I should have died more times than I can count.
I had one of those moments yesterday as I was coming home from my second probation hearing when a stolen Pontiac Firebird squealed around the corner of west 75th to get away from the cops and missed hitting me head-on by inches. There's a couple sitting on their porch watching it all go down, as the cops come through with the sirens and blow right by. I don't bother calling 911 because I've never had a dispatcher who's ever cared.
How many times have you tried to kill me and I'm still alive by the grace of God, having spun across ice-covered I-90, been threatened and propositioned in dark parking lots and deserted bus stops, watching fights go down in the neighborhood when trash-talk turns to legitimate threats, getting out of scrapes that were probably not the most brilliant moves to begin with on my part but always emerging a little stronger.
And yet, there are so many lives that get bruised, beat up, and snuffed out all over.
I was a little shook up when I came home but I pulled myself together because the girl who lives next door in the house facing the crack alley behind me came out to say hi. My heart breaks for this kid, because she's sweet and smart and way older than I was when I was 7. She's always babysitting her little sister who's just started walking and always seems to have a busted lip.
She doesn't have any other kids to play with and a tiny yard with a fence that seems impassable and I've never seen her with any toys except a bike that she can't ride anywhere. Sometimes her cousin comes over and he's the same age and that's when she seems most happy.
Her parents won't speak to me or my roommate and I don't think they want us in their business. She tells me that sometimes they have parties and her dad's friends try to get her and her cousin drunk and made her cousin smoke weed. "They wanted me to but alcohol isn't good for kids," she says, getting quiet again when her mom comes back outside and yells at her to come into the house and leave me alone.
That hasn't stopped her from running over to the fence that we share and calling out "Hi Friend!" she tells me that she loves math in school and that she waters what she can reach of my garden. I bought a volleyball for two dollars for her and the baby sister to play with and since her parents won't let her come over, we take turns throwing it, hitting it, and bouncing it over the fence.
I hope that I'll be able to help her with her homework, that she won't end up getting messed up by whatever her parents are into, that she and her sister will flourish even when things already seem so bleak, that this fence won't always hold her in.