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Mi barrio

Salwa C. Jabado

                        For Nadine

I was walking home after circling and finally finding a parking spot near my building,
minding my own business
            these kinds of stories always start like this
and this kid, somebody’s grandkid who gets fed what he likes, like pizza and french
fries, ice cream with Hershey’s syrup on top and a dollar from grandpa whenever he
            who are you?
anyway this kid and his little kid friends, this kid thinks he’s a real tough
            how do you know?
man, he’s ten now and that’s 5 more than he was when his brother choked him for
squealing, but he was 5 and didn’t know better than to tell
            where was this?
mom, that yes, he was watching TV and J.D. went out with some guys for the whole
episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

tough kid, this kid says “hey miss” and I look,             I look thinking this is my
neighborhood we’re in, I say good morning to the woman who washes her stoop
in a house dress and no socks even in the dead of winter,
            what is this really about?
who used to wake me up with her brushing. I smile at the guy who leans his chair back
on my sidewalk his feet up on the park service tree reading all day long every day
listening to left-wing talk radio and never smiles back
            would you?
and don’t act threatened when I walk by the guys playing ping pong near the park
I look at this kid thinking, this is East Harlem we’re in and I’m not lying when I tell
you he says dead on,            he says it in a full outside voice not hollering
down the street at me or coughing it like a joke behind his sniggering hand as I walk by
            is it that bad?
this little 10 year old shit says to me “Hey            miss             you            have            a            
fat            ass” perfectly enunciated, the dream of every English teacher and to my face
            no he didn’t?
and I say, WHAT DID YOU SAY. And he repeats again, full wide boy doe eyes, he says
again “You have a fat ass.”
            And what do you make of that?

Salwa C. Jabado

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