When I joined the gang I was little more than a child. Being twelve I thought it was cool to be one of them, to be chosen, so I worked my way up the ranks.
It was a slow process, much slower than I wanted it to be at the time, but, now that I’ve come to realize that isn’t the life I want to lead, I’m glad of it. They made me spend three years being a runner. During that time I learnt how to be quick, which is something you really need to be when a rival’s coming at you with a knife, and I gained more stamina than I thought possible, so I’ve been able to outrun the police more than once.
Being a runner isn’t safe. Everyone wants to take them out, because of the job they do. I was one of the best. Instead of trying to kill me the rival gangs tried to hire me and that is almost more terrifying, as I knew if I was stupid enough to take them up on their offer one of my own would remove me. One thing you have to be to live that life is loyal.
On the day I turned fifteen they thought I was old enough to be tested to see if I could be one of them. Big D, who would be my mentor if I passed, gave me his knife, and I felt like one of them. I had to kill one of the rival gang members, they didn’t care who, without anyone seeing me. Maybe they really thought that was a test I couldn’t pass or maybe they gave me an easy one because they wanted to keep me. Another thing you quickly learn not to do is ask questions – you do what you’re told and that’s it. Fortunately I was very good at doing what I was told, so I survived when a lot of other people didn’t, and that’s why I think I should be able to get away from them, even though that’s something no one else has done. Like everyone else I’ve heard stories of what happened to people who tried it.
However I knew who I could go to for help and that meant I was luckier than most people. I trusted her enough that I told her when I left, although I didn’t tell her where I was going, and she knows who I’ve become. Should anyone want to come after me she would be able to tell them who I am to give them a place to start, so I have to hope she won’t do that, although, having seen how they treat people when they want something, I wouldn’t blame her if she did. Eventually the time will come when I know someone here who’ll be able to give me another new identity and then I’ll move on again. The last thing I want is to end up dead because I couldn’t be that person any longer, so I will keep going until I feel like I’m safe, which make not happen until I’m 76 and on my thirtieth identity.
Right now I’m doing everything I can to stop people from noticing me. I’m working a job I know someone my age would work, I’m renting a bedsit where I share a house with twelve other men who aren’t sharing their stories either, and I’m working on getting my gang tattoo covered up, because I don’t want anyone here to know about the mistakes I made. They’re better off not knowing about the people I killed, or that I could earn more money dealing cannabis than I could gardening, or how easy it would be for this little town to become home to a gang of thugs who’d take over in a couple of months. Fortunately I think this place is too small for anyone to be interested – especially as it’s much more interesting when you have a rival gang to fight against. Well, that’s what Big D told me, during the time he was teaching me how to be just like him.
Now I’m nothing like him. I don’t want to be like him, because he’s in prison. That’s where I deserve to be, but I was lucky and he wasn’t, so I will do my best to make sure I stay that way. Maybe the time will come when I run out of luck. Maybe it never will. All I know is that I didn’t get arrested once, no matter how close I was to what happened, as I knew that the best place to be when you start hearing those sirens is as fair away from the action as possible, especially as I was good with cameras as well. I made sure they never caught more than the side of my face, shadowed by my hood. Other people were nowhere near as careful I was.
That makes me wonder, on evenings when I have nothing to do but watch TV, if the life I’m leading now is the whole reason I was so careful. Did I always know I’d want to live a normal life, miles away from the people I had once called crew? Some people thought I was in the running to take over, because of the way I acted, but that’s something I never would have wanted. Being in control of that… they would never understand why I’m happy now. If I told the people I once called friends that my favorite way to spend an evening is to put a pizza in the oven, pour myself out a cold beer, and spend the evening watching shows that I’ve never seen before on the TV, they’d look at me like I’d gone insane.
Maybe I have. All I know is that, for the first time in my life, I’m happy, and I’m determined I’m going to stay that way, even if that means travelling from town to town for the rest of my life.