I almost do not remember myself not being part of our neighborhood gang. I think Morales recruited me when I was about seven or something like that. I clearly remember walking past the arcades near the cheap bar uptown and seeing Morales taking the protection money from the bar proprietor. Morales was not a person one could overlook. Tall, well-built, jet-black curly hair and piercing look of his seemingly omniscient eyes made him stand out from the crowd. He must have paid attention to the way I was looking at him with a blind admiration of a loyal dog, - and talked to me. I was a miserable fellow back then lean and sick-looking, wearing cracked glasses and my elder sisters pants that were already too small for me. Morales asked what my name was and if I was hungry. I was always hungry. My Mom would seldom cook as she was working night shifts at the local cafeteria and slept during the daytime. I do not remember having a father. My sister got married and went to live with her husband. So most of the day I was left to myself and would just cruise the streets after school and sometimes even instead of it. Morales bought me a big plate of French fries and a jumbo cheeseburger and asked if I was interested in making some extra cash. I readily agreed. He said I had to deliver a very important package and gave me a dirty piece of paper with an address written on it. That is how it all started.
When I turned 17 I have experienced nearly everything. I bullied weaker kids, I peddled cigarettes and fireworks, and I even participated in shooting several times. Morales disappeared from the gang by that time and I was longer obliged to serve him. I hardly imagined my future and had practically no ambitions outside the gang context. We would spend our days joy-riding, gambling, deliberately getting into fights and then would just drink half of the night. There were always a lot of girls around us. They were special type girls, cheap-looking with too much make-up and tight-fitting clothes. I was a little afraid of their predatory long nails polished with something bloody red and generally aggressive and vulgar manner of conduct. So I would steer clear of them which made them hate me for some reason.
That day I was trying to mug a fat kid with an expensive Walkman when I first saw her. I should be more precise and say that actually before I saw her I felt her fist on my face. I never was more surprised in my life than that late afternoon when this freckled tiny girl jumped on me out of nowhere and started to punch me. The fat gut used the opportunity and fled the scene in no time. I must have been looking at her so stupidly surprised that she just stopped punching me and laughed. Her laughter sounded like thousands of tiny bells ringing cheerfully. I saw two perfect rows of white teeth and huge lilac eyes. You werent seriously going to hurt that helpless couch potato, were you? she said with a British accent and ran away. At that moment I was absolutely sure I had to follow her and talk to her. I had no idea what I was going to talk about; I just knew I should be part of her life.
This freckled girl is now my girlfriend. Her name is Emily and we have been together for two years already. Looking at her while she studied or tried to find a temporary job to pay for her studies I entered a completely different world, the one where your accomplishments are not assessed in terms of how much weed you managed to sell today. She helped me realize there was more to life than cruelty and acting out. She did not even have to tell me any of that; she just was herself. We rent an apartment together and next autumn I am going to enter a university too. I decided to study Sociology of groups. I think this is the field I already know a lot about. Though I gave up hanging out with other gang members, I do not think that I will ever actually stop being a gangster inside. It must take a lot of time to fully abandon gangster psychology but I hope that life with Emily will help me overcome these issues and change my life for the better.
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