Jesus hold my hand. (This is retitled S. Story). Hello world.

Class is over and I have a few minutes before I pick up my date for tonight. She's a lovely girl who I met in school this week. Perhaps she is your daughter? Who knows? So I thought I would sit down and write this letter to all the mothers and fathers out there. Maybe somebody will read it, maybe not. I am sorry, but I can't give you my name. But that's not important. What is, is I'm a man of ghetto breeding. In a more romantic time I would be called a rebel. You know the kind, it's the boy wearing jeans that haven't seen a washer since the Maytag man last came to your house, a tooth pick dangling from his mouth and a t ee shirt with a pack of camels rolled up in the sleeve. When you answer the door you flash me a cold stare. My grin says stick it pop. At that moment your daugh ter comes flying down the stairs; grabs my arm and we leave. I'm talking about y our daughter, the one who has straight A's, a bod that won't quit and your wife' s white dress waiting for her on her wedding day. As I take her away in a beat u p Chevy, you watch from the window, a shrug the only company for your thoughts. You turn away, really not worried about your daughter. Not because you trust her . You're not worried because you know the above isn't true, except in movies lik e Rebel Without A Cause, Reckless or the Outsiders. If it were true, you still w ouldn't worry. After all, you, you grew up in the late fifties, early sixties, i n a culture where the backyard fallout shelter, and the backyard barbecue were a sign of the times; the ultimate death sitting side by side with the ultimate go urmet treat. You sat in a dark theater and idolized James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. You sang along with two men who were synonymous with the word rebel: Bu ddy Holly and the Big Bobber. You even considered yourself a rebel. At least unt il you got married. Then you still considered yourself a rebel, but only in your dreams. So you're not afraid for your daughter. After all you know that rebel i s just a word in the dictionary. So many letters high and so many long. You know that in the end James Dean always smiled real nice as the credits rolled to a c lose. The Big Bobber may have crooned, 'Oh baby, you know what I want,' but he o nly wanted it on vinyl, not on some dingy bed, the dim glow of the hotels neon s ign breathing in from a grime soaked window. As for Buddy, in the final analysis , what father wouldn't trust his daughter in white to a man named Buddy who wore glasses? But it really wasn't the glasses that made you feel secure, or the kno wledge that James Dean was just two hours of film. It was the boys themselves. T hey may have acted the rebel, but you knew in your heart of hearts, that in the end, they came from behind the same white picket fences that you lived behind, n ot the burned out sub-culture passed along side the expressway going to and from work. No sir, and as you grew older, they, Dean, Buddy and the Big Bobber, neve r grew old and in not doing so became a younger version of you. So in your mind, and like you did, they could be counted on to do right by that white dress hang ing in the closet. You know something, you were right, the movie rebels always d id right by the girl in the white dress. But I don't live in a movie; I live in the South Bronx. You know, that place that you pass on the way to work. That pla ce where just surviving is a full time job. So yeah, I'm a tough cool mother. By my eighth birthday I had seen everything life's had to offer, and then some: mo thers selling food stamps for a bag of white dreams, their nods helping block ou t the real life nightmare of their baby burning up in a tenement; pimps beating their women until it hurt so bad that it just didn't hurt anymore; cops sucking the serious end of a thirty-eight in the abyss of an abandoned building, crying: I just can't take it anymore. Other cops selling drugs in the same building. Ju nkies picking the body of the dead cop to buy drugs from the other cops... Yeah, I'm a tough cool mother. But I've already said that. Maybe I'm trying to convin ce myself. You see, I just buried a brother. He died of AIDS. You know, that dis ease that Jerry Farwell says is God's wrath on gays. But he wasn't gay. He was o nly thirteen. His only sin was seeing a toy on TV. But momma couldn't afford it. So he boosted it from Macy's. His second sin was getting caught. The next sin b elonged to the police. They locked him up in the Tombs. It was a mistake, they s

ay. He should have gone to juvenile detention instead. Call his parents and he's home in five hours. Some mistake. At the Tombs a prisoner trapped him in the sh ower and turned him out... ...three times. I want you to understand he was only thirteen. I need you to understand he was only thirteen. He was so thirteen that when he looked at me the love in his eyes was never disguised as something else . I was his hero, just like in the movies, just like in Leave it to Beaver. Even when he asked me why, why do the rats gnaw at his little sister's feet at night while she sleeps, why was momma so tired all the time and why was dad, ten year s gone, killed by, but not in, a war that couldn't give him a job when he came h ome. I never had an answer for him. But still I was his hero. I was the big brot her who was attending city college. Eventually I would have all the answers. As he lay dying, his eyes still believed that. Well he's gone now. But as you can s ee, sex, drugs and violence were to my upbringing as Wheaties and wheat bread we re to your kids in Scarsdale, or an east Fifty-Sixth street condo. I bet you thi nk you're safe behind all that glass, or that white picket fence. Well, you're n ot. It's time to bring the war home. You see, I also have AIDS. After my brother died, I sort of freaked out. I quit school and starting shooting drugs. Guess I picked up AIDS from a dirty syringe. But don't worry about me. I stopped shooti ng drugs several months ago. Doctors say I'm fine. Might even live three years, maybe four. Also, I'm back in college. My grades are great. One more thing. Like I said at the beginning of this letter, I'm taking your daughter out tonight. B ut don't worry, I don't wear a pack of Camels rolled up in my shirt sleeve. I qu it smoking, it's bad for you health. But if I did have a pack of smokes, I would keep them in the breast pocket of my sport coat. In fact, I'll look very nice w hen I come to your house. And as I leave with your daughter, I'll think about my brother, how he died, then about the old adage that what you own comes back to haunt you. Then I'll take your daughter's hand, smile at you and say goodnight.

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