I got a gun from my cousin. I only shot it a few times. I had to test the kickback. I know why I got it. I knew my target. I had a plan. I just needed to execute it. My cousin was always reliable. I trusted him. He was the last person I ever trusted. He told me he got the gun from a friend of a friend, untraceable. I always looked up to my cousin Ricky. I knew he would come through for me, no questions asked. 
Me and Ricky grew up together, our fathers are brothers. Well, they were brothers. They lost touch a few months before my father was killed. Ricky was only a few months older, but I still looked up to him. He was in the shit, the life. Whenever I had a problem, any type of beef, Ricky was the one who always had my back. He ran to defend me before he even knew what the problem was. I love my cousin. I used to love my city. I still miss the city from time to time, regardless of the pain I left behind. The places where you grow up never change, just the people. I had to get out. I got my chance, and I took it. 
It had been a year since my father died. My mother’s screams woke me up, not the shots. He was shot four times walking into his own home. The shots alerted my mother, who was waiting for her husband to come home from a late night of doing god knows what. Two children in their teens were now fatherless, a family broken. We had no answers about what happened, but there were plenty of reasons. My father had enemies. 
The funeral was the hardest part. I couldn’t look at my father. He was just laid out, dressed up for the world, but lifeless. Funerals, in my opinion, are the strangest part of life and death. Why we need to celebrate death is beyond me. Hopefully it’s something I will understand with age. Ricky really helped me at the funeral. He stayed by my side the entire time. Most of my interactions were a blur, but I remember Ricky. He didn’t try to make me laugh or make me feel any better like everyone else was trying to do. He was just there for me, something I will never forget. 
I spent the following year frustrated, acting out. I was looking for any excuse to fight, making my mom’s life a living hell. Looking back, I think I was trying to make her hate me because I hated the way she obsessed over me when my father was first taken from us. I was just like my father, or at least that’s what I was constantly told. I didn’t want to be like him, honestly never thought I deserved the honor to be compared to him. He was a man among men. Funny, charismatic, tough, and respected by so many. Feared by most. He loved me and my sister so much, and he adored mother. Of course, he wasn’t without flaws. Late nights, short temper. In a split second he could wild out on all of us, but he always apologized. He wasn’t a saint, he had his demons, but he was my father and he loved us. I know he did. He would kiss us on our heads when he thought we were asleep and whisper, “I love you.” We would scare him by screaming it back and then he would freak out. It was always funny, because he hated being scared. We all watched movies together, and I would catch him staring at us, admiring his family. Nights of laughter, security, and love. I miss those the most.
Our life was derailed. My mother had a sister who lived down south. She insisted we all go live with her. My sister wanted nothing to do with it. She had her boyfriend, and my mother couldn’t leave her. Their life was still in the city, but I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted out. I just couldn’t look at the same spot where my father was killed every single day like nothing happened. I was both envious and in awe that they could, but I needed a fresh start. I wanted to start a new life and make new friends. I knew I would miss Ricky, but I couldn’t ask him to come. He had his own family, his mom and his sisters, and as much as I knew he would want to come, he had a responsibility to look after them, just like he had for me. I knew it would upset him that I was leaving, but his father would never let him go anyway. Uncle Rob would never let go of his protégé. 
Uncle Rob came around every now and then to check on us, but not as much as I thought he would. He had some problems with my father a few months before he died. Brothers are always fighting. It was nothing new in our family. Growing up like they did, it’s still hard to believe my father was the first of them to die. I always thought it would have been my oldest uncle, Reggie. I didn’t see him that much, on account of him always being in and out of prison. They all did time, but he was molded by the system. My grandmother did her best with five sons, but they all ended up in the life, one way or the other. All of her sons, my dad especially, were feared in our city. Can’t lie; Me, Ricky and the rest of my cousins always relished in our fathers’ reputations. Some more than others. Ricky was the next in line to carry on our family legacy. We had some older cousins, but none that had the brains or the balls like Ricky. He was the one I could never be. I never had that thing that he had. But after my father died, I needed to be in it. I needed to make sure that whatever the word on the street was, it reached me.
The details don’t matter. Word trickled down from little bird to a pissed off son. I finally knew who killed my father. I knew what needed to be done and, most importantly, I had an escape plan. Ricky knew I was leaving. He was sad, and so was I. I told him I needed the gun for my travels. Taking a road trip to a new place, I wanted to protect myself in a new city. He understood, but he didn’t care. He never asked why to any of my requests. When he gave me the gun, I started to tear up. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. Keeping my head down, I tucked the gun in my waist. Then I heard it. The last words I’d ever hear from my best friend. 
“I’m gonna miss you, boy.” 
As I looked up, I saw his eyes already filled, about to pour over. My big cousin, my protector. I gave him a hug, hopped on my bike, and left him behind, along with any love I ever had for my family. 
We were leaving the next morning. Me and my aunt were hitting the road for the long drive down south, but I had plans for the night before. People think the young don’t hear things, but we hear everything. Yeah, it might not always make sense to us if we’re not paying attention, but after my father died, I paid close attention. I stayed quiet like children are supposed to do when adults are speaking, but I was very aware. I was militant about hearing between the lines. Fuck reading. I know what happened, I know why my father was taken from us, and I was going to make sure my father was avenged. I owed him that. I owed my mother, who I treated so harshly, and my sister, who I had ignored. 
I’m so sorry, but the city knew. Even if it went unspoken, the city knew, and it needed to be dealt with. The city would remember what happened to my father, and then what happened after. Our family name, the respect my father had, would stand the ultimate test. 
My mother knew I wanted to spend my last night in the city alone. I said my goodbyes, to the ones who mattered at least. So, I rode my bike. I rode around and around the city, saying goodbye to my old spots. The places aren’t special. Mainly I was saying goodbye to the memories. I stopped under the bridge I remembered being scared as hell to walk across and where my sister laughed at me. It was pretty funny looking back. Once the sun dropped, I took a couple of practice shots at the tags me and my cousins sprayed under the bridge. I knew the traffic would muffle the shots. That was the real goodbye, if you really think about it. Three shots to my name, one less than what ended my father’s life. Back on my bike, I pushed the pedals to the same alley where Ricky gave me the gun. I waited until I saw the car pass by on the neighboring street. My stomach felt empty when I realized this would actually happen. I should have eaten. You can plan something in your head a million times, but when it actually comes together it’s an out of body experience. Nothing prepares your body for something like this.
I followed the car and waited for it to park. I knew the area, and I knew the house. I had it planned. I saw the car pull down the alley and into the driveway behind the house. I dropped my bike in a yard a few houses down from my target. I snuck through the yards of the neighboring houses and hopped a fence, and then another, to the driveway the car pulled into. I heard the engine turn off, and my hands got sweaty. My heart was racing. Protected by the darkness behind a dumpster, I waited. I wiped the second thoughts off my hands and gripped my gun. I knew I had four shots left. 
I heard the car door open. He was exposed. I crept from the shadows as he got out of the car and pointed my gun. Finger on the trigger. Now I had his attention. Continuous flashes from headlights off the main road illuminated us both. In between moments of black, we saw each other clear as day. I saw my uncle, the man responsible for my hero’s demise. He saw his favorite nephew, his son’s best friend. I looked into his eyes as he locked into mine. We both froze. It was only a second, but a lifetime of memories flooded my head. I loved my family so much, my uncle included, but this needed to be done. For my father. Uncle Rob took a breath, giving me all the assurance that I never needed. He gave me a look. Not of shock or confusion, not even defeat, just of understanding. A confession in his eyes. Any last doubt was gone. 
“I love you, boy…” his final words.
I emptied the clip and killed my father’s brother. 
To this day I don’t know if my cousin heard the shots, or if he woke up to his mother screaming. But regardless of the facts, I am sorry Ricky. I love you and I miss you boy.
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