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Vagabond
The Harmed Life
© 2012 James LaFond
Below are a few recollections from a young man who spent hours with me looking back on his childhood and youth. Like many who have been caught in my web of inquiry, his pattern of recollection followed a circular course, turning back on itself in a spiral of dredged up memories. Most people aren’t natural story tellers. In the absence of an act of violence on which to focus their recollections such inquiries into a person’s past—particularly a past that they want left behind—require patience from the interviewer. What you read below is meant to serve as a sliver of context for much of the other stories related in Harm City.
“I didn’t know what my dad did until he got arrested outside on the street. He was just Dad. We did stuff together. I had grown up thinking that police were people you counted on, then they came and got my dad. After he got locked up my mom had to move. He called me and made sure I was being good and always asked me about school. But for that ten years, I didn’t have him there.
“We moved in with Grandma but couldn’t stay. Grandma was a queen-pin, you might say, had a diner [on the corner] and a house next to that, and a [vacant] stash-house next to that. Mom used to set me on a chair while she worked. There was this guy that brought the bags in. I remember sitting on the chair in the diner while my mother waited tables. This guy used to come in, used to bring the bags in. I can still remember what he looks like, but I never could figure out if he was Italian or White.
“The house was okay, but we eventually got kicked out. The grownups stayed upstairs and played cards. The kids weren’t allowed upstairs. We stayed downstairs and played pool. Mom worked, mostly as a waitress, and went to school too—eventually became a nurse. We were on the street—Mom, my brother and baby sister and me.
“We moved into a shelter. I went to the bathroom. As I was commin’ out I got grabbed up from behind. He was bigger than me and pushed my head into a sink. Two other boys came in and they were with him. They were jumping on me. Then my mother came in and broke it up and ended up arguing with one of their mothers.
“We moved to another shelter. She got out of working at the diner and into the hospital. We got an apartment at Kingsley Park Apartments. I’ll never forget that day. We ate powdered doughnuts and slept on a pile of clothes.
“By the time I was fifteen I was skipping school a lot. I was being hard-headed and doing what Dad had done when he wasn’t around. I associated with the wrong kind of people. Eventually I joined the Aberdeen [Army] Youth Corp. It was six months. It took me about a year to get a job after that. So I was back-sliding, associating with the wrong kind of people: parties, girls, drugs. You know girls are so into drugs and guys are so into girls—it all kind of goes together.
“I was leaving this townhouse with a friend and someone said that someone had a gun. We were getting into this Isuzu Rodeo when I saw a spark about forty yards off and heard a pop. We hurried up and got in the truck. I had heard the bullet whizz by. That was real frightening and convinced me to change my ways, to stop hanging with the wrong people.”
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