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Around My Way

By Madison A. Dante


"I`m sick of dem punk ass West Side Niggaz thinking they the shit!" Joey yelled and everyone in the crowded school hallway turned to look at him. Joey nodded a "was sup" in my direction, but kept walking by without stopping. He was pissed off and I knew why. It had been a few weeks since my "incident" with the Westies and Nate. I had to beg Joey to let it go and after weeks of me annoying him he finally did or at least I thought he did. Apparently he hadn't because he was talking shit right in front of some of the Westies.

"What...Aye kid, watch it Yo!?" Loco said with a questioning look on his face. He was aware that the timing was wrong and tried to get Joey to be shut the hell up, but he wouldn't! He just kept running off at the mouth not caring that there were at least ten guys with green sweatbands around their wrists eyeing him down.

"I can't stand dem punk ass Niggas yo!" Joey continued to yell. He had his wavy light brown hair tied back with a red head band and he took off the matching sweat cuffs and tossed them from one hand to the other as if he was just waiting for someone to try and do something to him. I knew that was a thing that gang members did. It was like they were showing off their "flags" with out actually waving one around. To throw around your flag in front of a rival gang was a sign of disrespect. The Westies in the hallway over heard and saw him, including Jorge. Since my run-in with him, he hadn't bothered me, but I would occasionally catch him glaring at me and I would be lying if I didn't say it concerned me. He walked up to Joey and started in.

"You pop'n shit Nigga?" He asked. He stood a few inches shorter than Joey, but by the way he was challenging him you would have thought that he was bigger. Around me, Joey could be sweet and loving, almost gentle in a way. As the days past, I was finding out that when he was around all of his boys he was the polar opposite. Gone were the shy smiles and delicate laughter and replaced by a hardened man that I wasn`t sure that I liked. Sometimes I would see little peaks of his temper, but he always pushed that down inside of him when he would realize that I had noticed. I didn't hang out with any of his friends with the exception of Loco and that's how I wanted it. I preferred the mellow Joey not the belligerent and ghetto one that I knew he could be. I liked it better when he kept that part of himself hidden.

"Nigga I don't pop shit! I'm a Mutha Fucking MAN, not some BITCH ASS PUNK like you West Side BITCHES!" Joey responded and before I could stop it, he swung at Jorge. The hallway immediately erupted in excitement. At first Joey had the upper hand, but Jorge locked his leg inside of Joey's, sending him falling to the floor. One punch and then another dazed Joey and he was too stunned to react. I was about to jump in when Peanut held me back.

"Chris man, stay out of it. You don't want dem fools to be looking for you!" He stated calmly and I knew he was right, but all I could think about was helping Joey.

"Fuck that Peanut! Joey's getting his ass kicked!" I replied and was about to make my way over to help when I saw Loco come out of no where with Kenny and Tyrone. All three of them jumped in. With the exception of skin color, Tyrone and Kenny were exactly the same. Both husky, tall guys with intimidating stares. Tyrone swung one large brown fist and knocked Jorge off of Joey. Three guys that I knew where from West Side ran over to help and before I knew it, seven people were engaged in battle. Kenny got knocked to the floor and one of the Westies started to kick him in his chest. Before any real damage could be done, Joey pushed the guy back and started to wail on his face. Joey's lip was bleeding and when he grunted, little droplets of spittle and blood dripped out. Loco was getting the best of two of the Westies when Jorge came up behind him and threw him in a choke hold. Kenny and Joey were too busy trying to handle the guys that they were fighting to notice what was going on. Crowds of people had swarmed around the fight all cheering for different sides.

I turned to look at Loco and saw that his straining face was turning a deep red. His dark eyes were bulging and held a fear of death. The guy who was choking him had the intent of killing him. Joey, Kenny and Tyrone were oblivious of Loco's predicament and not one of the fifty or more people including a few school staff members, who had gathered to watch the fight attempted to help him. Loco was desperately pounding at the guys light brown arms, but he only succeeded at using up the rest of his energy. He was exasperated, you could tell with the way the fight was dying inside of him. His strength was gone as his arms began to fall limply. Clear mucus was running down out of his nose and he was coughing up phlegm in thick gobs of translucent white film. His eyes were beginning to roll back inside of his head and I couldn't just stand there watching. Despite Peanuts attempt to hold me back, I ran over and jumped on the guy's back. He didn't see me, so at first he was stunned and fell back on top of me. I am not much of a fighter and I knew that I was about to get my ass whooped, but I had to help out. I heard Peanut yell, `Whoop his ass Chris!'. Joey must have heard him too because before the guy on top of me could get a hit in, Joey rushed him and sent him crashing to the ground with a kick in his ribs. `Where are the teachers to stop this?' I asked myself. Joey started to beat the guy down. He attacked him with a fury that was forceful and intense. He radiated hatred into his face at the guy below him. Punch after punch, the guys face poured out blood and began begging for Joey to stop, but he wouldn't. The smack of Joeys fist colliding with torn flesh was nauseating. The guy stopped putting up a fight, but that didn't stop Joey from hitting him. Joey's crystal blue eyes were dripping with a murderous rage that I had never seen. I was sure that if someone didn't stop him, Joey was going to kill him. I pulled at his arm, but he ignored me. I attempted to pull him away again, but he used all of his strength to not be moved. I tried in vain again to get him to stop fighting, but he shrugged me off. The way he was brutally attacking that guy scared me. I had never seen him act so brutal and it disgusted me. He wasn't Joey any more, I had just met Tearz. I yelled at him to let go and he looked at me as if he was confused.

"Dis nigga get`n what he deserve!" He yelled.

"Are you trying to kill him?!" I yelled back. He ignored me and was just about to strike him again when five security guards came and took every one to the office, including me. We were all separated. They sat me in one conference room with Joey, Kenny, Loco and Tyrone and the Westies were put together in another room. I had never been in trouble before and I was panicking. Joey must have seen the discomfort on my face and tried to ease it away.

"Yo chill. We'll probably get suspended for a week, ten days at the most." He said. His eye had the beginnings of turning blue and his lip was puffy and busted. The dark bluish bruise under his eye only set of the light blueness that was his natural eye color. Normally all I had to do was look for reassurance in his face, but it wasn't working that day. I was so pissed off at him for what he did. He could have killed that guy. I hated to see his temper, I HATED IT!

"SUSPENDED! I have never even had detention...God!" I muttered as I put my head down on the large cherry wood conference table. My life never ran smoothly, at least not for long, but every time I would just get comfortable for a while, something would always come along and shake things up.

"Man, why da fuck you tripping out for? I've dealt with heavier shit den dis. You'll live Nigga so stop tripping!" Kenny said. His chubby round face covered in red marks. The two of us weren't friends, but had always been friendly towards each other. He was close to Joey and Loco and seemed like an alright guy. His attitude had a tendency to be gruff, but never offending. I knew I must have been trying his patience so I just kept my mouth shut. Loco had been taken to the Nurses office because he was having breathing difficulties.

"Those faggot ass Niggas got their ass beat!" Tyrone yelled as he slammed one large fist down on the table startling me. Kenny and Joey cheered him on, but when Joey caught my glare he stopped and looked away. "A, Chris right? Good looking yo! You ain't have to have our backs like dat." He continued. I had only done what I felt was right. Loco was in trouble and I helped him out, that's what you do for friends.

"It's cool. Loco's my boy too." I replied. It felt kind of nice to be recognized. I was smiling inside. Joey shoot me a grin which I ignored. I was still pissed at him and he was going to know it.

"Yeah, Chris is a thorough bred." Joey told them. Getting compared to a show dog would not rank highly among my compliments list, but I understood the sentiment behind it. He was saying that I was a true friend. I had been living in Newark long enough to be able to understand all of the terminologies. He could give me all the compliments in the world and I would still be mad at him. I had finally met Tearz and I didn't like him.

"Yeah, you should be down with us." Kenny said.

"NO! I mean, that ain't his thing." Joey replied. I knew what Kenny meant. He thought that I should join East Side, something that I would NEVER do. Kenny and Tyrone looked questionably at Joey who turned his attention to the table top. I knew he wanted to keep me away from that aspect of his life, a request I was all too eager to comply with. I loved the Joey that was my boyfriend, not the Joey that was a gang banger.

"Thanks dude, but that's not for me." I said and they let it go, telling me that if I changed my mind to just "holla" at them. The principal came in and asked us if the fight was gang related. Stupid me was about to tell him yeah, when Kenny cut me off and said no. Principal Young was an older black man with a graying afro and pot belly. He didn't buy the excuse that it was just a fight brought on by an argument, but there was nothing he could do to prove it. We all got suspended for ten dayd. Ten Days! Thanksgiving vacation was in two weeks which meant that I would be out of school for close to three weeks. I would miss all of my mid-terms. Aunt Mickey couldn't be reached so Roger had to come and pick me up. He didn't seem too mad that I was suspended, in fact, he seemed to commend me for helping out a friend. Aunt Mickey wasn't so understanding.

"HOW THE HELL DID YOU GET SUSPEND!" She yelled. She was barely through the front door before she made her attack. She had just cut her cherry red hair into a bob and her natural curls were flying about her head.

"It wasn't my fault! Loco was in trouble and I had to help him." I replied and after I explained to her what happened she eased up even though she still grounded me for a month. Joey had called me twice that day, but I didn't pick up either time. The wonders of Caller I.D. Amanda called me later that night and I was tempted to ignore it thinking that Joey had put her up to it, but decided against it.

"Hello?" I asked. I heard sniffling on the other end and I knew something was bad. "Amanda! What wrong girl?" I continued.

"Chris?" She whimpered. Her voice was shaking and she let out a loud sob.

"What wrong baby girl?"

"God! I'm so stupid!" She yelled.

"What happened? Talk to me girl." I was really beginning to worry.

"I'm..." She paused and took a breath.


"PREGNANT! I'M PREGNANT! OH GOD, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?" She started to cry louder and louder. I couldn't believe what I had heard. That had to be the last thing that I suspected. She was pregnant? What kind of life could she give a baby and what about herself. She was a smart girl and headed for college, having a baby at sixteen was going to ruin everything for her. She was upset enough and I wasn't about to point out the obvious and make her feel worse.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yeah! God! My Mom is going to kill me! What am I going to do?" Her cries grew harder and harder with each word that she spoke. My heart went out to her. She was my best friend and she was in trouble. Then a thought hit me.

"Is Nate the father?" I hoped that he wasn't because then she would never be free of him.

"No, Peanut is the Daddy. We didn't use a condom and yes I know how stupid that was, but he pulled out! I thought everything would be okay. GOD I AM SO STUIPD!!"

"Did you tell Peanut yet?"

"I'm scared to. Can you do it for me?" She pleaded.

"Yeah, you want me to call him on three way?" She was home girl, I had to look out for her.


I called and after six rings he finally answered. It was a little late and he sounded like he had just woken up.

"Peanut, what up man.?" I asked.

"Hey Chris man. I heard about your suspension that's fucked up, but I told your ass not to jump in!" He teased.

"Yeah, I know. Listen I have to tell you something." I didn't know how to say it so I just did. "Amanda is pregnant and you're the father." He didn't respond for a few minutes and Amanda spoke up.

"Peanut are you there?" She asked between sniffles.

"Yeah, are you sure?" He croaked.

"I'm so sorry Nutty..." She began to cry again and Peanut tried to comfort her. I heard a click on the phone and I thought that Amanda had pushed her mute button so we wouldn't hear her cry.

"Its not your fault Munchie. We are going to be fine. Do you want me to tell Nate?" Peanut asked. He and Amanda had been dating for almost a month and she hadn't broke it off officially with Nate yet. I could understand her fear of him, but at the same time she NEEDED to break up with him. She was having a baby and pretending to love Nate wasn't going to work out anymore. Besides, she was miserable with him.

"Yeah. But don't tell him I pregnant! Not yet...I hate to find out what he'd do to me if he found that out." She replied and then a booming male voice that didn't belong to Peanut or myself cut-in on the conversation.

"BITCH YOU PREGNANT! WHAT THE FUCK YOU MEAN YOU PREGNANT? IT AIN`T MINE..SHIT!" Nate screamed and I heard Peanut yell for him to hang the phone up. The two of them started arguing with each other and Amanda just cried harder and harder. I felt powerless. On one hand I wanted to go over to Amanda's house and comfort her and on the other I knew that all the hugs and comforting words wouldn't do much to help her. She still would be a sixteen year old unwed mother to be. The heated words between Nate and Peanut become more and more violent and Amanda and I both knew that they were fighting now. She kept screaming for them to stop and after a few seconds Nate picked up the phone again. He was out of breath and huffing while screaming at Amanda.


"Amanda... are you okay sweetie?" I asked her softly. It took a minute for her to respond.

"Yeah, I'm a little better. And hey, now I don't have to break up with him. If I knew that getting pregnant would have broken us up I would've knocked myself up sooner!" She joked and actually laughed. It was dry and hoarse, but it still made me feel good to hear it.
"Oh, Chris what am I going to do?" She continued. I had no answers for her. There was nothing I could say that would change the fact that she was about to have a baby.

"We're going to figure it out girl, don't worry about it." And after a few more minutes we hung up. Right as I hung the phone up it rung again and I assumed that it was Amanda again.

"Hey Baby, you wanna talk some more?" I asked thinking I was talking to Amanda. To my surprise that familiar deep baritone voice that drove me crazy came on from the other end.

"Yeah, baby...can we?" Joey asked. My first instinct was to hang up on him. I was still pissed off at him from earlier. He started a fight for no reason and then he could have killed that guy. It was scary to see Joey get so violent. I knew he was no altar boy, but nothing could have prepared me for the violent way he acted.

"Joey I don't want to talk to you right now." I stated and was preparing to hang up on him when his angry voice stopped me.

"I don't know why you acting like dat for!" He hissed. It was like he wanted to yell, but then thought better of it.

"WHAT? You don't know why I am acting like this for? Do you know what you almost did today?" I retorted. He sucked his teeth and kept the attitude coming.

"No, why don't you tell me!"

"Joey you could have killed him! Why did you do that?"

"His punk ass deserved it!" He whispered. I brought my voice down lower to match the tone of his.

"Please do not tell me that you were doing that because of what they did to me?" I asked and took his silence for a yes. In my heart I knew that was the real reason and a small part of me felt flattered that he would fight for me, but another part of me felt offended. He was protecting me as if I was his GIRL-friend, not BOY-friend. "Joey I don't need your protection. I'm not some FUCKING girl!" I continued yelling.

"Did I call you a mutha fucking girl? Shit, right now you acting like one!"

"Do you think of me like that?" I asked. I was curious to see just what "roles" he felt that we played. I certainly didn't think of myself as "the girl". In fact, I looked at us both as being guys. I was starting to think that he didn't.

"Like what? A girl?" He asked.


"I know your not a girl Chris." He replied exasperated.

"That's not what I asked. Do you think of me as "the girl" and you as "the man"? I was trying to keep the anger out of my voice, but I wasn't doing a very good job of it. He was quiet for a moment before clearing his voice and continuing.

"I know that sometimes I act a little...over protective of you, but that's only because I love you. I know your not some fucking girl, but I can't help wanting to look after you. I love you so much that I have this need inside of me to want to keep you safe. I know that it was wrong for me to start all dat shit today, but I just wanted to pay dos Niggaz back. Shit I can't forget what they did to you that day! I know I said that I would, but its been eating me up everyday knowing that they tried to hurt the one person that I love-" He was professing his love and I cut him off.

"PERSON!" I yelled.

"Huh?" He asked not seeing the significance of his words.

"Person, you said `person' that you love, not boy!"

"So, what does it matter?"

"I don't think you get it. Do you realize you never refer to me as a boy." I told him. It was the truth, he didn't.

"Where not back to this shit again! What the hell are you talking about?"

"Whenever you say things to me you never use the word boy. Like when you tell me that you love me and I say `you're my boy', but you never say it back."

"Yes, I do. You know you're the one for me, no one else." He replied frustrated.

"You just did it again!" I said and he had no clue what I was talking about. The anger that I was feeling was turning into sadness of the situation.

"Did what? Chris you pissing me off now! He yelled.

"You said I am the one for you , not boy for you! Why do you do that? Avoid acknowledging that I am a guy and don`t say you have to watch what you say, you have your own phone line!"

"You are killing me kid! Does it really matter if I call you baby or boy? You know I love YOU !" He said. I was so frustrated by the whole situation that I needed some time alone to think about some things.

"Joey I love you so much that sometimes its scary, but you just don't get it." I whispered and as he was making a rebuttal I hung up. I left the phone off of the hook so in case he called back the ringing wouldn't wake up Aunt Mickey and Roger, although I doubted that they were sleeping. My cell phone in the pocket of my shirt began to vibrate. I knew it was him and I clicked off the power button. I didn't want to talk to him anymore that night. He couldn't see things from my point of view. I didn't like feeling as if I was his girlfriend. It felt like he thought of himself as the dominant one in the relationship and I was suppose to be the subservient one. Even when we had sex, he always went first. Either he wanted to be done first or he wanted me to do him first, but whichever the case was it was always whichever way he wanted it. I never realized that until I started thinking about it that night. We hadn't had actual "sex" yet because I wasn't sure if I was ready for that, but I knew that he was. He would bring it up from time to time, but I always changed the subject. Even the thought of it was a little scary, but I knew that he expected me to be the one on the err...era...bottom. I wasn't opposed to eventually doing that, but I knew that I wouldn't want the roles to stay like that. I think that he just assumed that if we did, it would.

Whenever we would cuddle it was always me in his arms and not the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I loved the affection that I got from him, but it was just it didn't always feel equal. The love was equal, but the roles didn't always feel like they were. I knew that he had a lot of issues to deal with about being gay, but so did I. I may have come to terms with it a little sooner than Joey had, but it was still just as hard for me. I use to think that I only thought that I was gay because of what Hector did to me. For so many years I tried to convince myself that I only thought that way because my first sexual experiences had been by him. It took me a long time to realize that I was the way that I was because I was born this way. Not because of what some sick bastard did to me. Even as I got older, sometimes in the back of mine I would still wonder if maybe things would have turned out differently for me if those things never had happened.

The saddest part about the whole situation was Joey didn't even realize what he was doing. In his mind, everything was fine and he couldn't see why I felt the way that I did. I was sure that he was thinking that I just being "girlish" with the way that I was feeling and that thought was pissing me off even more than I already was. Nothing about me was feminine That was fine for some people, but not for me. I didn't act like that and I didn't want to feel as if I did. I know that just because some guys acted like that, didn't make them any less of a man than I was, but at the same time it did make them a little different. Not in a bad way, just different. Yeah, they were guys and had all the `guy parts', but I still felt that acting feminine was just that...feminine. I wasn't that and even if I was, that still wouldn't give Joey the right to make me feel like that was the part I was suppose to play.

I tried to fall asleep, but I couldn't. Thoughts of Joey and Amanda kept filling my thoughts. My heart was truly breaking for her. She had so much promise, such a bright future. She didn't want her mother's life. She was going to go to college and leave Newark without looking back. She was smart, hell she was smarter than me, but her life was changing. I hoped that she wouldn't become another statistic of the ghetto. A young girl with so much promise cut short because of a baby. I would help her out in any way that I could. She was my best friend and I loved her, but I didn't think my love would be enough to help her deal.

Try as I might, sleep just wouldn't come. Seeing how thanks to my man I wouldn't have school the next morning, I made my way downstairs and into the den. There were a few boxes filled with African art works and photos that belonged to Roger. He was suppose to move in that week, but he had been slowly doing it for the last three. A re-run of `The Simpson's' was on so I watched that and tried to zone out, but I couldn't. The anger that I felt for Joey was so strong that it worried me. For so long I had wanted him and then when I finally got him, I thought that he was perfect. Everything about "us" was suppose to be `perfect', but it wasn't. We had just had our first fight and I was seeing that the `perfect' Joey I thought that I knew, was just another flawed individual like everyone else. He wasn't always the sweet and gentle guy that I loved. No, he could be violent and brutal. I knew we would eventually get passed our problems and it was just a matter of when. But, what bothered me the most was somehow I felt that I hadn't seen the last of his temper. I was quickly seeing that his violence could lead to trouble for us. I just prayed that I was wrong, but I knew I wasn't...

To Be Continued

(C) Madison Aysha Dante 2007

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