My name is Nina, it wasn’t always my name… I grew up in Vancouver British Columbia, yes Canada. I came from a good family with strict morals and principles, but as time went by a simple life turned into a turbulent flight into the unknown a crash course in jungle
guerilla warfare, social warfare, economic warfare. Despite what I had been taught, despite what I thought what the people stood for, I was wrong. Soon a life of spiritual essence present at all times would be the only thing keeping me from slipping into a pool of my own blood.
The beginning of my quest was a long road. It was an enlightenment of the dark. As days, months and years past the reality of the light and the dark became clear as day. The dark streets were so much brighter than the so called light side of justice. If the judicial system wanted to light up my presence with a cuffs, a cell and a sentence then I was going to find a place too dark for them to enter. The system is not real. Not a light. The true light is god, the head creator from above. I was so tired of being searched, cuffed and put in a cell for nothing. Being innocent until proven guilty but still being treated with no respect. There is no protection by those sworn to serve and protect, these people cant even serve and respect .The law makes your life so dark even if your just trying to defend yourself. In the streets you can respectfully talk to your people about anything but once your behind the wall you can’t say anything. When a gang that was out to get me caught up and jumped me I had no choice but to defend myself, this is why I was behind bars in North Frasier pre-trial. I constantly would think of the sweet face, voice and soul of Larissa in my mind, truthfully thats how I kept my sanity. My empress was waiting for me on the outside of the babylon cell.
Frasier was not a holiday inn thats for sure, it was no joke. I had no clue if this was a safe place for me. Every waking moment I prayed that things would go smooth, expeciially the fact that I was a little “different” , thanks to the special guidance that I had been taught by the streets they did. By the end of 3 weeks my final day in court was upon me. As it turns out there was a witness looking out her window and saw what happened to me and called the police. She testified that my statement of self defense was true and that I had no other choice but to defend myself by any means nessesary. I owed this woman my life because without her I could have been in jail for a very long time. It was the fact that the police had me on lock that concerned me. I had met many people in pre-trial, some that I hated, (maybe even feared) and some that I hope are to remain innocent in their court trial, but I was out.
My mother and father had been watching my trial with anguished looks on they’re faces. But what matter did it have, they seemed like that my whole life… I met them after the trial when I was released.
“I don’t want you at home if your getting into this type of trouble,”. They told me .
Clearly they had no idea of what I just went through over a stupid beef. Despite how things went with my parents I was still really happy to be out free to be myself. To be nina again… because they’re was someone I had been meaning to talk to, but I wasn’t sure how she would react after I just disappeared for 2 weeks… If they’re was anyone that meant the world to me it was her but things were just so hard for me at that point I wasn’t sure what to do. So I put that thought on hold and decided to get my actual life back on track.
As I stepped out of the courthouse downtown Vancouver the freedom smelled so sweet. Fresh cut grass, feeling like fresh cut salad. The sound of the streets on Robson and Granville were like music to my ears, crazy music with love in deftone. Thank god I made it out because I didn’t think I could last very long in the cage. My chain glistened on my chest. Freedom.
I could ussually find my friends in certain spots in the hood so I thought I would drop by and see if anyone was there. I hopped the bus with a bus ticket I was given by the peace officer and headed down to Kitsalano from the downtown court house. Being on the bus was like pure freedom even though I knew I had some real hard times ahead of me. I had no money, no place to go and no job. Money on the mind can be dangerous.
I made it to Kitsalano within 20 minutes and when I got there Mikey and Mario two of my closest homies were posted up selling the chronic and a couple mix tapes we had come up with in the past year.
“Oh! What’s going on Nina!!! *HOMIE IN DISGUISE?” Mario asked with a big old smirk. ” I heard about your confrontation out there on 4th.”
I guess nothing had really changed when I got into that beef because everyone was still grinding they’re usual way making jokes and all that shit about my gender. But I wanted to kill that noise because things really did change for me. I had read. Suffered. Grown…
“Yo Mikey I got to nowhere to go now. My folks think I was responsible for what happened that day and now I’m strait stuck. No money, no place to go, no game, no nothing”.
Mikey took me away from the group on the block but I already knew what he was going to say back to me,and he did. He told me that I was welcome to hustle with him anytime and that I cant stay at his place because it was against the rules.
“Anything you can do for me I appreciate it, but I cant be around all that, this game aint bubble gum, its probably good for me to lay low for a while,”
It seemed that all of my friends had strict rules about people staying with them and if they didn’t have those strict rules they’re house would always be filled with people, meaning there was no more room for me on most days. Mario lived in a foster home in south vancouver, I liked going to his house on occasion after a long day of selling cd’s in the park. After that we would always just relax and watch movies as well as listen to reggae and rap.
“If I had a place to my own I would let you chill there all the time,” Mario said to me. “But I really don’t.”.
“Nuff said Mario, Im out man. One.”
There were two other members our our tight circle, Mikey’s brother Sean and Chris. Chris lived in C.O.Q. but always made his way out to Kitts to hustle on the daily.
Outside of my circle a fixation constantly flooded my mind, her name was Larissa… and she respected me more than I deserved, which often made me feel ashamed… I should have changed my life around the day I met her….. now I was in trouble and hopefully she would remain in my life.
I knew I had to stay out of the heat that Mikey and the crew were involved in for the time being so I told them I had stuff to do and headed out of kitts. My bus ticket would soon expire and I would have no means of transportation and nowhere to go. Whenever I had nothing to do I would always go downtown because there was a million resources and people I may run into to to chill with and pass the time. The vibe of downtown was pretty irie, a lot of weed being passed around, a lot of younger faces and everyone was very friendly. A lot of these young cats I knew were in the same situation as me. The problem was that I didn’t know them very well and If they’re attracting the same amount of heat that Mikey is, why wouldn’t I just be hustling with him.
That night I had nothing to do and I ended up peddling bus tickets with an addict. Its odd feeling being so young and hustling with addicts at midnight…I made about 15$ and left burrard station. I slept near Canada place close to a warm vent coming out the Trade Centre near waterfront station. This vent… saved. My. Ass…. I put in my work that night but I knew I would have to hustle even harder the next day. I woke up surrounded by tourists enjoying the view of the waterfront around Canada place. How embarrassing, sleeping on a bench beside a tourist attraction at night. But oh well I knew I had a girl waiting on me. Diddnt matter if I was filthy broke and broken… Not only was she the sexiest girl I knew but I connected with her on every level as well.
I was really deep in the game at this point, It was summer time and I didn’t want anyone to really recognize me. I went to commercial drive and picked up some 7$ shades, white armani knock offs, I never wore shades so it would be a good disguise. The only problem with my physique was my dreadlocks, they were blonde and easily recognisable, soon I would have to dye them black or just… cut them off… I went down to the park to chill and see if anyone I knew was there, but there wasn’t so I laid on the grass and thought of ways to solve my problems. I had no job, a high school education, little post secondary skills that I could use realistically and no plan of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I always thought it would be nice to own a recording studio so I could make enough scrilla to survive and support a family, live with larissa… A NORMAL LIFE. I heard about some schools on broadway that pay you to learn the recording skills but I didn’t know the names of the schools or courses, so I planned to find out what they were soon.
So after about a couple hours of contemplation I decided it was time to get off my ass and figure everything out about these schools . I walked up commercial drive and headed towards the sky train to go to library, people were giving me looks… but im always so oblivious… thats when to my surprise I was in for a sign of hope.
The one that meant so much to me, the goddess, the one I’d do anything for , Larissa. Her swagger was so different from anyone else I had met. I really wished she was mine but she had just moved from The East Coast and we were just starting to get into it.
“Hey Nina , I’ve been looking around for you, haven’t seen you. Where you been at for real?”
Larissa was a rasta like spiritual like, 2 spirit like me, one of the few female enlightened in my life.
“Larissa… let me tell you right now that I need you, I just got out of jail, I was declared innocent because of a witness, It was strait up self defense.” I was stressed as I explained. ” I had to knock somebody up with a rock and I think he’s still in the hospital”.
” Thats crazy Nina, I’m glad to hear your okay…” She said as she warmly embraced me with a hug” Are you okay?”.
” All I could think of while I was in there was you”. I admitted as I leaned into Brandy and embraced a sweet kiss that lifted my spirits to the heavens. She invited me back to her crib after that. I was in for a new experience because I she still lived with her ex wife. before…. On our way there I told her about the whole setup and how I was outnumbered and fighting for my life. We caught the sky train to her Her ex was so controlling and concerned what I might try and do with larissa that I didn’t get a single moment alone with her. I couldn’t even get a chance to explain all the crazy feelings I had. It was all too much for me at this point and sort of turning into a blur of emotions. I felt very out of place at Larissas. I was falling for this girl once again but there was such a big wall in front of me. It was like why did I have to go and get jumped and all that when I have so much going for me with Rissa. I really didn’t know what to do at that point.
The time came when I had to leave so I said goodbye to larissa and see where the streets took me… “Goodnight Nina”.
I had seven dollars to my name and still nowhere to go. I couldn’t tell Larissa the situation with my parents, I was embarrassed because how could Brandy learn to love and trust me if my parents couldn’t even do it.
Night began to fall over the Vancity sky for the second time since my escape from conviction of assault and battery. So much hope and so much pain at the same time left me in the middle of my emotions and I stared into space at the central park train and greyhound station off main street. This park is where you went when you needed fast cash and had products to sell. I could remember coming here with stolen goods that I made off with when I ran with different crews, but now I had nothing. Why was I here? The vibes of the street often taught me what to do next, but I felt nothing from this park of gangsters and street hustlers. Everyone had to get they’re money by any means necessary but I already knew this. I laid down on the bench and let the emotions go , soon I was in a deep sleep.
The hot summer sun was burning down on me as I took my first breath, completely drenched in sweat .That day I decided to blow myself up and have some fun. I took my remaining 7$ to canadian tire and got a red can of spray paint. Probably not the most genius thing I could have done considering my police history and being on bail…. but I wanted to go out and have some fun with my morning. Art is my life.
I walked down the railroad tracks underneath commercial station and tagged big bombs of my name “Nina” with a bandana concealing my face from the fumes coming off of the krylon. The presence of god seemed to surround me when I was down there painting. So many different styles and colors made the possibilities in life seem endless. The tracks were dirty and disgusting littered with garbage, clothes, empty spray paint cans and the occasional homeless person passed out or possibly dead. You had to be careful where you step because if you slipped you might fall on a needle. My lugz had graffitied bombs on them that I tagged. On the left foot I had written “dark” and on my right foot I had written “arts” which made up the first two initials of my graffiti crew, “Dark Arts Crew”. Unfortunately I was the only remaining member of the crew because of disagreements and beef. Some of the artists that were in the crew were pretty good but they would always fuck up and cross the wrong person or start stupid beef over nothing, so that had to end. Now I could role solo and attract less heat to myself as well as be the only one claiming the whole crew.
I eventually finished my can of paint and popped out near main street where I has slept the following night. Broke and hungry I walked to The Gathering Place (a facility with a workout gym, billiards table, laundry mat, a room for schooling and a kitchen with occasional free food for the needy). Something extremely strange caught my eye…. Why did all of the ashtrays say deep cove…. Where I grew up. My third eye .
“Is there any sandwiches right now?” I asked the Cook behind the counter in the kitchen.
“Yes there is,” She replied with a smile ” Would you like ham, cheese, or turkey?”
I ended up getting a turkey sandwich. This was the first time I had been there when there was actually food available so I was surprised and happy with that fact. So far the day had gone very well and I didn’t want it to end.
The Gathering place was not only a good place to go when your in need but it was also a place to go when your needy for crack rock, it was well known to police so when I finished my food I decided to get out of there and walk down Granville street. It was about 4 o’clock and downtown was crowded with tourists and busy buisness men and women. There had to be something I could do down there to pass the time but I wasn’t sure what that it was. I began to stroll around looking for farmilliar faces but also trying not to be spotted by any enemies. I knew that the people that jumped me would still be after me. They wanted to get me because I was with one of their girlfriends back in the day. I guess she cheated with me and they thought I was bragging about it, which I wasn’t. Even if I did joke around about it I wasn’t trying to get into all that.
I sat down at the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, I knew I would be safe there because the people after me never went there. I started talking with one of the skids there and someone who seemed like a well off friend of his. It turned out they were both as broke as me and one of them had an idea to get some quick cash without any consequences. “As long as I don’t have to sell my body”… I thought…. It sounded kind of shifty but the plan made some sense. One of us would go into London Drugs and steal some nicotene patches worth about 40 dollars a pop. Then another one of us would go back in and return them all for full cash refund. I looked too young to be on the patch and return them so I went in and stole them. I made off with 4 boxes, $160 worth smooth and clean. Then the guy who looked more well off returned them with the excuse that his wife bought them for him and he decided that he didn’t even want to quit. We split the money three ways, had a good laugh about the job and went our separate ways.
Now I had 55 dollars. More cash then i had had for an entire month and I wasn’t about to go blow it off on liquor, smokes, paint or anything else that wasn’t a nesessity. I still needed food and shelter but getting new clothes could wait. I had only been wearing my clothes for a couple days strait. I was wearing skinny jeans, a large blank white tee and a red camoflauge NY hat. It was hot in the day but not that cold at night which kind of helped. I would just put my arms into my big t-shirt when i was trying to get warm and go to sleep. My shirt was still perfectly clean somehow so I decided that I need not wash it tonight.
I walked from outside London Drugs down the street to get a cheap dinner, 99 cent pizza was a celebration of my new found wealth.Soon It would be nightfall. Night wasn’t a good time to be on the hustle because there were lots of high and drunk people and being a trans girl has never been a cake walk …about trying to get friendly with you and jack you. As I ate I continued to asess and contemplate what to do with my situation.
My parents lived in Deep Cove but I had pretty extensive knowledge of the rest of the city. New West was where a couple of my close friends and cousins lived. were but It was a very dangerous place at night for someone with nowhere to go. Way too much crack in those streets and gangsters hungry for money. Thats why I hadn’t gone back there. I really had no reason to. The only extremely dangerous part of downtown Vancouver at night was the east side but I had no real reason to venture down there either at that point.
Being without my friends was fine with me, I felt at peace being alone, but I craved my love… my larissa… I knew that eventually I would really need her help. Devon lived in Surrey which was another place I wouldn’t really want to go but it might have been an option for me to stay there if his house wasn’t full of friends or relatives staying there for the night. I decided that I would stay one more night in the park before I called Devon and his family.
At about 1 o’clock in the morning the city had quieted down and I headed to the park to catch some shut eye. As I entered central station my resting ground I noticed it was empty making it erie yet peaceful in some way. The neon red sign on the side of the bus station casted a glow over the park. As my fear of the erie park descended the red streams of light slowly were closed off from my vision.
Chapter 2 – Running Streets
“CANT YOU SEE IM FUCKING BLEEDING!” I tossed myself off the bench and landed hard on the ground awoken and startled by screaming and flashing lights. I stumbled onto my feet with my eyes still barely open and saw a man on the ground with pool of blood streaming from his head screaming at 2 paramedics . “AHHHHHHH” I looked for the cops but there were none on scene.
The screaming mans voice faded away as my lugz thudded across the concrete underneath the dotted line of street lights in the dark. I ran down main and took a right on hastings 5 blocks away and into the ghetto of the downtown east side. East Hastings street: land of the lost. The fiends looked like zombies looking for victims laying on the ground. No longer was I the only one running from something these people were running from themselves. I was close to the police station but the police presence on hastings and in the east side was a joke. As I ducked into an alley I could hear the needles crunching under my feet. Thank god I didn’t slip or run into some armed assailants in this alley.
As I took a deep breath my nostrils flared filled with the stench of piss, I turned my head in discust as a gangsters car coasted slowly passed me. The bass vibrated the hard concrete street and I flowed with the beat as I stepped out the alley and walked down hastings.
I saw a bus heading east and ran like hell to catch it on the other side of the street. It was completely empty. I tried to catch my breath as I reached into my pocket to find some change. I put in my 2 dollars and moved to the back. I knew this bus went to Kittsalano but I had never caught it before. The windows must have been open because a cold breeze was blowing on my face while I looked out the window. It took me through a very strange route I had never seen before. The view was like something out of a dream . Above me there were huge bridges and highway overpasses completely empty and beside me there were large retro houses that had so much mystique. Eventually I was on a street that I recognized and shut my eyes for a moment. I prayed to god that I would never half to fight for my life ever again, and that he would watch over me tonight as I headed to kitts beach to sleep for the remaining couple of hours of the night.
The beach was colder than the city and much darker. The wind blew off of the ocean and howled in my ear. I could still hear the man screaming and see the blood streaming but it eventually faded. The waves sounded like a person walking along the beach towards me. I was sitting against a log looking over the west end of Vancouver. I could see the whole skyline and it was very beautiful reflecting against the ocean. The sand was soft underneath me and I was positioned comfterably but cold as the rain begain to sprinkle down on me. I shut my eyes.
I wasn’t sure whether I got any actual sleep that night or not but dawn had arrived. Birds were squawking loudly and It was a reminder that everything around me was alive including me. I survived the night. Buddha blessed me.
Mikey lived close to where I had spent the night so I walked towards his apartment. I guess it was really early in the morning at that point because Mikey’s father answered the buzzer quite upset to hear it was me.
“Is Mikey home?” I asked.
“Not at six in the morning he’s not,” he replied. “Why are you here Adam… I MEAN….Nina?”
“I missed my last bus last night and had to stay out in Vancouver, so I slept on the beach.”
Mikey came to the phone sounding really confused and tired, “Hello?”
Mikey’s father was really strict about people coming up into the apartment because other tenants had been making false accusations about how Mikey’s friends like Mario were acting in and around the building.
“Yo can I come up?” I asked. “I just spent the night sleeping on the beach waiting to come here.”
“Im sorry man, but my dad is going to flip out.” Was an easily predictable response to my situation.
Mikey came down to the entrance of his building with some protein bars and some juice for me and I told him about what had happened. He asked me why I was staying out in the street when I could be staying at Covenant House on seymour street downtown. Covenant was a safe house for people aged 16 to 22 and was quite large so there was a good chance I could get in. I had completely forgot about Covenant because my friends had stayed there but I had never been there before. I made the decision that I would check into Covenant if there was any room for me. That would be a much safer place for me than the streets.
“So your going to head down there today?”
“Yeah, If there’s any room down there I’m going to stay there as long as possible. The streets just aren’t safe for me outside. Don’t tell anybody where I’m staying either, I don’t want that crew that jumped me finding out where I’m at”.
I left Mikey’s house early before any other people could get to Covenant before me for morning intake. At the intake I was interviewed by two elderly women about my circumstances. They asked me about my relationship with parents, friends and even enemies. I told them everything because all the information I gave them was classified as confidential by law. Now that I had a place to my own and a locker for my clothes I chose to phone my parents and ask if they could deliver some of my belongings. I asked for some dress shirts, shorts, hoodie, and my basketball. While my parents were on their way I was showed to my quarters where I would stay for the next two weeks or so.
I slept in one of the girls rooms with about 5 other girls, the house could hold about 24 youths or so. When I got there most of the people were getting up and getting ready to start their day, probably not really in the mood to socialize, so I chose not to do so. The house had a large kitchen, a laundry room, 2 living rooms with video games and C.D. players and 4 bathrooms. Which was more than I ever needed to survive. In order to stay at the house you had to have goals which you showed you had attempted to accomplish by the end of the day. My goal for the week was to get on income assistance so I could find a place to go. No drugs, weapons or alcohol were permitted and if you were suspected to be high or drunk you would be removed from the house. I hate my drug addictions…. The curfew was 12 at night and you had to be out of house by 9 in the AM.
When my parents arrived at Covenant downtown they seemed happy that I had a place to stay. Even though I couldn’t understand why they didn’t believe me about what happened I still showed as much love as I could. Eventually I was all set for my stay so they wished me luck in finding a permanent residence and went on their way.
Since it was my first day I was allowed to stay as long as I wanted before leaving. I laid down on a bed for my first time in half a week. I quickly fell into a deep sleep. One of the workers at the house woke me up around 1 o’clock as a common courtesy to see if I wanted to get anything done. I went down to the kitchen and ate some food. The house was empty now so after eating I figured it would be a good time to phone my good homie Devon and tell him about what had happened to me the past couple weeks.
He took all the news pretty well and said after I had outstayed Covenant I was welcome to come live with him for a while. I knew Devon’s family for a long time, I could talk to them about pretty much anything. His brother and cousin were also good friends of mine and I cherished the memories that we shared. Seeing me grow into a woman… We used to always chill at the recreational centre in New West. Getting high, getting money and swimming in the pool occasionally. But now we were more grown up and doing that same old shit seemed pointless. We need work. Rent. Groceries. Even smokes… We all looked after each other like brothers. I felt like part of the family. I could count on Devon.
The next couple days I spent going to income assistance appointments and hanging out with the kids from Covenant. I was happy. I felt safe and like I was actually doing something to move my life in some kind of direction. I kept in contact with Brandy over the phone every night but the phone limit was quite short because everyone needed to use the phone at some point. I gathered up the nerve to ask her out and she said yes. The fact that I had kissed her once and that we were now going out made me estatic. Why wouldn’t I be? I was now going out with the girl of my dreams. The only problem was I had little money and nowhere I could take her back to.
One of the girls in my room named Teekay was a talented graffiti artist from North Vancouver and had never been down the train tracks by commercial so I told her would cop some paint If he tagged along with me. The T in T.K. stood for Trina but everyone called her T.J.. We went early on my 3rd day staying at Covenant. I learned a lot by watching her paint hes stance while her painted balancing on a small ledge teetering over a ditch of water was flawless. We spent roughly 3 or 4 hours walking the tracks painting, free styling and joking around. I told her about the situation with my parents and she told me to follow my gut feeling but also that I have known my parents forever so forgiveness and trust should soon return. T.K. was just so cool to be around with and I knew she would be a good friend to have around while we were both going through it.This life… This city…T.J. and I kicked it all the time after that. We would rack up on paint all over Vancouver without getting caught, I guess nobody wanted to touch us.
T.J. told me that a lot of people in the streets were talking about me. That I knew a lot of clicks in Vancouver from all sides. Apparently I was well protected on the scene and that I shouldn’t really have to worry about any beefs. My loyalty to friends had been paying off in the end. Even if I occasionally had to pick up a rock to hold my own. Even if I didn’t have money, money couldn’t buy what I had. As time passed I learned more and more about the streets and what gang operations were known for what. I would run into the game on a daily basis and I expressed knowledge and respect to the people running each turf. The love was strong in the streets but I always kept my eyes open for fake love. Anybody who tried to take advantage of me but at the same time wanted me to put in work, I left them in the fake love category which meant I didn’t trust them with my life at any point in time. I didn’t want to be cut short, extorted or ratted out on my connections.
Larissa and I were taking it slow. We wanted to make sure we were really meant for each other before things got really serious. She knew what I was involved in and that was fine with her, but I didn’t want her to be introduced to it at all. I liked her way too much. We would spend out time at her spot and occasionally go out for coffee’s or shopping and stuff like that. She wanted me dress more feminine off but I didn’t agree to it at first and didn’t think I ever would, I was too attached to them. I was wrong… and blossomed like a butterfly.
Mikey, Mario and all of my friends were deep into the weed dealing as well as hustling clothes and other little scams. I didn’t smoke weed very much but I would come with them into all the bodega’s and weed spots throughout Vancouver. We would make our ends by selling our mix tapes and selling dime bags for the bodega’s and dealers who worked the strip and turfs. I put in my work on all fronts of the buisness but I all wanted a small profit of the mix tape sales for I was an artist and deserved a cut on everything. Police would never fuck with us when we were working. By the way things were going we assumed the police had us on a do not detain list. Meaning that they could not arrest us without a serious reason to. My friends and I all thought alike. Me moved in small groups and remained social with everyone on the strip. Anyone with a good head on their shoulders were welcome to purchase our products or hang out with us on the grind. But things change.
Eventually I was out of the safe house and my income assistance request was accepted, but I still had to find a basement suite or apartment to live in. While I was in the process of finding a place I moved in with Devon and his family. New West was far from the hustling zone I ran in so I had to leave that alone. It was good to relax and be a part of his family. They made me the best food and gave me a place to sleep. They also helped me look for apartments.
I spent the next week checking out small apartments and basement suites in New West because that was the cheapest area and in my old neighborhood… I was hoping Larissa would move in with me., Even if I hadn’t gotten a real job yet…. Most people weren’t too interested in having a 19 year old on welfare live in they’re house but I found one. It was a basement suite in Queensborough which was on the other side of the Queensborough Bridge. An east indian family lived above me and all they asked of me was that I remained quiet and didn’t use their house for drugs. I thanked them greatly and moved in my stuff.
Chapter 3 Nino’s Spot
Over the next while I would become a product of my environment. I already knew all of the kids in my neighboorhood, our whereabouts were obvious on a hot summer day, the park. My cousin would usually be with me down there drinking and riding around the hood on bikes. The liquor store was a block down from the park and I got to know the workers there very well.
I woke up around 12 o’clock on a friday. I then prayed to god explaining how much I really love life but I asked for his help to really try living it. After that I went to the store carrying my boom box to get batteries for it. When I got to the park it was around 1 o’clock. The park was crowded on a sunny friday but there was only a couple kids from the hood there.
“Yo Nina! Thank god its friday girl, you want a drink?” Alex asked.
I had known Alex since about grade six and it was cool to finally see him in the park like the rest of us. No one was really there yet so we rode around the borough with my boom box in hand hand. We returned an hour later with more liquor and as drunk as ever. It was like a dream, everything was a blur through my eyes. I almost felt like I couldn’t move and every step was a struggle. My subconscious knew… I was stepping down into a hellhole….
I could remember bumping my boom box and freestyling when it happened. A flock of g’s were walking into the park from the parking lot and I didn’t want to see them. The crew that jumped me in the beginning were with some other people that aint exactly with me and were proceeding towards Alex and I. Through the corner of my eye I saw another crew heading up, Mikey, Mario, Chris and Janelle, my crew. What the fuck was going on? I thought. What kind of fucking sick joke is this. I turned down the boom box looking at my peoples for some explanation.
“I got a piece here if you need it.” Janelle said as she looked at her waistline. The music faded away as I took a look around .Mikey and Mario stood by my side. Thats when Chris pulled out. I could feel the power coming off of him as he raised his tool in retaliation. The beef was backing away slowly looking at Chris shocked, but the cat who I didn’t recognise was running backwards and staring at Chris. POP! Chris fired a shot beside the fool and he fell to the ground. Dust flew off the grass where the shot went off. I looked around the park and families were all standing up looking at us. It was like being in a fish bowl, there must have been 50 people in the distance wondering what was going on. No one was screaming or running but everyone was feeling the tension coming from Chris’s 9.
Chris lowered the gun and stepped towards me, “Nina what do you want me to do?”
“Lets get the fuck out of dodge and into my crib right now, empty that clip point blank spook these bitches.”
We all started running for the road and Chris emptied the clip above the heads of the beef. POP POP POP POP POP. Thats when people started screaming as we all booked it down the street towards my crib. I jumped on a bike carrying my beat box, “cant relate” still booming out my system.
The night turned to day and day turned into night again, silence. Nothing but silence…. we all feared what could be waiting for us on the outside of my crib… We could see the lights from the windowpanes… Chris wiped off his gun and set it down on the table. We all needed an answer to our prayers and it finally came. Janelle began to cry and spoke to us the word we needed to hear.
“What are we all afraid of? I’m crying because I don’t know, thats how I know there’s nothing to be afraid of. If anything was going to happen it already would have. Lets hit the strip and do our thang! because if you have any doubts about this crew you know your wrong and you might aswell leave now!.”
That put us all in the mode to get out and show our faces, we do what we have to do. Janelle was a strong woman and for her to break down in cry because of not knowing why she was afraid. Made us all check ourselves right back to reality.
Everyone put on some articles of my clothing making them less suspect and we headed out the house in groups of 2, meeting at 22nd street station. No one would think we would be out at Brooklyn’s tonight so thats what we did. We hit the bar hard.
After stashing the 9 we used outside the bar we left the DJ with a request list about 20 tracks long. That night we bet hundreds on pool with people at the bar, we sold stacks of CD’s and we had a celebration of our retaliation. Near the closing time at Brooklyn’s Genelle approached me and introduced me to an older woman who lived in the borough. Her name was Sandy and she said that she would pick up her kids down the street and give me a ride home. At this point I was really drunk stumbling into the bathroom to take a piss before I left with this new face. I said my goodbye’s to the crew and took a piece from Genelle for protection.
Sandy told me to sit in the back as opened her glove box and handed me a bottle of yellow rum or some other drink, maybe tequila. The bottle was sort of small and it had a picture of a spider on the front.
“Have a drink,” She said smiling back at me as she started the car. “My car has to warm up before we pick up my girls down the street”.
I pretended to tie my shoe as I checked to make sure the 9 was still in my ankle holster, something seemed shifty about this woman. But everyone seemed shifty to me these days. The spider tasted like nothing I had ever drank before… an electric taste that left your mouth feeling stung and bitter. I drank 2 or 3 big sips with bravery, then wiped my face with the sleeve and saw the yellow melting into my shirt.
“Don’t have too much.” With a smirk of sin upon her brow… She took the bottle back from me and the spider on the bottle dissapeared into the glove box.
I wondered why she didn’t want me to sit in the front as she finally pulled away from brooklyn;s and headed down the street. My stomach felt tense but I ignored it.
“Hi Sandy” An attractive young woman hopped in the front seat with Sandy and looked back at me and smiled” “Hi Nina”…
Then the back doors opened up and 2 more young girls pushed me into the middle. I could feel something in my stomach crawl up and take control of my body. I looked to my left and the girl said to me in a calming voice to lay down. I closed my eyes and laid over the two girls for what seemed like a second.
I opened my eyes to a world of translucent figures driving around the borough the girls had eyes of snakes and I could see them laughing at me. The dark scene was like a hell with burning shadows all around you. I reached down to my ankle and pulled the gun as the car began to stop, I flew to the floor and the translucent view went away the car had stopped. I jumped out of the car holding the gun shooting at it as the car sped off. I put the gun back in the holster and the visions began to return. Either I was high out of my tree or it was raining and making it seem the world was a picture and the rain was making it run down the page. I walked down the alley close to my house and there was new graffiti all through it. I could see through my blurry stress the names of several artists. Tags had been buffed over since we left the crib that day. The new ones seemed to glow in the streetlight but haunted me that all these people had been lurking my alley. Not one of these people was even from my neighborhood.
Just as I got to the door Alex’s bike skidded to a stop and I could hardly hear him say, “We need to get out of here Nina”.
I struggled and grabbed my bike from inside and rode out the alley with Alex as fast as I could go in my condition. My vision was getting worse as I got farther away from the spot. I could see Alex ahead of me and it looked like he was flying and spinning through the air. The road would sink suspending us seemingly many feet above the concrete and grass. I knew I had to follow him, my life depended on it. The next thing I remember was standing on the road and seeing a car while waving it down for help. A blue convertible pulled over that I had never seen and I saw two farmilliar faces, Larissa and Jason pulled me into the car and took a look at me while my world was spinning. I looked at them accepting that I was completely vunerable and afraid of what was happening.
“Oh shit somebody gave her the spider “.
They would often look back at me and speak but what they would say I do not know. The car drove through green trees and ocean side winding roads and the sound of breezes flooded my ears as I lost reality completely. Lost and confused I passed into a dream state of pure dementia. For hours I laid in the back seat of the convertible with dialated pupils staring blankly at a glimpse of the searing yellow sky as it slowly turned to pure light.
Where the love begins.
-Nina Shade Vestergaard