A story’s been stuck within me that I can’t seem to get right. It has to do with the gun violence in my community, Albany. But it’s also about a level of violence that’s loose in our country.
Two men in their early twenties shot each other’s legs. That same night, two men in their thirties plugged each other in the abdomen. A pair of 14-year-olds ended up in the ER with bullet wounds from a big fight. An older man got stabbed in the arm, and then shot in the back. A 17-year-old died in a rain of bullets at 3:15 a.m. just down the street from where I live. The next afternoon, a block further away, a teenager fired off eight rounds at people who were looking at him from down the street.
I call a former gang member weekly to find out what’s what. A call came in while we were speaking. Shots had been fired during a fight between rival groups of kids at the mall, which had only opened days before. Everyone fled by bus.
The local paper ran a blurred-out image of a teenager who’s been indicted for a number of local shootings, one fatal. It had been pulled from an online YouTube video. He’s flashing a mess of cash. In the background is a dude with a face mask on, shiny gun in hand.
The former gang member, Jerome, said guns are easy to get. You don’t need money if your attitude aligns with those who have the guns. None of the safety valves – sports programs, school, the library, church, grandparents, parole officers – are available now.
Jerome showed me his wounds from when he was young. They don’t speak to a kid, he said. You’ve got to surround them with a sense of the ways that love and caring can win out. They’ve got to see how respect can land on those not mimicking the bad shit they’ve seen on the tube, or in their games.
I don’t think I’ve got this story down yet. I can’t see a decent ending. I’ll keep working it until I do.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.