The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Context: Eric B. grew up in Northeast Philadelphia. He's 54 years old and is a recovering drug addict; he stays at different friends' homes throughout the week.

My front porch step creaked, especially after a spout of rain. I would jump off the second step and cross the speckled sidewalk to the SEPTA bus. 

 I didn’t like going to school. I was your typical 3rd grader who stomped on ants and raced the bigger kids down the block for the seat at the back of the bus.

The bigger kids were always doing something to me since I was the smallest in the class.

“Hey Ronny, heads up!” and the next thing my head would be in a fresh puddle of mud.

Puddles of mud, jars of ants and bags of dog doo—I learned at a young age how cruel kids can be.

I walked home from school one day. It was a 20-minute walk straight up my block and it would be on my right hand side.

My mom preferred me to take the bus, but it was one of those fall days, where the leaves cover the ground in its entirety—I loved those days.

In front of the corner deli, some of the big kids were crowded in a circle, yelling a bunch of cuss words.

“No one wants you here, ya stupid Jew!” a larger kid with big ears said.

I peaked around and saw it was Matthew Klutz, my neighbor being harassed.

I don’t remember what happened next, but I ended up with 4 rocks in my hand, and the next minute they were being plummeted at the bigger kids’ heads.

Johnny, the biggest of them all, had hands the size of softballs. He turned to face me and blood was gushing down his head. It painted his white tee shirt.

I knew what it felt like to feel defenseless, like a country without an army. It was my chance to stand up for someone who was like me, just a little kid in the big kid world.

The big kids scurried away; it felt like a damn movie I swear. I helped Matthew off the ground and helped him brush off his dirty knees. We shook hands for the first time that day and went to hang out on my porch step. 

Front Porch Step

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