This morning, the crisp, cold air, the glowering morning clouds, the trees changing colours, it all makes me think of my glory days, my heyday in Chicago's Lower South Side, when I was a gang banger.
Yeah, it's a part of my history I don't talk about a whole lot, but it's there, back in my history. It started out pretty innocently, playing marbles and Cops and Robbers on the playground, and it lead to falling in with a rough crowd, boys who would rather shoot things with slingshots than play kickball.
From there it lead to our own little gang, with our own little block of turf, mostly covered in derelict buildings and a sand pile left over from some construction two blocks over, but it was ours, and we tagged it and we guarded it, and we represented; we wore our colours and we flashed our signs and we were kings of our own little mountain. The Terrebon Street Thugs, that was us.
And of course after a few years of that we discovered what the real gangs were about, and we joined the Crips. And of course we did all the usual Crip things--drugs, money laundering, prostitues, drive-bys, the works. And then I got approached by a serious gang, a gang that made the Crips look like our first little gang, made us look like boys playing Fort in the sand. And they made me an offer that I could not, dared not, refuse.
And that evening, after I had joined, after the initiation, I sat in my tiny, dirty apartment and let the enormity of what I had just done sink in, and I shook. I trembled in utter terror at what I had just done. I had just joined up with the most powerful group of people in existence. They exercised their might in the same way that a cat swats a mosquito. They moved in places of control and leadership with effortless grace, and they were, to a man, utterly coldly ruthless. Bloodshed was simply another tool in their copious arsenal. They held ultimate power.
They were the Toastmasters.
And somehow I had fallen in with them.
They run everything. Waitress fighting, brandy-running, even accounting, they're in it all.
I don't know if I am gonna get out alive.