I got into the bank just before the doors closed and the lights went out. I took out my flashlight and it lit up the shiny room. I cracked open the safe, just like every other time, snatched the money and slipped out quickly. I had done it, yet I could tell something was up. About 10 seconds later, I confirmed my suspicions as I heard as I tuned in to the music of a police siren. I jumped into the car just to realize that my squad had abandoned me, leaving the keys in the keyhole for me to drive. Those little chickens, leaving me behind, I thought.
Nevertheless, I had to get to the front seat and drive. I had never done it before, and was regretting the fact. I guess it wasn’t my fault I was only fourteen, but Frank, the gang leader, always said I’d never need to know how for years. Well, I hit the gas…no, that was the brake pedal. I hit the gas, and I was off, speeding away from the flashing lights and bright white Ford Escape, ironically. Anyway, I took a sharp left, remembering the path we’d taken too many times. Second left, first right, third left. By the time I got there, I had probably been on the sidewalk more than the road itself, but besides that, I thought I did a pretty nice job. After all, I got rid of Smokey. I walked into the worn down excuse for a building home of mine and my friends’. They were nowhere to be seen.
Okay, that was a lot of information. Let’s backtrack. My name is Michael. At this point, I have never seen my parents. The only family I know of is my gang. Yes, yes, the type of gang with criminals and gang signs and all that good stuff. My parents, so I’m told, were sent to jail for life for drug trafficking all the way down in Costa Rica. By the way, I live in Texas. Dallas, to be specific, right in the smack center of it, too. I’m fourteen and a half according to Frank, but my birth certificate is nowhere to be found. Very rarely have I ever gone anywhere without at least one gang member, but that would change soon.
Anyway, one day, I was playing a game with Jay when he asked me if I knew my parents.
“No, but I sure as heck don’t want to. They’re in Cos…” I remembered that I wasn’t allowed to speak of my parents to anyone who isn’t named Frank. “Actually, I have no idea where they are.”
“Is that tough, not knowing where your parents are?” Jay wondered. His parents were in another gang in the area.
“Well, I got you guys. Frank is practically my dad,” I replied cleverly. However, this conversation sparked a question in my mind. Is there a way I can see my parents? After plenty of contemplation, I brought this prompt to Frank, who, after pleading and bribing, finally admitted that there was one way. They were to dress me up as a flight attendant I was to sneak into the airplane restroom.
I entered the airport by myself, realizing it was the first time in a long time I was alone outside of home. I changed into my uniform and it seemed to be a piece of cake. Apparently, nobody knows anyone at an airport as the workers just let me slide through them all. However, the pilot looked at me weirdly once I got on board, before asking who I was.
“Michael,” I replied worriedly.
“Sorry,” she said tiredly. “Too much alcohol.”
That worried me as I took my spot in the bathroom. After about one hour got my reason to be worried.
“Uhhhh…is this thing on?” The pilot muttered. “Hey, guys. Soooo…hehehe…I’m gonna take a little 2-hour naptime. See you guys soooooon. Hehe.”
Soon enough, I heard a loud thunk of the pilot dropping onto the plane controls as the plane took a nosedive, probably waking the pilot up. I wondered why there seemed not to be a co-pilot on board. Anyway, just like I had seen on Mission Impossible, I found the trap door with all of the supplies needed to jump off. Time was running out as I stood at the edge, shivering. I never realized how cold it might be when one is moving at 500 miles an hour, but it made sense in retrospect. Back to the event. There I was at the edge of a plane, cold and freaking out. Then I thought of who I was right then. I could rob banks and sneak on to planes, so I must be able to do what is mostly done for fun. It’s just skydiving, no biggie, I thought, and that humor gave me enough confidence to jump off. I immediately regretted that decision. I was freaking out, but I knew if I did nothing. I was sure to land flat onto my face and go splat. For some odd reason, I had a sudden urge to keep living. I tried to remember what my teachers (yes, gangs have teachers too) said about air resistance, and all of the other forces applied. One of the teachers, Mrs. Demino, showed us a video about skydiving and how we will drop slower if we spread out our body, which is exactly what I did. I could already feel myself gliding more slowly through the air. I could also see the ground below me. The ground! I’ll hit it! I reached back for the parachute, pulled the little string and felt myself shoot up in the air before slowly floating downwards. I was safe.
Lucky for me, I was just 50 miles north of the destination. I hailed a taxi, took a long drive and gave the drive a big payment, but there I was. The town square.
I was told to wear red (the gang’s color) under my uniform, and somebody approximately double my age would meet me at the square. I noticed his red shirt and pants, and knew I had the guy. I went to him, wondering what would happen next. We locked eyes, and he motioned me in the direction he started walking. I caught up to him, but he never said a word. He took me to the penal institution, where I was met by a police officer. He also spoke little, but at least greeted me, opposing the first young man. The officer sent me to a man and a woman in orange jumpsuits.
“These people are Laura and Ben. You have five minutes. Sharp.”
I walked up and met the couple at my given booth. “Son! Is that you?” the lady yelped.
“Mom? I should probably call you Mrs. Ahmed, shouldn’t I.”
“That is you! Call me whatever you want to, Michael,” she replied.
“Son, we need to talk.” said the person who must’ve been my dad. No greeting,
no hello, just “we need to talk.”
Despite that, I continued the conversation. “About what?” I asked.
About the gang. You have been born and raised as a criminal and we need to stop before this escalates.”
That triggered me. I come all this way through all of this pain just to realize my parents decided they could just jump into my life like that? I lashed out.
“Says you, the man sentenced for LIFE. You’re hardly my dad anyway, so you have no impact on who I am and what I do. By the way, I am NOT a criminal, so you can get that nonsense out of your mind. I’m not changing anything. Those people, that building, it’s who I am.”
“Son, I know I have no reason to be talking. However, I also know how much potential you have. You don’t have to stay this way. You can turn your life around.”
“How can I have potential when my DNA left me to a gang and are drug dealers.” The whole room suddenly went silent as I left with the mic laying still on the floor.
I got home, got on my sluggish, uncomfortable mattress and cried. I cried like I never cried before. I knew my parents were right. I knew I had to change my ways. But I knew how impossible that would be knowing how I grew up. So I kept on with my life.
Fast-forward to my friends being nowhere to be found. Once this was confirmed, I took the matter directly to Frank, who said they were too far gone and deserved to be taken away, if that is what happened.
“Come on, Frank. They’re our family,” I responded weakly, and worriedly.
“Look, kid,” he said, changing his tone. “Nobody here’s ‘family.’ You fend for yourself, or the big boys take you down.”
I stormed out angrily, determined to find them and save them. I thought about what my parents said. You can turn your life around, my father had said. Remembering his words, I set off to the police station, certain the squad was there. I was stopped by an officer, asking what it was that I wanted. “I wa–” I stopped myself and thought for a moment to think of who I could be. “A new home,” I replied. “A new home.”