When I was sixteen or so, and my police file listed my residence as “NFA: NO FIXED ADDRESS”, I spent a lot of time at The Square. All of us. It was where we spent our time.
There were maybe two dozen of us there when this kid grabbed my collar, his face caked in blood.
“You gotta help me, man. Some big jock just fuckin’ decked me and took my bag. I was holding for someone else, I don’t even know who this guy is. I gotta get it back.”
That was all we needed to hear. Very few of us agreed on anything at all, and most of us had been in scraps with at least half the people there. We only knew solidarity when someone from the outside fucked with us.
There were dozens of us at the square, and then just like that, there were none.
We followed buddy (who’s name I don’t remember, if I ever knew it) down the back streets, until we found the jock. He was drunk, or high, or both. Big motherfucker, too. Bigger than any of us, at least. Nice jacket, nice shoes. He mumbled something under his breath, held buddy’s denim backpack close to him, and we circled around him.
The details are fuzzy, and largely irrelevant. I remember one of the squeegee kids broke his squeegee handle over the guys head, and someone else kicked him into a car so hard he went through the window, and the alarm went off. At no point did he fall down, he just staggered and kept swinging at us. Probably less than half of us did anymore more than watch, but it didn’t matter who did what. We were all complicit.
Ten minutes later, we’re out of the alleys and on the main street. Traffic is heavy, and he’s bleeding bad. Someone picks up an iron garbage can from the street corner and throws it at him, in the middle of the road. I don’t remember if it hit him or not.
We all know this can’t go on much longer. It’s broad daylight, and someone’s almost certainly called the cops by now.
He jumps in the back of a moving pickup truck, and then he’s gone. The backpack is in the middle of the road, and the kid with the bloody face grabs it, and takes off. The rest of us follow his example, and find other places to be for the rest of the day.
Someone went down to a few hospitals the next day, pretending to be a concerned bystander. This wasn’t uncommon when situations like this happened — it was always better to know than to not know.
He had come in for stitches, and then gone into a coma. He died due to a ‘closed head injury’. That’s what they call it when you get hit in the head hard enough to kill you, but not hard enough to actually crack your skull open.
All of this is true. This really happened.
No one needed to speak aloud what we all knew:
We are all complicit; we are all murderers here.