I am the faceless co-blogger. I was born in July 1988. Ever wonder what that day was like when you were born? What bills were signed into law? Who died? Who else was born? Who was imprisoned and why? Who was let out of prison? What was the first item of clothing they bought when they got out prison? I don’t know.
This is a glimpse of freedom. From the near rooftop balconies overlooking the barbed wire and raw, grey brick structures came the echo of laughter, shouting, clinging of the baton batting against the iron bars, and the sharing of a bouquet of flowers to one man surrounded by family walking the long outdoor corridor to the sidewalks. Dirty streets littered with McDonalds styrofoam tea cups, half-empty Bud Light beer cans–two divergent examples of childhood and adulthood rolling toward the gutter to be entangled in the sewage treatment plants farther down river. August 1990 city blocks from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where a year earlier, Yusuf Hawkins never bought his first car. Pronounced dead on the scene, paramedics started the clean-up process that would never be bleached clean, never be swept tidily outside, that one spot on the street never sanitized. Sanitation workers picked up trashcans and emptied them into the truck, while early morning risers walked their dogs, fuming that violence came to their streets.
Ian didn’t hear any of it except from inside the walls of barren brick. Bensonhurst called its son back home. The storm arose from the angry depths of a populace tired from hot muggy Brooklyn summers, violence for no reason, and a city shifting. In January, Al Sharpton would be stabbed; but now, Ian walked with his mother and two cousins to the parking lot. Two years for stealing a tv from an family down the street when they weren’t home. Perhaps it was a blessing he’d left his knife at home. Locked up for stealing a television. He just wanted to give his brother a good gift for his birthday. Oddly, the family said keep the television but still go to prison.
The ride home, stoplight, go, stoplight, go, stoplight go. He thought of the upper bay and how he wished to have a sailboat. Sailing toward the water, away from Bensonhurst, sailing from the storm he was riding into. No one knew the riots that migrated to the West Coast a two years from now. When Ian was little he wanted to teach, to teach math. School didn’t taught him nothing, except the basic laws of supply and demand, until his best friend, Ryan, was shot and killed outside the 7/11 on the corner while he waited for the bus back to Bensonhurst. That Monday back at school felt empty and silent for him. He just wanted to get home, lock his bedroom door and read more of Adam Smith. Who knew much about this fat, white man from years ago? Ian liked what he had to say, but every once in a while, something hit close to home.
“The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers.”
All he could think about was the paramedics and the white sheet on the corner just past the 7/11. From then on, he visited Ryan’s grave every year on his birthday to bring him some cokes and oatmeal cookies, they’re favorite snack as they waved to the girls walking by their stoop.
On the ride home, they stopped by the Gas Mart to get cokes, and Ian grabbed a stuffed oatmeal cookie. He asked them to drop him off at the library, claiming he needed some time to himself before he saw the rest of the family; and he would walk home when it closed. Reluctantly, they did so. He walked through the aisles of books till he found Smith. “Nothing but the most exemplary morals can give dignity to a man of small fortune.” He had to give something back.