Family

I inherited the life of a gangster at the ripe age of fourteen, with the young mindset that I would prosper under such guidance. They took me in and from that point my life had been determined for me. Where we lived, if you weren’t in the streets then prison was an eventuality that we came to accept. Growing up I hadn’t realized the severity of our situation. In the slums of poverty and crime, it was survival of the fittest. If you weren’t strong enough then you’d fall behind. My brother quickly grasped this social iniquity when he witnessed the murder of our father. I was only six when it happened so I didn’t understand. But my brother did and he learnt that the world was unfair, that we had to stick together to survive. And so, with the loyalty and camaraderie of the local kids, he formed his gang. He took in lost youth, troubled misfits and outsiders. He offered a solace for these lost causes…a family. And in return, they vowed their undying loyalty to him and their new brothers. As his little brother, I grew up around these guys. To me they weren’t merciless thugs but my friends. They were always kind to me and joked with me, saying when I was old enough I would be a part of the family. I didn’t understand, I thought they were already family. That’s the thing, my brother created something brilliant in the middle of chaos, and murder and uncertainty. He created a feeling that had long been lost in our community. I felt united, as I belonged. These boys looked out for each other, cared for each other. I wanted that too and my brother created that opportunity.

***
I remember the first time it struck me as being real, when my eyes were really open to see what dealings my brother and the gang were actually involved in. Sure, I’d committed petty crimes before but when you’re in the back of a van with bags of machetes and the intent of murder, things gets real, swallowing hard as reality doesn’t stop and wait for you to pick yourself up. No, life keeps on going, cold as heck, uncaring and detached. And you’re in it deep, and you have the decision – is this the path I’m going to take the rest of my life or am I going to sabotage my only chance of family, ever. I felt the overwhelming palpitation of my chest, my heart thumping hard and scared. My brother noticed. He looked at me and said the last words I would hear him say ever.

“You’re family, this is what we do. We stick together.”

Then the van stopped and I watched him get out.

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