Know The Ledge: Excerpt #2

Here’s the second chapter of a project that’s taking shape about two kids wandering around NYC in the summertime. It’s very rough, and hasn’t been edited much, but it’s flowing. Criticism/suggestions/comments are always appreciated. Enjoy.

7subway

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2. The first hit always rocked Adrian like a Jersey shore wave. He inhaled deep then let the blue smoke burst into the sky as he made his way above ground from the crowded platform crawling beneath the streets. There was no plan tonight, or any other for that matter.  They had a few dollars, some weed, and nothing but time on their side.

Benny’s pager had been buzzing non-stop on the way into the city, so the first order of business was a payphone. The city hummed at 5 pm. Traffic streamed by on the streets and sidewalks, all blurring into one mechanical whir of humid, nervous energy. Everybody walked with a purpose in New York; the moms with strollers, businessmen with fancy leather briefcases, street kids with gold chains and bright new Nikes. Almost everyone had somewhere to be.

Benny chirped away on the phone taking small, harsh pulls from the blunt. Adrian leaned against a stone ledge that framed the bushes in front of a gorgeous, marbled high rise, eyes fixated on the spaces in the sky between buildings. Adrian always felt like you could hide anywhere in the city. You were a tiny speck among millions of wandering souls. You could turn random corners and take steps all day without revisiting an old haunt. It wasn’t like that at home.

Benny glanced at Adrian, who was staring into the sky grinning like a fool. Yo, we’re headed to Charles’ house. Adrian, you hear me?

Adrian snapped back to reality. Yeah, yeah, I remember Charles. That crazy dark-skinned kid with the lisp?

Charles was an 18 year old maniac they hung with on and off when they came into the city.  He was the kind of kid that would start a fight at a completely chill party because he was bored. Charles was taller than everyone, at least 6’2, and a narrow 160 pounds. There was something completely off about his crooked toothed grin. Benny and Charles were worth the price of admission. They’d bicker and finish each other’s sentences, snatching the last bites of food and sips of malt liquor. They would argue over anything, exchanging shoves and dick punches while scrambling to cram as many words as possible into each breath.

Benny cocked his head to the side. What’s wrong with you man? You hit the blunt three times and you’re gone. He continued, Charles’ apartment is on the west side, so we gotta move. I’m not taking the train and I’ll be damned if we waste our cash on a cab.

With a flick of the yellow bic that Benny kept close at all times, the boys were off whizzing through the beautiful maze of a New York City summer night, passing their first of many thin, stale blunts back and forth while stepping in stride.

The sun was busy tucking itself away behind the west side skyline when Adrian and Benny got to Charles’ stoop. They heard the party nearly two blocks back. There was a box playing Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Boys stood shoulder to shoulder passing 40’s, trying to match the magic of CL’s delivery. Girls pranced laughing and smiling coy with cigarettes dangling from the corners of their shiny, pink lips, bodies smelling like bubble gum body spray and Newports.

Adrian didn’t like smoking cigs, but he loved the way they smelled. The scent reminded him of his grandfather’s flannel shirts that hung from the backs of the chairs in his cluttered Long Island dining room.

Adrian spent lots of time with his grandfather before he passed. Sometimes he’d spend the entire summer on the Island, fishing, riding bikes, playing ball. His grandpa died two summers ago, but in that moment, with the sweet smelling baby girls taking tiny pulls on grown man smokes, tank tops spilling the tops of perfect breasts all over the street, it felt like a lifetime ago.

And just as quickly as the crowd settled into a comfortable wave pulsing with hip hop and the typical shit talking of youth, the peace was shattered as a 40 bottle cracked against the stairs. Over Adrian’s left shoulder two young, shirtless kids squared up, eyes dialed in behind raised fists. No one Adrian and Benny knew was afraid to fight. They didn’t look for trouble, but they never ran. Once you realized you weren’t made of glass, it hurt a little less to take a beating. Belts, fists, backhands…it was all the same.

Their fights weren’t those bullshit scraps you’d see in school or some nasty gang beating. They threw heavy hands and picked themselves up when it didn’t end in their favor. They fought when they couldn’t use words. They fought when they’d be shamed for crying. They fought for rep and rank. Most times, they fought to feel alive.

Someone passed Adrian a blunt as he leaned back on the stairs. The sounds of heavy breath and fists pounding against sweaty skin overtook the noise of the box. Their bodies moved in and out of the smoke like angels. The righty let a massive hook fly. It found a home on the Puerto Rican kids jaw. Night night. His friends scooped him up and sat him down across the street.

It was over as quickly as it began. The fights, the blunts, the beers, the beats. These kids were menaces to most, but for them the chaos defined the insecurities that raced between their ears.

 

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