15… 14… 13…
Running… Running hard, not able to stop. My heart is going a mile a minute while my legs are trying to catch up. I look over my shoulder for a brief second, and they are still on my tail. Lungs are trying to grasp a hold of the air still left, grabbing any potential oxygen to be circulated into my bloodstream. My skin is drenched; sweat floods my body like I’ve been sprayed with a water hose. It was all normal only a few moments ago…
“For the love of God, just meet me off the corner of 13th and Broad,” I yelled into my red blackberry phone.
I was staring at the stop light, hoping that for once it would change to green, instead of me waiting in the crowd of people for the electronic device to allow us to cross. It was a warm day, a day that many had been waiting for since the winter had stopped sending snow and bitter coldness.
“Where are you right now?” the irritating voice on the other line asked.
“I’m crossing in front of the Gallery, next to Old Navy.”
“Fine. Stay there,” he said as he hung up.
On the stairs leading the back entrance of the Gallery, there were people of all walks of the economic ladder mingling. In the city of Philadelphia, anyone and everyone could always meet at the Gallery to either shop for the latest fashions or deal with the latest illegal commodity. I’ve seen this all too well, the game that most residents of Philly partook in. I sat on the ledge that divided me from the stairs into the Gallery with an attitude.
He’d better not stand me up…
12… 11… 10…
“What do you mean, it’s over?” I said angrily.
He rubbed his mustache nervously, “I care a lot about chu boo but I can’t be with chu right now.”
“What the hell do you mean, right now?” I said irritably, with my arms folded.
“Could you keep it down? We are in public.”
“And why should I care if we are in public? I’m not the one throwing three years away.”
He put his hand on top of mine and I abruptly snatched it away. We had driven all the way to 15th and Swarthmore, near the ocean view of the city. Many people from far and wide came just to see what the city looked like in lights, but for me, I've seen those lights. They became bright one minute and dim the next.
“I love you, you know that I do, but the game is getting real serious right now and I don’t want chu to get caught in the crossfire. Niggaz are getting burn now and I don’t want you to be like any of dem.”
“Then, get out of it while you still can. I’ll be fine,” I said as sincerely as an angry woman could say.
“Now, you know that I can’t. I got to support da fam,” he said, pulling a cigarette.
“Alright, den get a job. Do something other den hustle,” I said. “I don’t want to lose you.”
He kept his hard composure and blew out the carbon monoxide. “I’m sorry, baby, but this is what I gotta do.”
“So, you had to come all the way out here to tell me this? We were just fine and now we are breaking up?”
“There are people following me, trying to hurt me. I don’t want them to come and find you,” he said softly.
“Whatchu mean, trying to hurt you? I’ve been here from da jump. Why should I leave now? You are worrying me, baby,” I asked, fearfully.
“Baby, listen to me,” he said, as he tilted my head to look into his grey eyes. “Once we get back into the city, I’ll drop you off at the subway. After that, erase my number and don’t call me—not now, not ever.”
We got back into his car and drove 35 miles into the city, in silence. What did he mean by us being followed? What did he mean by hurting him?
9… 8… 7… 6…
Nothing but clouded smog did he leave me in. It was dusk. Colors swirled around like a watercolor painting. The streetlights were on and the business of Center City ended hours ago and every store was closing up. I looked in my purse to find that my iPod was wrapped tightly in my earphones. As I walked, listening to Aaliyah singing about being brokenhearted; I saw a group of guys on the corner talking amongst themselves—guys that, when you looked at them, represented the rap culture. The baggy jeans, latest Jordans that looked like a job at McDonalds’ couldn’t cover the cost of them. As I passed by them, they eyed me like they recognized me.
“A yo!” one yelled out.
I’d kept walking, ignoring what I thought was a “shout-out” to get my attention and my number. It never dawned on me that they wanted more than just the occasional “Hey, ma!” or “Hey, sexy.”
“A yo!” another yelled louder.
I looked down and turned my iPod up, ignoring them. My mind kept going back to him and what he said. Like a broken record, he continued to pick at my emotions and what was left of my heart. I turned around and saw the group of guys walking towards me. Nerves escalated and so did the speed I was walking. I saw them speeding up with me, causing me to start a brisk jog.
“A YO!” he yelled on more time.
“Stop following me!” I said, pushing through the slow walkers.
Obviously, they didn’t hear me since they started to run, which in turn, made me sprint. I saw the lights looked like they had swirled along the night sky. My heart started to beat fast against my chest and fear took over. What did they want?
5… 4… 3…
They were still on my back, not breaking a sweat. My legs felt like they were going to fall out but I had to push past the pain. What did I do? What did they want? I turned quickly to the next corner and saw three of the men blocking my exit. Like a cat, I looked for another exit and found three more standing in my way. I ran towards the light to find that it was a dead end, which they slowly cornered me in, like a pack of lions on an innocent prey. I couldn’t breathe and fear itself suffocated me, causing me not to scream. I wanted to hold him again and tell him I loved him. I wanted this whole entire thing to end but what did I want to end?
“This isn’t about chu,” the man said as he pulled something out of his pocket that I couldn’t see in the darkness, “It’s just the rules of the game.”