Unaware of the Stakes
I was too young
To be hanging out with
But they did no harm
And they talked
Like I did,
So I think that’s why they let
Me be me
And let me see the
Cool things they all did.
At the house we had
Xbox and Risk
We all slept in the garage
And exchanged music discs.
At one point on youtube
They put on the song Teardrop
And as the night wore on
My ears were enblissed.
And at 3am when the
World was taken over or
The pieces on the board
Had dug in for war,
A guy named Ian had a
Childish thought and
Said he wanted to go
Give his ex a message.
So at 3am in
One day in 2012 while
I was still in middle school,
I walked with the older kids
Out into morning.
My parents had no clue where
I would be going
Barefoot on pot-holed streets,
Onto broken glass and shredded rubber.
I walked out with the college kids
From last of the suburbs.
The city was too bankrupt
To keep the McDonald’s on
Baseline open past midnight,
So after three miles of walking
We just had to continue
Through the orange lights,
And the bridge at Boulder
That had collapsed overnight
Months ago when it rained too hard
And the river to Redlands
Couldn’t contain the cargo of
Big Bear’s runoff.
And we checked out the damage,
Touched all the rubble.
We got our fill of the dark
And kept moving uphill
On Base Line drive.
Without a car we proceeded up
The inclined streets.
It was maybe 4am now and we
Weren’t showing signs of stopping,
Until drama at the top had caused
The guy who put on Teardrop
Take a pause and walk back to drive
His Model T and come back for
His girlfriend suffering from PTSD.
Some drama I still can’t understand,
To attention I wrenched from the
City lights and at the top of Base Line
I laid down in the road on my spine,
Taking all the weight of two-hundred
Thousand lives on my back, not caring
About the drama at the back of the line
While Ian did me a solid and laid down too.
Time was getting on and our numbers dwindled
We counted six among us who kept walking
It was getting later in the day and the
Sky was lighting, dawn would be upon us
When we weren’t ready
Ian used his ex’s porch as a bathroom.
Went to extremes, I’d say, with the
Journey we put into it, not using the car
Or being less subtle with a fire engine
Like the marshalls were driving
In the middle of the night to go fight
Fires caused by the meth lab explosions
On the west side of Highland.
While we were in the east,
We descended the hill.
At Base Line, Ian couldn’t keep to himself
That he had feelings for a girl in the group
And when she pushed him away he couldn’t
Stand to be seen, went on ahead of us by about
Twenty minutes or so, and we caught up
With him at Immanuel Baptist,
Near the storm drains my best friend and I
Had poured through.
A few times it had made sense to ask what was
Going on, but as a kid in middle school
I didn’t really care for the politics in a
Friend group I wasn’t really a part of.
I was only there maybe because I was
Still awake and alive at 3am,
But as we crossed Boulder again
It was well past 5.
Ian was sulking and I was far ahead.
We passed the freeway bridge
And I was in the field where our local
Denny’s was supposed to be built.
I sat on a rock in that field
And watched with innocence,
Free of the crime this city was
The pink and orange beauty of
At 7am in a place I shouldn’t have
My parents would have worried sick
If they knew I wasn’t asleep in the
Suburbs, but the chance of adventure in
My barefeet wasn’t turned away.
I can’t even remember how
Old I was,
Or why Ian had an ex,
Or exactly why my parents couldn’t know.
I remember sitting on that rock,
Above all the infamous,
Watching a California dawn at 7am
In a place I shouldn’t have even been.
Because for whatever reason
It felt like it meant something more
Than living in the dirty, starved ego
Of poor, bankrupted San Bernardino.