I can remember coming home one day with my older cousin, back when I lived in an apartment building in the middle of Flatbush, Brooklyn. While I was a bit more sheltered, I wasn’t blind to life in the streets. My cousin, being four years older, grew up in a slightly different era of New York, he was tough. Like all cousins, we fought often just to pass the time (this was something all my male family members did) and I was the youngest and the smallest, but I always held my own. I enjoyed our sparring matches, I was a born fighter. These familial battle royals were my saving grace whenever I roamed the streets of Brooklyn on my own in my youth as scrapping was a part of growing up.
So one day, as we enter our building, two guys who were loitering about my cousins age at the time, square up on us. Fists are flying, for no reason other then we walked into the building, they’re not from here, and they’re carousing. We walked away fine, bruised them up a bit but that instance was a taste of life, and what it could be—it’s real out here. When we got upstairs to my apartment, I remember vividly seeing my cousin cry for the first time (where it wasn’t due to a beating from a parent). He voiced that he was sick of having to fight for everything, how it’s just hard to escape that living where we lived.
Those words never left me. As much as I loved to fight, I realized there’s a difference when you’re fighting because you want to and because you have to. What’s fucked about being a kid in the hood is no matter how good your upbringing, you still have to fight. Shit, I’m still fighting today, it’s just a different arena.