Andrew sat on the edge of his bed, staring at his hands, clenched tightly into fists. A dull streetlamp glow filtered through the bottom of the broken window blinds; the fabric holding the slat rotted away, leaving a diagonal gap, allowing a band of light to capture his fists. Andrew swayed back and forth, not feeling the motion of the swaying, not feeling the tightness in his arms, his legs, his shoulders or his belly. A discordant humming filled his mouth, but he didn’t hear that: he was listening for the sound of sirens.
He had thrown the first punch, and the last kick. In between, he used the leather belt with the heavy metal buckle he had taken from the basement, “just in case.” Andrew had shouted out every racial slur he had heard from his father’s mouth, and then some. There was a lot he picked up in the sixteen years-almost seventeen-he was alive. Andrew’s mother was almost a non-existent presence, ghosting around her family, an ever present drink in her hand, or in her purse. His older brother had escaped a few years back, going into the army, coming home in a box.
Earlier, out on the streets, he and his three pals were looking for some trouble. They had scored some beers from the bodega, as Andrew and Derrick hassled the owner, causing a ruckus at the front while the others shoved the cans and bottles under their sweats and jackets. They drank the beers, throwing the empties at passing trucks, cheering themselves when a bottle went true and shattered against the side of a semi.
The rest of the night was a blur to Andrew until the fight. Others, not like them, in their way. There was posturing and pushing, name calling and one upping, until Andrew hauled off and punched one of the other kids in the side of his head, sending him to his knees. There were only two of them against Andrew and his cronies, and it should have been enough. A knife was flashed: Derrick caught that in his side. As he went down, Andrew whipped off the belt and began flailing it again, and again, and again.
Dripping with red, he stopped lashing, his chest heaving for air, sweat pooling through his clothing. Just as he kicked his booted foot into a soft gut, Andrew heard a distant siren.The belt slipped out of his hands. Andrew knew he could not get caught again.
He took off, hearing but not hearing Derrick faintly call for him to wait. Andrew ran home, slammed open the door, saw his father in his chair asleep in front of the TV, ran up the stairs to his room, passing his parents room where his mother, he knew, was passed out from drink. Andrew burst into his room, tearing off his sodden shirt, sat on his bed, and stared at his clenched fists.