For years my family and I lived on the north side of Girard Avenue. The guys played ball in the street, the girls played jump rope. We played cards at Ms. Eleanor’s house. We partied at the garage on 17th and Master, purchased water ice from Ms. Bay Bay, borrowed flour to bake our pound cakes, and bought our necessities from the Bodega on 15th street. We didn’t live under rainbow rays, but the small acts of our community were often a pacifier, soothing the effects of living in “The Hood.” With respect to experience, culture, community, and laughter, we were Hood Rich.
But we were infiltrated. Flyers went up everywhere, boldly stating, “We Buy Houses. Any Condition.” I recall my neighbor Mr. Briscoe stating that such promotion indicated a major shift in the community as we knew it. His words felt more like the paranoid philosophy of an adult who meant well but erred on the side of exaggeration.
Who wanted to live here except us? Yet each changing season came with a new housing development. We were soon surrounded by construction sites and quickly became a product of gentrification, dubbed “Temple Town.” Shout out to my Alma Mater; I am cherry and white all day, but the demographics of “The Hood” went through a facelift, and Mr. Briscoe’s paranoid philosophy turned into prophecy.
The block changed so much! It was like watching the evolution of a crazy love story…seeing the attributes that you love most change, struggling to accept the differences, appreciating the growth, but ultimately realizing that you have to let go.
Driving, reminiscing, slowly passing Seybert Street; I pulled over to reflect on my own love story and how it came to an abrupt end.
On a roller coaster full of lows, that night was the type of dip that made your heart drop. Here on Seybert Street, before the developments and street lights illuminated the block, my first love and I came to a fork in the road that forced us to separate permanently. The leading events are still unclear, but I finally found the courage to articulate that I no longer wanted to go on with our relationship.
A scary silence confronted me. He began shaking his head and mumbling under his breath, “F–it then.” He walked up the stairs of my home and into my bedroom. Anxiety was thick in the air. His mumblings escalated to “there ain’t no reason to live…” My love of 7 years was moving about my room erratically, as if looking for something stashed. My heart was racing; his words scared me, and I fired questions at him.
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you looking for?”
“What are you doing?”
He wouldn’t respond, but I received my answer. He pulled out his gun. He told me, “If you don’t want to be with me, it ain’t no reason to live.” Pushing by me, he rushed down the steps and out of the door. I was right behind him. In my pajamas and slippers, I followed his every move, begging him to stop. “Please talk to me.” He walked down the dark and abandoned block of Seybert Street. Facing a concrete wall, he was nestled between bushes and weeds that seem to have grown from the concrete, creating a space submerged in darkness on this already dark night. With the gun in his hand, he insisted that he didn’t want to live if I didn’t love him anymore.
“But I do still love you.” I pleaded with him to put the gun down.
“We can work this out.” I asked him to give me the gun.
“Think about your family.” I reached my hands out to him.
“You have every reason to live.” Silence thickened in the air.
I could see the battle in his eyes and the dark cloud that threatened to stay there; but as if a ray of light seeped through the darkness, he gave me the gun.
Carefully, I put my arms around his neck; he wrapped his arms around my waist, and we stood embraced and shedding tears with no account of time. No shots were fired, but we experienced an emotional death. Despite the promise to work it out, we were broken beyond repair. We both knew it.
As I watch everything around me change, I am grateful that one thing remained the same.