselves and shake their heads. My friends didn’t care, they were bringing about more and more attention to the situation. Not only did they revel in the attention, but dared anyone to say something.

I’ll tell you one thing is for certain, aggression sure does work up an appetite. So as you would guess, we found ourselves going to eat at a burger stand. This place was not only a hangout for people our age, but a known place for fighting; even the occasional gunfire. But not this day, everything was going good this day. Except for what happened earlier in the day with the female I slapped. On the other hand, my friends thought what I had done was commendable. So commendable, they treated me to food at the burger stand. Whoever thought hitting a woman was seen as such a good deed by ones’ peers. Then again, my friends weren’t the typical guys.

The majority of men don’t hit, nor do they believe you should hit a woman. Didn’t matter to the guys I hung with, you touched them, you got hit. This was such a contradiction to me considering they touched her first to bring about her reaction. Then it hit me, what I had done was wrong and needed to be fixed. As the day wrapped up, and light turned to darkness; night fell on the sky. I decided to go looking for the female I had struck that night, but fatigue from a long day kept me from continuing my pursuit. Unlike me, my friends decided to go on with the rest of the evening.

After going home that evening I couldn’t sleep thinking about what I had done earlier that day. My mother would raise hell if she found out I had put my hands on a woman. Didn’t matter at this point because the damage was done. Now I had to find a way out make it up. Just made more sense to go to sleep and resolve it the next morning. Falling asleep proved to be a challenge with the events from earlier lingering in my mind. Eventually I went to sleep, as night became day. First thing in the morning my goal was to find out the identity of this young female.

Before I could leave the house my mother insisted I sit down and talk to her for a few minutes. There was a slight hesitation, so I knew something was wrong. I could see the look of hurt and pain, fear and desolation on my mother’s face. This wasn’t like my mother, she never sat down with me when we talked. Then holding my hands, gently rubbing the tops with her thumbs. She just came out and said it, “Your friends were killed last night.” She was almost in more pain than I, knowing had I not have come home, it could have easily been me.

Explaining to me how they died meant nothing once I heard the words, “shot and killed.” Her explanation fell flat as I removed myself from the couch and headed for the door. Nothing in her pleads for me to stay in the house meant anything, as I left out the front door. Now from here on out, my feelings toward the female from the day before didn’t matter. Someone had shot my friends, and I wanted to know who and why.

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