“But mom, why do we have to move? Everybody and everything we know is here,” Damien pleaded with his mother.
“Because, Damien, we have to get out of Creighton Heights. It’s not a safe place to live anymore. Remember what happened to Mr. Harrison?”
“Yes mom,” he replied. Mr. Harrison was an elderly man who owned a nearby convenience store where he used to let the kids have free candy for getting good grades in school.
“Well, let me see ‘em,” he would say. Damien would then show Mr. Harrison the grades he made. “With these grades, you’ll either get into college or get cavities, I don’t know which.”
“Thanks, Mr. Harrison,” Damien said with a smile.
“Go ahead, son. Take what you want.”
“Thanks, Mr. Harrison,” Damien said picking up jellybeans, his favorite, “I’ll see you next week.”
He never did see Mr. Harrison again. Mr. Harrison was shot to death a week later coming out of his apartment in Damien’s building. Everybody in the neighborhood was devastated at hearing the news because Mr. Harrison was the neighborhood grandfather. Damien was depressed for a while. After he got back his test grades, Damien would pound his chest with his fist, point up and say, “This one’s for you Mr. Harrison.”
“No buts; get to school now or I’ll take you myself. And you sure as hell don’t want me to take you to school, do you?”
“No mom. Bye,” Damien said as he gave his mom a kiss on the cheek and left for school.
“Why did we have to move?” Damien asked himself, “Why couldn’t we stay here? I know my mom talked about Mr. Harrison, but I don’t know anything about Hamilton. Hell, I don’t know the good and bad spots in Hamilton like I do here in Creighton Heights.”
Damien met up with his best friend Andre Gunn and they talked about the impending move.
“It’s messed up you gotta move man,” Andre said.
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
“I heard Hamilton’s pretty nice, though.”
“Yeah well, I like it here better.”
“D.P., just treat it as a new experience for you.”
“New experience? Leaving everything I’ve ever known for that place! For what?”
“Yo, calm down, I was just trying to help you out. I know a friend whose father was in the Army. He would move like every other year. He didn’t even have time to make friends. He was always getting adjusted to school and by the time he did get adjusted, it was time to move again. You lived in Creighton Heights for all your thirteen years. You made some good friends, and not so good friends. You got a chance that my friend didn’t. Besides, it ain’t the same here since Mr. Harrison died.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“You know I am,” Andre said with a smile as they walked inside the school.
All day in school, and after school, Damien kept thinking of why he had to move. He started to think of ways he could get out of moving from “Crei High” when it hit him.
“I’ll run away! This way, my mom would be so worried that she would have to let us stay here.”
Damien went home and began to put some things in his book bag.
“Better take some cereal bars; don’t know when I’ll get hungry,” he thought to himself, “Hmm, could also take a book, just in case I get bored.”
“What are you doing honey?” Helen asked.
“Didn’t I tell you I was sleeping over at Andre’s tonight?”
“Oh, okay. Be careful out there. I want you to call me as soon as you get to Andre’s, okay?”
At that point, leaving was easy. Of course he wasn’t going to Andre’s, but where he was really going, he didn’t even know. Damien finished packing and debated whether or not to go to his mom’s bedroom to say goodbye. Just the thought of having to say goodbye face to face had him choking up, so he just decided to leave.
“Bye mom; love you,” he said leaving the apartment.
“Bye honey, remember…”
“Yes, I’ll call you when I get there.”
Damien kept thinking to himself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I hope my mom will understand.”
He walked out of his apartment building and just started walking.
“I’ll just walk and walk until I get either far enough from my apartment building or I’m tired, whichever comes first.”
By the time he got to Gary Avenue, he was in the middle of looking back at his life. “I can’t believe I’m going to leave Barry’s.” Barry’s was the place Damien would go for his haircuts.
He would go in and Barry would say, ”Hey, if it ain’t little Damien.”
“I’m thirteen now Mr. Barry; I’m not little.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Why don’t you get up in this chair and show me.”
Another time, while he was getting his haircut, a kid, about five years old, started to cry in one of the other barber’s chair.
“Can you imagine that used to be you, Damien?” Mr. Barry said.
“I wasn’t like that, I was tough.”
“Yeah, right, Damien, you were worse than that kid,” snickered another barber.
Damien kept walking and looking at all the places that held special memories. “Hmm, United Cinemas, and there’s Georgetown Bank.”
While he was walking, he saw a homeless guy in the alley looking for food in some garbage cans. Damien thought to himself, “Maybe he’d like this cereal bar.”
“Here you go, man,” he said, tossing the bar to him.
“Thanks. What else you got?” the homeless man asked.
“That’s it, and a book.”
“Oh, yeah? Let me see,” he said, grabbing Damien’s bag
“Let go of my bag!”
“Let me see what ‘cha got!”
The man then wrestled the book bag from Damien’s hand and shoved him to the ground. “Why are you doing this to me?” Damien asked. “All I wanted to do was be nice and help you out!”
“Shut up, kid.”
“The kid said to let go of his bag,” a voice from deeper in the alley said.
“Mind your business, prick,” the homeless guy said.
A towering figure wearing a ragged business suit came out of the shadows and repeated, “The kid said to let go of his bag.”
The figure then came up to the homeless man and grabbed Damien’s book bag and shoved the homeless guy into the pile of garbage cans. All that could be heard was metal clanging, and then a POP! The homeless guy then started to scream like nothing from this world, grabbing his arm.
“You bastard! You broke my arm!”
“That’s what you get for picking on the kid,” the figure said.
The homeless man whimpered off, clutching his broken arm.
“You okay, kid?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Damien said, getting his bag from the stranger.
“No problem. What in the hell are you doing here anyway?”
“I’m running away.”
“Because my mom and I are moving to Hamilton.”
“And you don’t wanna move, huh? I was in the same spot as you.”
“I loved this place too much. I lost my job, wife, kids, and my house because of it.”
“But you’re wearing a business suit. How you living on the streets?”
“Haven’t you seen this thing? It’s older than dirt! I worked for Thomas and Thomas Advertising Agency. They were moving their offices to Easton and wanted me to come with them. But I rejected the offer because I loved this place so much. My wife was furious with me, so she divorced me for making a ‘stupid decision.’ She took everything.”
“Tell me about it. To make it even worse, since I rejected the offer, Thomas and Thomas laid me off. I said to myself, ‘That’s okay, I’ll find another job.’ It just so happened I didn’t; nobody was hiring, not even the fast food restaurants. So I couldn’t rent an apartment or get a car. So here I am, living on the street because I love Creighton Heights so much,” the man finished scornfully.
“Man, that’s messed up.”
“Yep. Look kid, this place ain’t what it used to be, so go back home and tell your mom that you’ll love to move, because if you don’t, you may end up like me…or worse.”
“Wow, thanks, sir. I will. I hope things get better for you.”
“Me too, kid; me too.”
“Here, you can have the rest of my cereal bars. And my book.”
Damien grabbed his bag and headed back to his apartment and thought about what just happened. “Damn. That’s totally messed up. Here’s a guy who had it all: wife, kids, house, job, everything! And he threw it all away because he loved this place so much. I love Creighton Heights, but I don’t think I love it so much I’d want to live on the streets. Maybe he’s right; maybe I should go ahead and move to Hamilton. Besides, I’m hungry.”
“Damien, where have you been? I was worried when you didn’t call me!”
“I know. I lied about going to Andre’s.”
“I know. I called Mrs. Gunn and she said she didn’t know anything about you staying over there tonight.”
“I wanted to run away so that I didn’t have to move to Hamilton.”
“Run away? Do you know how many crazy people are out there?”
“I know, I know. I understand why we have to move.” Damien decided not to tell her about the situation tonight. He didn’t want to stress her any more.
“Well, first I’m glad you’re okay. But I’m also glad that you finally understand why we have to move.”
Damien and Helen shared a hug. The following morning in school, all Damien’s friends and teachers said their goodbyes. After school, Helen and Damien finished packing the things they were going to carry on the plane. A taxi honked as they finished packing.
“That’s us, honey.”
After getting out of the taxi at the airport, and checking in, they trekked to the gate.
“Flight 347 to Hamilton, ready to board,” the Public Address announcer said.
“That’s us, Damien. Come on.”
“Hmm, that’s funny.”
“The flight number: 347; the same as the beginning of our phone number.”
“Hmm, guess so. I knew I raised a smart son.”
“Yes you did,” Damien replied with a smile.
“I wonder what it’ll be like living in Hamilton,” Damien thought to himself, “What would school be like; the kids; everything. I guess I need to see for myself and take advantage of it. Well, here’s to new beginnings in Hamilton.”