Between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Watts Riots, a young boy learns what it means to become a man.
I know what I think, but I don’t know what’s true.
The sky is burning. Thick black clouds, smoke and dust fill the air. Dust whirls around in towers and columns and arcs against the blue, blue sky.
The city is burning. I am hot and my face is on fire. I am not thinking. I am feeling the flames roaring up across the street, glass windowfronts shattering on the ground, alarms ringing unanswered in the air.
And people everywhere, running and yelling, dancing sometimes, fighting. They are empty-handed in one direction, and then they are laden in the other. Toasters, clothing, small TVs, chairs, radios, six packs, bags of food, a hockey stick. Things useful and things no one in L.A. could use.
I am crying and I don’t know why. This is not my home, and these are not my people. I am crying and watching madness.
A man comes over to me, angry. He is saying something, but it is nothing that makes sense. I don’t understand. He is loud and shoves me, then grabs my bike, pulling it away from me as I stand there.
A woman comes over. She is also yelling, but yelling at the man. She hits him on the head with the flat palm of her hand. He lets go of my bike and walks away.
She looks at me and asks me a question. Several questions. I still do not know what she is saying. They are words that flow like smoke and dust around me.
She stops and then puts her hand on my shoulder. “Go home, boy. You don’t belong here.”
I am on my bike and pedaling on Crenshaw, away from the smoke and fire, back to my home on the hills, where I can see things from a distance, where I live.