A Forgotten Sweater Put Me In The Crossfire Of A Gang War
My father and I drove down from our home in Northern California to visit the hodgepodge of aunts, cousins, uncles, and other distant relatives living in Southern California. One afternoon, we ended up at my father's cousin's place, and he had an older teenage daughter named Sarah. She was the first person I'd seen in a week even remotely close to my age. Plus she had a car, a license, and the most perfectly worn-down Converse sneakers. She was an instant rock star in my eyes, and seeing that we were getting on quite well, the adults encouraged us to go hang out at the mall. First, however, Sarah informed me that she needed to stop by a friend's house to pick up a sweater. A friend's house in East LA.
Our parents had warned us about East LA. Even as we walked out the door, Sarah's mother -- still in hot rollers, with a dishrag wrapped around her thick neck -- explicitly forbade us from going there. But Sarah was unfazed and told me we would only be there for a minute. After all, we were just going to retrieve a sweater. What's the worst that could happen? Sweater-mites? Moth attack? Drive-by shooting?
Spoiler: It's the last one.
Sarah parked on to the right side of the street, in front of a small house with a chain-link-fenced yard. She blew the horn, and shortly after, her friend -- complete with worrying-to-a-14-year-old shaved head and tattoos -- came out with a sweater in his hand. Sarah introduced me, I nodded, and sat idly by as they talked about school, how this one bitch was acting like a bitch, and other notable world events. I stopped paying attention.
And then there were gunshots. I started paying attention again.
It's a sound that tends to focus your thoughts.