When I was a kid my brother (Guitar player for TURNOVER) Eric and I moved around a lot. Our Mom was the typical struggling single mom, working two jobs, seven days a week. That means when we left for school she was at an office answering phones and when we got home from school she was already at her 2nd job bartending. Needless to say finding a babysitter was a hassle, so when we moved into a “nice” neighborhood for the 1st time she found Josh. Josh was your typical “Dennis the Menace” next-door neighbor. He was all smiles when the parents we’re around and a complete maniac when unsupervised. He was in 8th grade and he was instructed by my Mom to walk Eric and I to our bus safely everyday.
I was in 3rd grade and my brother was in kindergarten but that didn’t matter to Josh. He LOVED watching us after school everyday. Josh set up an arrangement with me. If I stole four cigarettes from my mom’s purse every morning — I could hang out with him and his friends after school. That meant smoking cigarettes in the woods and lighting old TVs on fire. It meant 100% access to his Dad’s porno collection when he wasn’t home and it meant wearing leather jackets and playing street hockey with all the older kids in the neighborhood till the street-lamps came on. It was glorious – but sometimes the Newport 100’s weren’t enough for Josh.
At times he would get really aggressive and burst into my house demanding alcohol or cleaning products to huff. From time to time he would even make me sit outside my Moms bedroom door while he would go through her underwear and sniff them.
“You’re mom is fucking hot and I am going to fuck her,” he would boast.
Being 9 years old I had no witty response to the older cool kid — so I usually just kept my mouth shut and followed his lead. Josh and his friends were the pinnacle of cool to me. Josh made me a mixtape of The Offspring’s “Smash” and introduced me to punk rock. Oh yeah — did I mention him and his friends we’re in a gang? They taught me how to carry a small razor blade in my mouth, tucked between my teeth and my cheek so I could sneak it into school if needed. Josh and I would practice fighting moves for hours in his backyard with the rest of his gang. They were firm believers in pinning down your opponent and punching their kidneys as hard as you could until they failed.
“That’s how yah fuck someone up long term,” Josh would explain.
One morning Josh came to pick me up for school and started raiding the fridge. This was typical – usually he would just grab a couple beers for the bus ride or a string cheese or 2 but this morning he pulled out a carton of egg’s.
“What are those for?” I said.
“A new family just moved onto the street and we don’t want them here. They’re wicked weird – they’re Muslims.”
Being 9 years old in an exclusively White and Puerto Rican neighborhood I didn’t really know what that meant but I put on my Chicago Bulls starter jacket and put two eggs in each pocket. Josh took the carton and distributed the eggs out to the gang as they met up with us on the walk to the bus.
As we got closer I got nervous. Now up until this point I never egg’d anyone’s house and I didn’t really know who a Muslim was – but with peer pressure ever looming I started to mentally prepare for it. After a 5-minute walk we arrived at the house. There was a mini van running in the driveway. The house was identical to mine. In fact we lived on a street where every single house was the same model. I felt a nervous knot ball up in my throat as Josh instructed that on the count of 3 we would all throw eggs at the house. I closed my eyes and waited for the count. “1,2,3,” CRACK!
When I opened my eyes over a half dozen eggs were oozing from the siding of the house. The gang started shouting and screaming from the adrenaline rush it gave them. Josh knew I still had an extra egg in my pocket and instructed me to throw it at the Van. I felt weird. I felt bad because this could be my house! It looked just like my house and I remember a flashing thought of my mother having to clean the eggs off of it.
But on the other hand I didn’t want these guys to think I was pussy. I wanted to be accepted by my older counterparts. So I cocked back my hand and aimed at the van — BUT at that moment the door to the house opened and an older Muslim gentleman and a Woman wearing a Hijab exited the house. The mans face was not angry – but disappointed when he saw the group of hoodlums standing on his front lawn, then the egg yolks beginning to freeze on the siding of his house. He smiled peacefully and said nothing as his eyes locked with mine.
Then it clicked — this was a BAD thing — and right then and there I died. I knew in the deepest part of my soul that what I was doing was VERY WRONG. I knew my parents raised me better than that and I knew racism was stupid. I already thought racism was stupid because the same group of guys picked on me for kissing a black girl on our bus the year before.
With all this swirling through my head and with my tiny hand still cocked back at my ear ready to throw the egg at the van I shifted my aim and I turned around to Josh. As hard as I could I hit that motherfucker square in the chest and bolted as the egg exploded! I don’t think I even made it five feet before the gang grabbed me and held me down while Josh repeatedly punched my kidneys as I cried for help.
After a few minutes the gang let me go and I ran home. I remember I sobbed in my bed all day and called my mom to tell her what happened. Needless to say I never got to watch Josh’s Dad’s Porno’s again. My Mom gave Josh a firm talking too and we never hung out again which forced me to give up on my 3rd grade smoking habit. That morning I learned a valuable lesson about hate and racism. I understood if being accepted and if being “normal” meant being hateful — I wanted NO part of it. So hopefully this election year we go into the polls with that same attitude in mind.