Tales of a Terrible Person, Part II

17 May

The name of the game was “Gladiator,” only instead of Roman warriors or even trashy 80s bodybuilders with flashy names, we used the children of homeless, recovering crack addicts from the inner city to settle our scores.  For those keeping score at home, yes, there is a special circle in Hell just for that.  Dante just didn’t write about it because he honestly didn’t think there were people out there who were that fucked up.

It was my senior year of high school, and being one of the most respected Jesuit institutions in New York, my school required all seniors to forego Monday classes in the second semester in order to find an early Happy Hour with a bartender who doesn’t card high school kids.  Oh, and somewhere between margaritas and Mike’s Hard Lemonades (we were in high school…gimme a break), we were supposed to log 72 hours of community service.  A few kids used the required community service as a chance to connect to their neighborhood and build their résumé, but I took it as a chance to stumble out of bed late and walk to a do-nothing job, preferably hung over.  I found a place a few blocks away from where I lived (which will remain nameless for legal reasons) that served as a daycare for the children of homeless recovering addicts that spent their days either searching for a job or receiving treatment.  The kids in the daycare ranged from newborns to 5 year olds, all with names that truly reflected what fuck-ups their parents were (honestly, if you name your child “Hennessey,” it’s no wonder that you’re a homeless alcoholic who spent the rent money on a case of Olde English).

Things were pretty easy at the daycare…mostly chatting with the older kids about video games they were too poor to own, eating takeout on the non-profit organization’s dime, and flirting with my chubby, yet oddly attractive boss.  It was exactly what I looked for in a job: all of the fulfillment of volunteering without any of the work.  Yet, one day, we got another volunteer from one of New York’s most hated high schools—Regis.  Regis High School, once an institution that gave free, quality education to underprivileged city kids, has become a breeding ground for upper class WASPs with pent-up homoerotic tension.  I never got around to learning the kid’s name because I was too busy hating him—from the moment I met him, he displayed all of the qualities of the villain in every romantic comedy of the past decade.  He shook hands way too aggressively for 8 am, laughed like a coked-up Teddy Roosevelt after a hunt, and had no regard for people’s personal space.  His hobbies likely included racquetball, getting drunk and shouting at women and minorities, and pining for the attention that his father never gave him because he was too busy drinking scotch, wondering why he spent the last 20 years of his life in a loveless marriage with a gold-digging bitch whose legs he couldn’t open with the Jaws of Life.

I hated him with every fiber of my soul.  Every breath he took felt like it was snatched from my very lungs with an entitled laugh and a slap on the back.  On the surface, everything at the daycare ran smoothly.  Yet in those brief, solitary moments, I glared at him with the disdain of generations of the oppressed lower-middle class, and he smiled back as if to say that 90 years ago, he would have had no problem locking me in the steerage section of the sinking SS Titanic.  This was going to come down to blows.

It didn’t take long before our mutual hatred boiled over.  First there was a minor dispute over Fantasy Baseball that turned into questioning each other’s masculinity (obviously), but the preppy asshole finally crossed the line when he tried to befriend my favorite kid, Devon (affectionately nicknamed “Cornrows”).  Cornrows was the oldest kid in the daycare at 5 and a half years, which also made him the ghettoest by default.  We would spend all day talking about his fly ass Timberlands or his gangsta haircut or the fact that his homeless mom somehow got him a PS2 and a copy of 50 Cent’s “Bulletproof,” which in retrospect probably wasn’t the best game choice for a 5 year old with a family history of poor life choices.  Still, Cornrows was my boy, and as a former child of the ghetto myself, I was determined to show him how to live a thug life.  That preppy prick moved in on my turf (like any good white man would do), undoubtably in an attempt to teach Cornrows how to live in subservience to the white community.  I had to do something about it, so on a field trip to the playground, I confronted that Ralph Lauren polo shirt modeling cocksucker:

“Hey man, why don’t you watch after your own kid?  Cornrows is my little homie.”

“Ha ha, no thanks,” exclaimed the prick.  I couldn’t help but think, Who enunciates laughter? “I’m taking him under my wing.  I just showed the little guy how to give a pound.  Show him!”

Cornrows and the popper-collar dick-jockey demonstrated a poorly executed handshake as awkward as Gordon Brown at a rap concert before Regis whispered, “That’s right, you’re my nigga!

Now if anyone loves a good racial slur, God knows it’s me.  But two things really bothered me about Regis saying this: 1) Cornrows was most certainly not his nigga.  2) Regis’ ancestors likely said that same exact phrase a couple hundred years before.  The only difference is that instead of using it as a term of endearment, they were probably saying it as a statement of ownership.  This wasn’t gonna fly…not on my watch.

“Yo, your cracker ass has no business teaching anyone how to give a pound.  Go find your own goddamn kid.”

“You got a problem?”

“Yeah, I do.  Me and Cornrows are tight, and you’re the new guy so back off.”

“Nah man, he’s my boy,” he said while high-fiving an agreeing Cornrows.  E tu, Gangsta? “He’s rolling with me.”  Looked like Cornrows became accustomed to the thug life earlier than I thought…he lived ice cold.

“Whatever, I’m rolling with Javon anyway.”  Javon, the second oldest kid there, was smaller and quieter than Cornrows, and he probably had a future.  He was far less interesting.

“Yeah, well, I bet my homeless kid can kick your homeless kid’s ass.  Cornrows is a G.”

It made plenty of sense.  I wanted to fight this prick, but we both knew that we couldn’t if we wanted to complete our community service requirement.  Instead, we could take a page right out of the White Oppressor’s Handbook and get two underprivileged kids of color who had no idea what the hell was going on to settle our differences for us.  It was genius.

I agreed, and we brought the kids to the nearest sandbox to set up the match.  Originally, I proposed old-school rules: first to draw blood from the opponent’s chest wins.  But considering that kids have such poor dexterity, we decided first kid to down the other wins.  I pulled Javon into the corner for the pre-fight pep-talk:

“Okay kid, now, this probably won’t make sense to you, but I want you to get really angry.  You need to take Devon down.”

“Why?”

“Because if you do, I’ll love you.  And I’ll give you a treat later.”

“Okay!”

“Alright, now just wrap your arms around his legs and pull and you should be fine.  If not, just punch him a few times.”

“But I’m not supposed to…”

“It’s okay I won’t tell on you.  But you also have to promise never to tell anyone, not even Mommy.”

“Why?”

“Just because…now go and make me proud!”

Javon and Cornrows stepped into their corners.  I was ready to wipe that shit-eating grin right off of Regis’ white trash face.  We each set on opposite sides of the sand box and got ready for the countdown.  Javon was growling, ready to win my affection.  Cornrows didn’t stand a chance in Gangsta Hell.  3…2…1…FIGHT!

Javon bursted out of his corner like a bat out of hell, ready to beat the homeless shit out of Cornrows, when suddenly, Regis stuck his leg out in front of him.  Javon tripped and flew face first into the sand, and Cornrows pinned him in a coordinated tag-team attack.  In my fury, I jumped up from my corner, and shoved Cornrows into the sand with all of my force.  He looked up at me confused, eyes swollen with thug tears…the saddest tears of them all.

Regis’ face froze.  “Oh you fucked up.  I’m outta here.”  He grabbed Javon and headed to the monkey bars, leaving me alone with Cornrows.

Picking him up, I brushed the sand off of Cornrows.  He whimpered, “Why did you push me?”

“Sorry, kid.  I got caught up in the fight.”

“You hurt me,” he cried.

“No I didn’t.  Man up.  50 Cent wouldn’t cry about something like that.  Right?”

He wiped his eyes, pausing before agreeing.  I kneeled down and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Now, look, there is something very important that I have to teach you.  You can’t tell anyone about what just happened here.  Do you know why?”

“…no,” he said weakly.

“This is very important.  I want you to repeat after me, okay?”  He nodded, looking at me with a sad expression as if he did something wrong.  “Snitches get stitches,” I said.  He carefully repeated, “Snitches get stitches.”

I brushed the last bit of sand off of him and patted him on the shoulder.  “Good.  Now go play, you gangsta motherfucka you.”

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