Fiction · Life

Be careful what you wished for

Photo by Andrew Neel on

I knew a guy who was pure chaos. Not in the sense that his life was a mess, but in a sense that he lived it chaotically. He was basically a scattered head. Everything had a system, but also not really. The guy was Don.

Don smoked weed almost every night and drank on the nights he didn’t smoke. He was a 59 years old man, not a college kid. But he enjoyed life the exact way he would do as if he was a kid. There was nothing wrong with that. When you were happy and energetic all the time, then you could do whatever you wanted.

I worked with Don doing safety inspections for New York City housing projects. He told me he was from a project himself and his family still lived in one. He was the only one that got out. But it wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

When he was a kid, he was embarrassed because he had to live in the projects. He had to live in a small apartment in one of those red bricks buildings that was signature to the housing projects. From miles away, people could tell that your building was a project building. And that meant they could tell you were poor. Your family was poor.

His mother left South Carolina alone, bringing five kids with her because it was “fucking racist down there”. She was working all types of jobs in New York City feeding 5 kids at home. They never had enough of anything. Don had one pair of shoes for forever. He wore it till it was torn all over and still had to wear it. He was fed up with that, of not having enough, of not having anything decent in his life. So he stole.

He stole only a new pair of shoes at first, cause that was all he needed. But after he stole a pair of shoes and nothing bad happened, he realized that shit was easy. He could do more of this. He could have more and his friends wouldn’t laugh at him for not having anything anymore. So he kept stealing left and right. A little bit at first then a bit more then a bit more. He got greedy and went for bigger scores. And greed was everyone’s downfall. He got caught stealing and was arrested. When he went to jail, his mother was crying. She cried so much that all he remembered from that moment in court was his mother crying her eyes out on the bench.

Don sipped on his shot of tequila while telling me that I was too young to understand, but remembered, always be careful what you wished for. He left the project housing for the first time since he was five. And he went to jail.

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