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Seeing Double - V Zimlich Vasquez

Seeing Double by V Zimlich-Vasquez from Vantage

The Big 31

I once grew up in a community that was probably not the best community you’d want your kid to grow up in. I mean every night there would be like ten cops lined up on the side of the street dealing with some local wannabe gangsters. Even though all of this was going on, my parents still let me go out and play and I never questioned it because I was a kid and I lived to play. But there was this one rule they always gave me, which was to get inside the house before the streetlights come on, and I never disobeyed that rule no matter what.

So on this one hot day during summer break, I was outside playing football with all my friends in the back of the apartments and riding my bike around the block. As we were playing I spotted Malik and his crew walking down the sidewalk. I always thought of them as some kind of boy band or something because they would all be wearing red and black. Malik was about 20 years old and I guess you could call him the leader of the crew. He would always check up on me every day and ask how I was doing.

One day, as he approached me he said in his deep voice, “Wassup lil man?”

I responded, “Nothing much. You know, same old same old.”

“That’s good,” he said.

As we continued talking about me and how I was doing, he showed me a tattoo that he had on his arm of a big 31.

I asked, “Why do you have numbers tatted on your arm?” To me it seemed like a sensible question, but I guess it wasn’t to his crew because they started to chuckle. But Malik explained to me how that is what made us brothers and that is where my roots are.

He told me to remember that; and as he was leaving, the ice cream truck came around the corner and before he got too far I yelled, “MALIK! Can I have a dollar?” He looked at me for a moment and then pulled out this huge stack of money and put a ten dollar bill into my hand and I thanked him and we went our separate ways.

That night I was out later than I was supposed to be. I rode my bike to 7-11 and it was pitch black outside. As I walked into the store, I went to go get me a donut, and as I was at the checkout the cashier asked “What are you doing out here this late, son?”

I didn’t respond. I just took my donut and left. But as I reached for my bike, some kind of strange force pulled me back. And right when I felt this, some strange man dressed in all black with an all purple bandanna and multiple tattooed teardrops under his eyes hopped on my bike and rode off. I didn’t know what to do, and I ran back in tears to my apartment.

When I got home and explained the story to my mom and dad, they called the cops immediately. My mom yelled over and over, “YOU KNOW WE TOLD YOU TO GET YOURSELF IN THE HOUSE BEFORE THE STREETLIGHTS COME ON!”

When the cops came to the apartment I felt like I was playing 21 Questions with them. They asked for a description of the bike and what the person looked like. I gave them a pretty vivid description of how the guy looked and the cops told me that a local gang not too far from our neighborhood that liked to wear purple had been crossing into our neighborhood and causing trouble. And that was pretty much all the information they left us with.

The next day my dad went to the store and as he was driving he found my bike with some dude on it who was walking with some female. But my dad got it back because, I mean, my dad’s got some muscles and can be pretty intimidating. But he told us that the guy that was riding the bike didn’t match the description I gave for the guy that originally stole it. But I was just glad to have my bike back.

Later on that day I ran into Malik and told him what had happened from beginning to end; even the description of the guy that stole it from me. He seemed really angry after I told him what the guy looked like and told me he’d handle it, so I just left it at that.

Later on that night there was a lot of commotion outside and I looked out my window and saw a guy lying on the edge of the sidewalk. I dashed outside behind my dad and when I got close up it was as if time had stopped because I realized it was the same guy that had stolen my bike who was lying on his back with 3 bullet wounds to the chest. I didn’t know it then, but that was the last time I’d ever see Malik and the big 31.

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