When I was young, only about five, my parents and I lived in a townhouse in the city. It wasn't the best side of town, although when my father had bought the house in the late 1970's, the neighborhood was made up of middle-class families. By the 1990's, however, the houses had grown old and weren't as nice as they once were. The neighborhood had slowly been taken over by landlords who rented out the old houses for good rates. Crime went up and those who could afford it, moved.
At the time I was very young and didn't understand what was going on. I didn't realize that my parents had decided to move so that we wouldn't have to be worried about being robbed or shot in drive-by shootings.
We managed to buy a house in a the suburbs of a town that was only thirty minutes away, but we had a hard time selling our old house. In a way, this was fortunate, because every time I went with my father to help fix up the house, I noticed things about the neighborhood I had never noticed before.
I grew older and lost my innocence. Last year I went to the house for the last time. For eight years the house had been empty and unsold. I took a walk around the neighborhood and finally understood why my family had moved.
At the playground near my house there were syringes. A woman staggered out of a house crying, her face bruised. A car drove by and slowed down as it drove past me. Five men stared at me from the vehicle. They slowed down even more to match my pace. I was terrified, but ignored them and kept walking. Eventually they lost interest and drove off, but not before making cat-calls, whistling, and shouting obscenities.
I looked down at the concrete sidewalk and realized that it knew why my parents had chosen to move, even if at the time, I did not. The sidewalk had witnessed other incidents like the one I had just experienced. It had stood sentinel over drug deals, abuse, and shootings. The houses stood by in a tattered row, faceless onlookers sitting in the stands.