Our first day in the projects, I witnessed —— beat his woman bloody in the courtyard while several grown men watched from their doorsteps. I grabbed an aluminum bat—Black Magic—from the house, but my mother would not let me swing. We can’t create problems for ourselves, she whispered. I was fourteen.


$$$$, whom I’d befriended when he first moved down Washington from New York City, stripped a bound man naked and shot him execution-style by a lake. We used to play Madden in my bedroom and smoke weed and chase coño. When I saw his face in the paper, he looked exactly the same yet utterly unrecognizable.


My ex-girlfriend’s uncle had raped her. We were dating when he got out. I used to walk past his house with a revolver in my pocket, but the time was never right to kill him. Should I have? At the least, me and the homies could’ve left him slumped in some alley. Is that a worthy regret?


####, who I’m on my way to visit for the first time in four years, was involved in a drunken brawl that left one man irrevocable. He calls every few weeks, and I can’t help but hear the same kid who packed my mother’s entire apartment inside a U-Haul and drove her across town for me when I was off at NYU, too busy getting an education to return to the slums, the womb, that raised me. Most folk meet their graves before a friend like that.


My father killed a man down Texas. Almost hanged for it. After an episodic drama I hope to one day make a film, they let him off on self-defense. He stayed in Dallas another five years before heading back North and meeting my mother. I often wonder if he left me an older brother down there, a face like my face with a heart just as broken.


****, who made me laugh more than anyone, overdosed on heroin. We got shot at together once, by the friends of this dude whose baby mother **** had stolen. A gang of niggas fired into the woman’s house,where we sat drinking, while the jealous ex’s daughter danced around us. She wore a pink dress and tinfoil tiara. I never felt so sure of God as in that moment, because I never seen something so wrong.


I went looking to kill men three times. The first, I knocked on this white boy’s door, gun loaded. His girl answered, dazed by the bright winter sun. Where he at? I asked. Police come took him to jail. Well you tell him I said…tell him I said what?


^^^^ and !!!! killed —— and @@@@, and everybody knew it. ^^^^ is serving a life sentence now, six or seven kids spread out across the country like rain. He did not rat on !!!!. When —— died, girls I knew cried. But I only remembered that first day in the projects. I only remembered the blood on his girlfriend’s face.

David Wade received his MFA from the University of Michigan. His fiction has appeared in Kenyon Review Online and Kweli Journal. Follow him on social media @kdavidwade. 

Photo by Paul Bilger