Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slipping

The kid across the street was 10 when we moved in nearly 6 years ago. He was a short, wide child, and hasn't appeared to change physically since 2004, though he smokes cigarettes now. I see him on his front porch, sneaking those puffs, with a worried look on his face, as he peers to the back of his house to make sure his grandmother doesn't catch him. It's not okay for a 16 year old to smoke, but I still see him as the 10 year old boy; it's distressing to me that he'd pick up such a terrible habit. But, it could be worse. I won't rat him out, but I hope his grandmother catches him, and soon.

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A young white woman in a Honda with PA plates has been pulling up alongside our house every day for the last week or so. Glen noticed her first, early last week. She doesn't have the hallmark emaciation of the drug users we're accustomed to seeing around here, but we couldn't figure out why else she'd be idling near our dining room window every day at the same time.

So, I figured I'd go outside with Matthew, and stand on the sidewalk, near her car, which is also near my steps. If she was idling, say, to pick up one of our neighbors for a social visit, she'd stay put; if she was idling in front of my house for drugs, she'd probably pull away after a short period. I knew it was risky, but this is my home, and I can take my son out to my side yard if I choose, even if there's a strange woman hanging around, possibly for an innocuous visit with a neighbor, or possibly to buy drugs. When she saw my animated, curly-headed baby, she smiled — genuinely. Then, she fumbled with her purse, her cell phone. Glen pulled up, and even though I was perfectly content to hold my ground, I was relieved to see him. Matthew laughed and bounced in my arms when he saw his daddy, and the young woman smiled again. I stood by her car while Glen parked; and after Glen crossed the street to greet us, the woman in the Honda pulled away.

I don't want that woman — and others like her — to think her little habit isn't hurting anyone. Her actions put the drug trade right in front of me. I want her to see my face as she conducts her supposedly harmless business; I want her to see my family as she degrades my neighborhood. I hope she's filled with a shame that motivates her to change her ways, or at least the corner where she waits for her dealer.

I don't want my child to look out the window, or over the fence, and see what I see now. I do not want him thinking the chaos in this city is normal.

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The city is full of many beautiful things; beauty that should be addressed and nurtured and advertised; and I can be a cheerleader from time to time. But I am not going to turn my head to the the dilemmas in our community. We've done that for too long. It's currently after midnight on an unseasonably warm Thursday in April, and my idiot neighbors have been whooping it up across the street for the last two days, non-stop. Included in that mess of people is one very small child I can hear and see from my window, running, screaming, laughing, crying; too young to understand she is only an accessory, like an attractive handbag, in her mother's ensemble; and sadly, one that may get cast aside as the seasons change. That poor little girl will probably grow up too fast, like so many other kids in this city.

I know my loud neighbors, and the neglected little girl hanging with them tonight, and even the drug dealing that happens on my corner, are minor compared to some of the nightmares that happen in this city. The story of the 7-year-old girl who was pimped out by her 15-year-old sister and raped repeatedly is beyond my comprehension; I cannot even imagine what may have brought that about. I heard on the radio today that our sense of fairness is not innate, but rather, is fostered by our communities. Some days, I'm afraid the community in which I live is one of those without a proper sense of fairness.

A huge factor in our lack of fairness is apathy, and that's something we can change.* If we fight our fears, and stand up for a better life for the good citizens in Trenton, particularly those who are unable to speak for themselves, hopefully there will be fewer stories in the national news about the atrocities against Trenton children. And hopefully there will be fewer people silently slipping through the cracks, along with our humanity.


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* Sorry to get all preachy. I hope I don't sound like a pompous ass.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you don't want Matthew looking out his window and seeing things like this, you really better move.

Mister Clean said...

I see you're now affiliated with The Trentonian. It's a lovely paper that employs award winning columnist and staff writer LA Parker. So, congratulations.

What I really want to know is, what is the Princeton Unbuttoned lady really like? She's such an articulate matchmaker. If I were not married, I would totally empty my bank account to allow her to set me up on dates with uptight, boring Princetonians.

Chrissy said...

The two of you have brought up so much in two small comments! First, Mister Clean: I think PU is too sophisticated for all of us here in Trenton, which is why she gets such primo real estate on the Trentonian's blog center. She is so sophisticated that she won't even post our comments (one of mine was deleted earlier in the week). On a slightly more serious note (sorry), the Trentonian deal brings about many complex thoughts; a for-profit enterprise using freebie content is kind of...hmmm...a drag. But I'm doing this for free, anyway, so it's nice to get any extra traffic my last place position on their page might bring my way.

Anonymous: I'm all for anonymous speech, but I suppose knowing who you are would help add credibility to the "just move" advice. Are you a former Trenton resident who had enough? A police officer, especially one with knowledge of what might happen in a few months to some of the derelicts in my area who have been arrested? I am not so naive to think that everything here will suddenly improve when we get our new council and mayor later this year, especially in light of the drastic state budget cuts. But things, often, DO change for the better. NYC went from having a very high crime rate, to having one of the lowest for its size. Newark seems to be experiencing a similar change for the better, though it's too early to say for certain. While many neighborhoods in Trenton took a dump in the last 20 years, some have held on, and in some cases, improved. Sometimes fighting is exhausting, and not worth it. But I think we'll hang on for a few more years, since "just moving" is so very difficult, even in a great market.