5/6/17

THE GANGBANGER


WAY BACK IN 2000- BEFORE MOST OF YOU WERE BORN, I DECIDED I WOULD LOOK FOR A HOUSE. I NEVER OWNED A HOUSE BEFORE, IN FACT I'VE NEVER OWNED ANYTHING. I WAS NOW 40 SO I THOUGHT IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
I LOOKED AT MANY AREAS OF LOS ANGELES. I SAW SOME REAL GEMS, AND INCREDIBLE DEALS. AT THE TIME I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW INCREDIBLE THEY WERE. ON ONE PARTICULAR DAY I HAD DECIDED TO LOOK IN THE AREA CALLED ATWATER.
THIS WAS AN AREA NORTH OF THE 5 FWY, SOUTH OF GLENDALE, WEST OF SILVERLAKE AND EAST OF LOS FELIZ. ATWATER WAS DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE LOS ANGELES RIVER, HENCE THE NAME.


I PARKED MY CAR IN A LITTLE AREA WHERE ALL THE HOUSES WERE CUTE AS BUTTONS. THEY WERE SMALL, BUT VERY QUAINT. THERE WERE MANY- FOR SALE SIGNS AND OPEN HOUSES. I FELT I'D HIT A GOLD MINE.

AS I WALKED TO A CUL-DE-SAC NEAR LEGION LANE & DOVER STREET I NOTICED THIS BOY IN A MOTORIZED WHEELCHAIR.
I ALSO NOTICED HE'D NOTICED ME. HE WAS EYEING ME SINCE I'D PARKED MY CAR. 
I DROVE, (DRIVE) A 1967 MERCURY COUGAR. IT'S A REAL CROWD PLEASER.
THE BOY IN THE WHEELCHAIR ZOOMED RIGHT UP TO ME WITHOUT HESITATION.

HE WAS SPECIAL. I COULD SEE HE WAS PARALYZED FROM THE NECK DOWN. HE HAD CONTROL OF ONE HAND- JUST ENOUGH TO OPERATE HIS CUSTOM MADE WHEELCHAIR. HE ALSO HAD ON HIS LAP A LETTER BOARD. AT FIRST  I THOUGHT IT WAS A OUIJA BOARD. HE HAD THIS CONTRAPTION ON HIS RIGHT HAND THAT HELD A POINTER IN PLACE, CENTERED ON HIS MIDDLE FINGER.  LIKE SOMETHING STEVEN HAWKINS WOULD HAVE. HE WAS SMILING FROM EAR TO EAR-  LIKE HE WAS EXPECTING ME. 

BTW- DESPITE THE FACT HE WAS SEVERELY HANDICAPPED- UNLIKE STEVEN HAWKINS HE WAS GORGEOUS. HE HAD BEAUTIFUL THICK BLACK HAIR AND BLACK EYELASHES. CLEAR SKIN AND A HANDSOME IF NOT SEXY FACE. HIS BODY DIDN'T SEEMED SO ATROPHIED. OF COURSE HE WAS CLOTHED SO I COULD ONLY SPECULATE.  HE HAD THE SWEETEST SMILE- BOYISH, AND DEEP-VERY DEEP SOULFUL EYES. I WAS GUESSING HE WAS ABOUT NINETEEN, ALTHOUGH HIS EYES WERE THAT OF A SOUL WHO HAD LIVED LONGER.

HIS NAME WAS "MICHAEL". I FOUND THIS OUT WHEN HE SPELLED IT OUT FOR ME ON HIS BOARD. M-I-C-H-A-E-L.
IT TOOK A LONG TIME. FIRST FOR ME TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. THEN FOR ME TO REPEAT THE LETTERS AS HE SPELLED THEM OUT. HIS HAND WAS VERY SHAKY SO MANY TIMES IT WOULD HIT THE WRONG LETTER.
WHEN I REPEATED "MICHAEL" HE SMILED WITH PLEASURE.
I WAS  IMMEDIATELY FOND OF HIM.


MICHAEL WAS TRYING TO SPELL SOMETHING OUT FOR ME.
D-O- DO......... Y-O-U- YOU...... P-A-R-T-Y- PARTY?? 
 HE WAS ASKING IF I PARTIED? WAS HE GAY?! I WAS FIXATED.
 I DIDN'T WANT TO ASSUME SO I ASKED, "YOU WANT TO GO TO A PARTY?

D-O- DO...... Y-O-U- YOU....... S-E-L-L- SELL....... W-E-E-D- WEED?
"NO MAN, I TOLD HIM. I'M SORRY I DON'T."
MICHAEL WAS CRESTFALLEN AND PROCEEDED TO SPELL OUT, 
(I MUST TELL YOU MY DEAR READERS- THIS LAST PART TOOK FOREVER!)
 B-U-T- BUT.......Y-O-U- YOU...... H-A-V-E- HAVE...... L-O-N-G- LONG........ H-A-I-R- HAIR.
HE THOUGHT I WAS A DRUG DEALER!
I EXPLAINED TO HIM THAT ALTHOUGH I HAD LONG HAIR, (DOWN TO MY ARSE) I WAS INDEED NOT A DRUG DEALER. I WAS MERELY IN THE AREA TO LOOK FOR A HOUSE. 
MICHAEL LOOKED DISAPPOINTED, BUT MADE THE BEST OF OUR NEW FOUND FRIENDSHIP.

THERE WAS AN OPEN HOUSE DOWN THE STREET. MICHAEL JOINED ME.
 HE MANEUVERED HIS MOTORIZED WHEELCHAIR LIKE A PRO. 
I WALKED ALONG SIDE HIM. THIS UNLIKELY BOND WAS FORMING.
THE DOOR WAS OPEN, NOBODY WAS THERE. NO FURNITURE, NOTHING EXCEPT FOR SOME REALTOR BROCHURES.
I DIDN'T LIKE THE INSIDE. TOO MODERN FOR MY TASTE. I PREFERRED 1920'S OR EVEN EARLIER IF POSSIBLE. MICHAEL NODDED IN AGREEMENT.

I ASKED MICHAEL IF HE LIVED NEARBY. HE MOTIONED FOR ME TO FOLLOW.
TURNED OUT HE LIVED RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE I HAD PARKED MY CAR. MICHAEL WHEELED UP HIS DRIVEWAY. I FOLLOWED HIM NOT KNOWING WHAT TO EXPECT. 
A WOMAN CAME OUT OF THE HOUSE. "OH HELLO?" SHE WAS SOMEWHAT STARTLED. I HAD TO SPEAK QUICK. "HI, MY NAME IS RICK. I WAS LOOKING FOR OPEN HOUSES IN THIS AREA AND MICHAEL CAME UP TO ME. WE HAD A LITTLE CHAT. "
 I DIDN'T SAY WHAT OUR CHAT WAS ABOUT. MICHAEL LOOKED RELIEVED.
"OH.... OK... SHE WAS HESITANT. I'M “GLORIA." MICHAEL IS MY SON." SHE DIDN'T LOOK MUCH OLDER THAN ME, SO MICHAEL COULD'VE EASLY BEEN MY SON AS WELL.

WE HAD A  SMALL TALK. I ASKED HER ABOUT HOUSES IN THE AREA. WHAT THE AREA WAS LIKE….. ECT.
 GLORIA ANSWERED MY QUESTIONS AND THEN GOT DOWN TO THE NITTY-GRITTY.
"THIS SIDE OF GLENDALE BOULEVARD IS GOOD, BUT THE OTHER SIDE HAS A BAD ELEMENT. WHEN MICHAEL WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL HE GOT INVOLVED WITH A LOCAL GANG.  HE DEVOTED ALL HIS TIME AND ENERGY TO HIS HOMIES. GLORIA SAID THIS WITH ALL THE SARCASM AND VENOM SHE COULD MUSTER.
HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND AND THEY WOULD STAY OUT ALLOT. MICHAEL WAS POPULAR. WE, MY HUSBAND & I TRIED AS MUCH AS WE COULD TO KEEP HIM AWAY FROM THIS GROUP, BUT HE WASN'T HAVING IT. HE WOULD SNEAK OUT, NOT COME HOME FOR DAYS ON END. WE WERE BESIDE OURSELVES.

ONE PARTICULAR NIGHT MICHAEL WAS HANGING OUT WITH HIS SO CALLED FRIENDS.  AS HE LEFT THE CORNER HE WAS JUMPED BY A RIVAL GANG.  HE WAS LEFT TO FEND FOR HIMSELF. GUNS WERE PULLED. MICHAEL WAS SHOT IN THE LEG.   THEY BEAT HIM SO BADLY THEY RUPTURED HIS SPEEN. HE WAS IN A COMA FOR A WEEK.  HE HAS BRAIN DAMAGE THAT MAY BE PERMANENT. WHEN HE FINALLY RECOVERED FROM THE  COMA, HE WAS THEN CONFINED TO A HOSPITAL BED FOR 3 MONTHS. IN ALL THAT TIME NOT ONE OF HIS FRIENDS CAME TO SEE HIM. HIS GIRLFRIEND DUMPED HIM. NOBODY WAS THERE FOR HIM. EVEN MY HUSBAND COULDN'T DEAL WITH IT AND LEFT US. WE LOST EVERYTHING."

ALL THE TIME GLORIA WAS TELLING ME THIS HORRIFIC STORY, MICHAEL HAD HIS HEAD DOWN IN SHAME.

GLORIA LOOKED DIRECTLY AT MICHAEL AS SHE SPOKE. " MICHAEL THOUGHT THEY WERE HIS FRIENDS....  HE WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR HIS HOMIES. THEY WERE SO IMPORTANT TO HIM. THEY'RE ALL GONE NOW. HIS GIRLFRIEND. SHE'S NOT AROUND.  BEFORE THE ACCIDENT SHE HAD BEGGED HIM FOR AN ENGAGMENT RING. 
I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO STOOD BY HIM...... 
MICHAEL IS A GOOD BOY. HE DIDN'T NEED THOSE PEOPLE.  HE'S LOSSED SO MUCH."

 I HAD NO IDEA THIS WOULD BE THE BACKSTORY TO HIS HANDICAP. I WAS FLOORED.
I ASKED GLORIA IF I COULD COME BY AND VISIT MICHAEL. TAKE HIM TO THE MOVIES, PARK OR WHATEVER.
SHE SEEMED SURPRISED BY THIS REQUEST. 
A PERFECT STRANGER ASKING TO SPEND TIME WITH HER HANDICAPPED SON.
MICHAEL PERKED UP WHEN I MADE THIS REQUEST. HE GAVE ME THAT SMILE.
I DIDN'T KNOW IF THIS IS BECAUSE HE WANTED TO SPEND TIME WITH ME AS WELL, OR HE HOPED I WOULD BRING HIM POT? PERHAPS BOTH.
GLORIA INFORMED ME HOW DIFFICULT IT WOULD BE SINCE HIS WHEELCHAIR DOESN'T FIT INTO A REGULAR CAR. SHE ALSO WARNED ME TAKING CARE OF MICHAEL WAS A VERY HANDS- ON EXPERIENCE.  IT TOOK ALLOT OF TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT.

WE CHATTED A LITTLE LONGER AND HAD A NICE TIME- THE THREE OF US.
THEN A VAN PULLED UP IN THE DRIVEWAY AND MICHAEL WENT TO GREET IT.
"THAT'S MICHAEL'S GROUP. THEY PICK HIM UP ONCE A DAY FOR THERAPY AND SUPERVISED OUTINGS.
THERE WERE ABOUT THREE OTHER HANDICAPPED PEOPLE ALREADY IN THE VAN. THE DRIVER GOT OUT AND LOWERED THE LIFE FOR MICHAEL'S WHEELCHAIR.

MICHAEL DIDN'T EVEN LOOK MY WAY OR SIGNAL GOOD-BYE. HE WAS SO CAUGHT UP IN THIS NEW ADVENTURE. THE VAN TOOK OFF. 
GLORIA THANKED ME FOR VISITING AND EXCUSED HERSELF.
 SHE WALKED INTO THE HOUSE.

I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WOULD COME BACK AND VISIT MICHAEL.
I HAD THE GOOD-SAMARITAN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE, BUT NOT THE FOLLOW THRU.
PERHAPS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BECOME A MESS SINCE I DID FIND HIM ATTRACTIVE. HE WOULD EVENTUALLY FIND OUT I WAS GAY, IF HE DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW. 
EVEN IF WE WERE ONLY FRIENDS, MICHAEL WOULD WANT ME TO BRING HIM POT.  GLORIA MIGHT REACT BADLY. THIS COULD CAUSE PROBLEMS THAT I CERTAINLY DIDN'T NEED. I NEVER SAW HIM AGAIN.

LAST MAY 2017, I WAS WALKING IN THE AREA OF  LEGION LANE & DOVER STREET AND I WAS REMINDED ABOUT MICHAEL. I WALKED TO THE CORNER WHERE WE HAD MET. EVERYTHING LOOKED DIFFERENT, BUT SOMEHOW THE SAME. 
I FOUND THE HOUSE WITH THE LONG DRIVEWAY WHERE MICHAEL LIVED WITH HIS MOTHER GLORIA. IT WAS ALL BOARDED UP. THE ONLY HOUSE ON THE BLOCK THAT WAS.

DO YOU EVER HAVE THAT FEELING OF -WOULDA-SHOULDA-COULDA?

 I COULDA AFFORDED ONE OF THESE SWEET LITTLE HOUSES. I DIDN'T REALIZE AT THE TIME. NOW IT WOULD BE WORTH A FORTUNE.

IF I WOULDA DONE SO MY LIFE WOULD BE FINANCIALLY SECURE. IT WOULD BE ALL PAID OFF BY NOW. I COULD'VE TAKEN OUT LOANS, OR SOLD IT.

SHOULDA BEFRIENDED MICHAEL AND BECOME A MENTOR TO HIM.
THIS WOULD'VE FULFILLED MY PATERNAL INSTINCTS WITHOUT ALL THE LEGAL SHIT. IT WOULD'VE ALSO HELPED ME TO BE A MORE SELFLESS PERSON.
 MICHAEL WOULD BE ABOUT THIRTY-SIX BY NOW.... IF HE WAS STILL ALIVE.  

ATWATER WAS UNATTAINABLE TO ME NOW. GLORIA PROBABLY LOSSED HER HOUSE TO THE BANK. I WOULD THINK MICHAEL'S HEALTHCARE WOULD BE CERTAIN BANKRUPTCY BACK IN 2000, BEFORE OBAMACARE.

WOULDA-SHOULDA-COULDA....
MICHAEL AND I HAD THIS IN COMMON.
MICHAEL PAID A BIGGER PRICE.


RICK CASTRO- COPYRIGHT- 2017

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