I grew up on the hard knock streets of Paterson, New Jersey. I lived here all my life, a place listed as the third worst city to live in within the United States. This place is my home,a home that I both feel a sense of pride for and at the same time shame. When my mother made her way to the United States with her eldest son, my older brother and half brother Luis, she took refuge in New York. Hopping from place to place for a room to sleep in almost monthly; Half the time they would sleep on the floor. So truly, I have nothing to complain about, because where I am now compared to where they were before we’re living the American Dream.
But what perks does the American Dream truly carry when even the positives can convey a negative effect. As a little boy my mother, I would say, did an amazing job of hiding these hardships from me. My mother, the strongest woman I know, would go to a factory to work for eight hours, suffering from back pain and aching muscles. Through the blistering winters and through the steaming summers, she would do what she had to do to come home and put food on the table. Not only would she put food on the table and pay the bills, my mom did an amazing job at shading me from the reality of our situation. I lived on a street where violence happened on a nightly basis, and yet I didn’t know about that until I reached my last two years of Middle School. I lived in a city where violence occurred everyday and I only truly came to that realization my freshman year of Highschool.
Now with my new found love for basketball, I am more exposed to this world. As a charismatic person, who tries to be friends with everyone and keeps his opinions to himself, I’m not really dragged into problems. I’m friends with normal everyday people, nerds like myself who play video games, and even gangsters. I have friends who wield around weapons at all times in case “anything pops off”. I have many friends who are willing to fight with me if I gave them the word. But, recently, actually very recently I have come to a realization.
We were just playing basketball, it was supposed to be an everyday normal event. I was getting my workout in, and chitchatting away with all of my friends. Like I said, I attempt to make friends with everyone who comes down to play, so I pretty much knew everybody there. From the group of little kids who are always around to even the adults walking back and forth from the court to the store buying black & milds. But this time everything changed. Two brothers, spanish speaking kids new to the states, came to play basketball. The oldest of the two was the best player on the court, sinking all of his shots, taunting, loving the sport. Any good player taunted, it was a part of the game. Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, all of the greats jeered at their opponents to get into their heads. But this time it was different.
This time, it was taken far too seriously. One of my many friends was there with at least seven other people (whom I also knew), and what happened next really shook me. It was something that truly wasn’t necessary. They jumped the older brother and the youngest came to try to defend him. Once they realized the younger brother was getting involved they beat him up too. The youngest left with a bleeding lip and the oldest probably left with a throbbing headache. But there was one thing that was truly lost, the respect I once held for most of those people and my love for the game. This is more of a rant, instead of a story that happened to me. But there’s one thing that I’m positive about.
One- I won’t be going back to the courts for a while
And two- I’ve come to the realization that from this day forward, I’m a pacifist. For what I saw, truly affected me, to the point of emotional distraught. Surely there was more I should’ve done to stop it. But I was scared, and I stay frozen footed, not doing anything but watching in sheer terror and feeling a sense of guilt. But now I’ll move forward with a better lifestyle. One without any violence, as I attempt to surround myself with better people.