We turned West onto Colfax Ave., a notorious avenue, and the first thing we saw after crossing the interstate was an ambulance. Approaching I could see two medics, arms akimbo, talking expressively with each other while a teenage boy lay crumpled on the sidewalk, his head somewhat supported by a concrete slab. “Drunk,” my husband noted, “so they’re waiting on the drunk mobile” which would take the kid somewhere to sober up.
This is Colfax Ave. at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. This is when things are relatively calm.
I felt my muscles tense, and I scrutinized every block. I always knew to avoid this road on my few, very few, ventures into the city. Anyone with eyes could see the broken down church sunk heavily into the ground, symbolizing the weight and ache of this no-mans’-land. The church, unmarked, overrun by shrubs, with broken window panes, looked closed. The housing and businesses didn’t look any better, but they were open. Next door to Miss Rose’s, where you could have your best friend’s name tattoed forever on your forearm while you had him cremated, you could rent a belly dancing outfit or have your lingerie altered. Why there were two new condominiums being erected in the ruble, I’ll never know.
Rewind to a few weeks ago as I sorted through which papers to keep, which ones to drag across the country with me, I uncovered old training papers. Most became kindling for our fireplace, but not before I glanced at them. One paper I tossed still gives me the chills because it briefed me on the gang activity in the state. If you’re a parent, you don’t want to know. But you should. It reminded me, among other things, that this road which we now drove down was a deadly dividing line between two gangs. Now I’m nervous about getting caught in the crossfire.
At 3 PM, I want to laugh at my own paranoia, but at 6PM, on our return trip to the interstate, I stop laughing. More people were about, acting strange, showing colors, talking on the corners. A half-naked man took a shower with a water bottle as we passed by. The night life is just beginning.
Again, anyone with eyes can see this is no place to be, but my new knowledge increases my alarm. I try not to look. I try not to worry. I hope we never come this way again. I wish I didn’t know anyone who calls this neighborhood home.
I’m never quite sure how this chapter of my life is going to effect me, or when my work life will creep into my free life on the street. Sometimes my experience makes me more confident, and then there are times like this night where it makes me more concerned.