Tag Archives: school

Blood and Guts in High School, the Neighborhood, My Country, and the World

Jose Padua, early to mid 70s
Somehow I kept forgetting how my
high school friend sitting behind me
in the back while I rode shotgun in
my other friend’s car thought it would
be funny to take a length of rope that
was on the floor next to him then reach up
with it, throw it around my neck, and pull
like in that scene in the Godfather when
Luca Brasi meets his early end. Maybe
he was mad that I was up front and he
wasn’t, maybe he was mad I got into school
on a scholarship and he didn’t, and he was
the guy who out of the blue one afternoon
said there was nothing I could ever do that
would make me “look like a human being.”
So I reached around behind me, grabbed
his arm and yanked it, pushed the rope
away from my neck and said “what the
fuck is wrong with you?” because I was
young and wanted to think the best of
people and things and still trusted any-
one my school, my neighborhood, my
country, and the world said was my friend.

-Jose Padua

On Reaching Into My Pocket For What Keeps Me Alive

Photograph by Jose Padua
Forty years ago during Easter Sunday dinner
when our family friend advises us during
a discussion of the state of things, “Never
trust the police,” I look at his white skin,
his short brown hair, and his clean, tucked-in
shirt and remind myself that this isn’t some
former hippie or some other wild pot-smoking
radical type leftover from the 60s but an attorney
who as long as we’ve know him has had
a respectable job and who now lives out
in the distant suburbs far from my city
neighborhood with his tall, broad-shouldered
wife and their young son. I was old enough then
to know that I wanted to become a writer
and when he heard this he said that the most
important thing for me was to have experience
and he mentioned a few other things but never
once did he mention school. And as I grew up
I came to understand that there are a lot
of people who have an easier time than me
speaking to cops and that there are a lot of people
who have a much harder time, and that even
though there are times when the cops can be
of help, that I need to make sure I really need
them before I call them because speaking
a common language doesn’t mean there
will be always communication between us
which is why I make sure they can always
see my hands when I’m getting a traffic ticket
or walking by them on their beat. And I
understand that by saying, “Don’t shoot, I’m
just reaching into my pocket for a book of
poems,” I could either be explaining what helps me
stay alive or else speaking my last words.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua. First published at Vox Populi.