Every single time I left, the hood pulled me back. Eldorado Park, the neighbourhood with a casino on every street corner. The neighbourhood where kids exhale smoke without ever igniting a fire. The neighbourhood where the night sky is illuminated like a nightclub by the blue and red lights of the modern day chariots, their sirens echoing through the walls of every home like a song that no one can dance to. The neighbourhood that sleeps during the day and arises by night.
I never felt part of my neighbourhood. It was my hood, but never my home. Extention one, Constellation street. The street of the stars I used to tell my mother but the irony is that it never felt that way. The people were like the dim street lamps of the neighbourhood. So few to look up to, not many standing as a beacon of hope. The white linens on their fences the only indication that they are still alive, but never truly living. A queer neighbourhood where “awe” is a form of greeting instead of the general feeling of wonder and joy. I was ambiguous, so I fell into that way of life just like everyone else.
Constellation street was only the prelude to the chaotic street known as Dakota. The street filled with all kinds of characters. The houses painted so many colours, a plethora of blue, green, brown, etc. I used to play a game and match each colour to the person living in that house. Yellow was a joyful person, blue was a person plagued with depression and green housed a person filled with envy. On most occasions, I matched it perfectly and it would bring me joy.
Walking down the street was never a mundane experience for me. There was always something happening. The discordant war of voices in different homes, the loud music from a vintage Volkswagen. Always an aroma in the air: newly cut grass, the pungent smell of weed, the aftermath of a coughing vehicle that had not been oiled in ages, the rusted iron scent of blood tainted in the streets and the occasional smell of spilled liquor.
I always thought my neighbourhood was safe because I never witnessed any injustice. My mom always said never to trust anyone, but I was young and naive and it was at the end of a warm sunny day, with the sky painted blue that I got the biggest reality check of my life. It was about 7pm at night and I was on my way from the local tuck shop. I greeted people as usual. “Hi aunt Martha and uncle John,” I would say. They were not my relatives, but even the crudest of folk showed respect to the elderly. As I passed them and was about to turn into my street a guy called Jonathan bolted my way.
Jonathan, locally known as Jonas, was one of the more subtle individuals in society but his life took a turn for the worst when the guys who were chasing him caught him and drove a knife straight into his chest. I watched as this happened. The world fell silent as I watched in dismay. Paralyzed by fear and motionless by guilt. From that very day I felt unsafe in my neighbourhood.
I will never truly be able to explain why I am so drawn to such an unsafe community. Perhaps it’s the people or the small natured environment or the guilt of being helpless when I watched someone’s life bleed out in front of me. All I know is that I suffer from small town inertia.