I walk out the door, into the street.
Five or six young men are leaning against cars and a tall metal house-gate they all face toward a tree, around which candles, posters and flowers rest. Most candles, including the three my friends and I left last nice are long burned-out. I wonder if the young mens’ eyes are red from lack of sleep or crying.
In an attempt not to interrupt, I walk on the grass as I pass.
“Is this your car,” one boy asks me, thinking the car he leans on is my off-center destination.
“No, you’re fine.”
“Why you walk around like that?” a young man questions, from across the sidewalk.
“I didn’t want to interrupt….I’m really sorry about your friend.”
I stare at the picture of their murdered friend. Probably a couple of years younger than me, black, dreadlocks, smiling….I don’t know more to the story. Just that he died because of gang violence and a couple of his friends were also shot.
“Where you going,” the young man snaps me into the present.
“Starbucks?” He prompts
“No, I’m going to class.”
He mumbles something I can’t distinguish.
“Down the street?”
“No, downtown, National Louis.”
“So you’re taking the train, what stop you getting off at?”
“I’m going South…It’s in the loop.”
“I guess that’s where all the tall buildings are,” he says, shrugging. “What’s your name?”
“Lily. What’s yours?”
“You can call me T.”
“Nice to meet you T, who are your friends?”
A couple tell me what they go by, another couple have earphones in their ears and do not answer.
I wonder how long they’ll stand there. How long they’ve been in their gang. If they’re afraid. If they’re angry.
I wonder why I didn’t simply say “good morning,” as I walked by.
Artificial barriers–the unknown, fear, lack of education on all sides.
As I walk toward the L, T calls after me. “I like your purple shirt.”