Sometimes, Moses thinks that nobody would ever choose to be in New York, especially in summer, in August, in Harlem, when the sidewalk is all but hissing and, somewhere, sirens sobbing in the hot dark. What he feels for this place is hate as much as love, a wild and ragged hopelessness right down in the core of him and a desire to prove himself if only the opportunity would come from somewhere, anywhere and present itself at his door. Because he's never going to have a chance to go looking for it, not if the block holds on to him. And it might. At night, the heat seems almost violent, the humidity humming, pressing in like fists and they hang on stoops stripped to undershirts. Somebody bust open a hydrant earlier and the water spewed out like a fountain and Moses stood there, soaked to the skin.
"Whatcha doin, man?" asked Pest, skinny hands on skinny hips, head canted to the side.
Moses did not have words to tell him that he's waiting for something to begin. Downtown, Time Square is splashed with bloody neon and Central Park is wide and dark.
Sometimes, him and Pest get on the subway and it feels like they could ride for days, out to Brooklyn and back again. Up the stairs and they're back on the block, back where Jerome's trying to fix his goddamn bike again and Dennis is dancing with somebody's beautiful, beautiful sister, her polka-dotted skirt flaring out like a sail when they spin.
Watching them, Moses thinks that his problem might be that he was born too late.
Where's his war going to come from? How's he ever going to test how far he can bend before he breaks?
The two of them, him and Pest, smoke one cigarette between them, passing it from hand to hand. They curl their fingers like convicts on show-reels. They square theirshoulders and lift their jaws and Tia clicks her tongue against her teeth and rolls her eyes.
"Look at you," she says, disdainful and full of pride. "Playin' at being men."
But they are men - just nobody knows it yet but them.
He don't tell her that, though.
The girls sing in shaky harmony and Moses tips his head back. There's too much light, the sky stained, but he imagines stars beyond it.
Pest reaches out and flicks the hem of Gloria's skirt. Across the street, Probs and Mayhem chase and cat-call between the dumpsters. Sam walks down the street, the hem of her skirt swishing and Moses catches himself imagining stockings and garter belts and the very particular look in her eye because, whatever she thinks of him, she ain't never treated him like a boy.
"Hey, Moses!" says Tia, holding out her hands. "Come dance with me."
And he does, with one last glance at Sam.
Things have been discovered before they can be discovered again.
America can wait. The block's wide enough for now.