I was sixteen, and darkness had fallen

and we’re riding our bikes.

The boys I’m riding with

turn onto 95th street

and I follow

even though we’re headed towards

a white neighborhood.

I figured we were going to turn around

as the first set of railroad tracks

pass under my wheels

I feel fear

creeping over me.

I tell them we should turn


They only laugh

and pedal faster.

I sure as hell

don’t want to go forward

but can’t go back

by myself.

So I plunge into the night

behind the fools on wheels

as we rattle over the

second set of tracks

I know we’ve gone

way too far.

Cars swerve close

horns blaring

laughter in the voices

of my friends

(years before extreme sports)

as the high-beams light on

our backs

and I see my shadow


on the ground

in front of me.

They laugh as windows

are rolled down

curses are flung

along with pieces of garbage

at us.

My nerves jangle

as cars slow down

then pass with a shout of


I’m not ashamed to admit

that on that dark

summers night

my nutsack clenched up

like a peach pit

and shoved my testicles

up into my guts.

Along we rode

another mile

I’d given up on trying to say


their bicycles were bigger

and they were stronger.

They slowly began to pull


I followed as they

turned right on Pulaski

where blacks could get mobbed

and beaten

in broad daylight.

I wished for a street

without so many lights.

I felt like a cockroach]on a wedding cake.

The cars hooted and honked

and swerved at us

like mad bulls.

The passengers cursed

and spat and screamed.

I couldn’t even sweat.

We turned right on 87th street

and headed back east

back towards our mixed neighborhood.

They really began to pump

leaving me further

and further


My heart raced.

A wheeze rattled through my lungs

and I cursed them all.

As we reached Western Avenue

I broke away from them

and rode home

their laughter

pelting dryly

against my back.