You Can't Go Home Again
MS: Huggy Can't Go Back
I walk down the street in the neighborhood I used to call "home". The old place looks the same. The decrepit buildings hover over the sidewalk, like ancient sentinels watching over the lost souls down below. The trash litters the alleys, like the pain and loneliness of that time pervades my mind.
Many of the people I knew are gone, but some still remain, like Cora Lee and Sour Joe, and of course, Julius T. Julius T. Washington was my mentor. He took the lonely, skinny kid that I was under his wing and taught me every thing he thought I needed to know. He showed me how to shuffle the cards, and how to make them dance. He showed me how to draw into an inside straight. He taught me how to keep a blank expression, hiding the emotions that roiled within. Julius T. was the King of the cards, and I was his heir to the throne.
As I walk past a building in the middle of the block, I see four boys huddled together on the steps. The oldest boy has a deck of cards in his hands, and he's doing tricks. As I listen to the "oohs" and "aahs" of the younger boys, he reminds me of myself. My smile is bittersweet as I remember when I was his age, and I stop to watch. Suddenly, four pairs of eyes gaze at me with suspicion and mistrust, and all movement stops. Already, they have learned the law of the street. Don't trust anyone, for every stranger is a potential enemy.
As heartache pierces my chest, I long to knock the cards out of his hands and grab his shoulders, shaking him until he understands. Do you really think those cards will get you anywhere, little brother? Is this all you want, to be trapped in this black hole forever? Do you think robbing every poor sap that comes along make you a man? Being a man isn't about money. It's about honor, and integrity, and doing the right thing. Being a black man isn't about knowing how to shuffle the cards. It's about breaking the chains that trap you here and getting the Hell out. It's about holding your head up high when you walk down the street because you KNOW you're somebody. And if you're really lucky, you'll have the guts and the determination to get yourself out of this cesspool, like I did.
But, instead I smile at the smaller version of myself and turn away. As I leave the neighborhood where I grew up, I shed the boy I was, like a butterfly shed's its cocoon. And as I get closer to the man I am now, I realize the final truth. You can look back, but you really can't go home again.