The newbies don’t know you like we do. We used to hang out on the steps waiting for the ice cream truck at 11 pm, remember? Sure, we were kids and maybe we shouldn’t have been out that late, but we liked the dark and admit it, you liked us out there too.
There were only three concrete steps in front of our house, but that’s where we waited for the ice cream truck to cruise by. The song blared from two blocks away as we gathered up as much change as we could from mom’s old, ceramic vase (the light blue one with the chip on the side). It wasn’t my fault it fell. We looked under the couch cushions and found some more money. The rest we got from dad. Strawberry and vanilla cones for everybody.
The night kissed our cheeks and we laughed as we breathed in the last of the warm summer air. A small chill brushed against my legs and I rubbed them to get the warmth back. Fall was coming. We could feel it.
We ate the crap out of that ice cream, which was just enough to keep us wanting more; the high of sugar—every kid’s dream. And then we went to bed, in the same clothes, no brushed teeth and you knew it and we knew it.
We spent our mornings bike riding, back and forth, down the block. Don’t go too far! Just go around the corner and back! Our wheels crushed the leaves—pulverizing them to dust. And when our parents went inside, our neighbors watched because every kid in the neighborhood belonged to every adult.
And before I put my bike away, I gave our tree, the biggest one on the block, a hug because trees need love too.
That afternoon, we made our way to the Boys and Girls Club, where we’d jump from the top of the steps. We should be dead, but we’re not. No hesitation. No fear. That’s what saved us. Every day, they gave us small cardboard boxes filled with a sandwich, a milk, a snack, and an apple. Nobody would admit it to anybody else, but we were all starving.
And then we’d make our way to Smith’s Park where we’d swing for hours and go down the slide, but mostly swing.
On the way home, we’d hit one of three corner stores: the Damen one, the Erie one, and the one owned by the gangbangers that we weren’t supposed to go to. Damn, why did the gangbanger corner store have the best candy?
We checked our pockets—thirty-five cents. Penny candies it was!
Ukranian Village, you know us and we know you. The newbies could never know you like we do.