The daily serial fictional based on Chicago's Boystown neighborhood: Boystown series by Danny Bernardo

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18. Taking Back

The YouTube video of the young man who was stabbed and beaten on Halsted Street last year had played on loop on Tyler's laptop since he came home from the hospital. He couldn't believe he never saw it before, but when he Googled "crime" and "Boystown" it was the first thing to appear. The video was

18. Taking Back
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The YouTube video of the young man who was stabbed and beaten on Halsted Street last year had played on loop on Tyler's laptop since he came home from the hospital. He couldn't believe he never saw it before, but when he Googled "crime" and "Boystown" it was the first thing to appear. The video was barely two minutes long but it still haunted Tyler, even when he slept. Especially since it happened just across the street from where he lived.

He called into work sick the rest of the week and didn't leave the house. Tyler barely left his room, except to go to the bathroom or for a glass of water. Even Hunter's offer of an Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 tournament couldn't cheer him up. After giving him a few days space, Charlie knocked on his door. He waited a couple of minutes for an answer, and then opened the door.

"Tyler, you've got to stop moping around and get out of the house."

"I'm not moping," came the raspy, indignant reply.

"I get it. When I first moved to Chicago, I got mugged when I was visiting a friend in Roger's Park. You're scared, but... "

"I'm not scared," Tyler snapped, mostly telling the truth. "I'm pissed the fuck off."

Charlie breathed a sigh of relief. "Well then," he said, pulling out a flier for the monthly CAPS Community Meeting. "Let's do something about it."


Tyler wiped the shower steam off the mirror and look at his reflection long and hard. It was the first time he'd looked at himself since that night. Buried beneath the cuts and bruises was the man he thought he was. Looking back at him was a scared and weak little boy.

"You're not coming with us?" Tyler asked, once he was dressed and ready to go. Hunter remained on the couch playing video games and shook his head.

"It's just gonna be a bunch of people shouting and not listening to each other. It'll just piss me off."

"But it's important to talk these issues out," said Charlie. "Here's a forum that we can do that in."

"Says you. Talk is easy. Someone's gotta do something."

"What do you suggest? Patrolling the streets with baseball bats?"

Hunter looked straight ahead, avoiding Charlie and Tyler's eyes. "Maybe."

When Charlie and Tyler arrived at the 19th District Station, the community room was packed with Lakeview residents loudly chattering as the District Commander attempted to go over figures.

"We definitely acknowledge the ongoing concern," the District Commander continued over the hubbub. "With robberies alone up 125% year-to-date over reported incidents since 2010... "

"So how does hiring a private task force to patrol our streets going to make it better?" asked one outraged citizen. Charlie and Tyler looked awkwardly for a place to sit when they saw their landlord Steve sitting in the empty back row of chairs. He motioned them over and they sat with him. "This is just putting a Band-Aid on the problem, a problem that's going to remain to fester!"

"It makes me feel safer!" cried out a concerned citizen. "I want crime out of this neighborhood, by any means necessary!"

"But at what cost? Our personal freedom?!" demanded the outraged citizen.

"No one's personal freedom is being taken away, I assure you," the District Commander insisted. "This is not an uncommon occurrence in the city of the Chicago. In fact, members of the Northalsted Business Assocation have reported since implementing security... "

"Man, fuck them racist motherfuckers!" cried another outraged citizen. "They don't care about anything but themselves and their bank accounts. They don't REALLY care about this neighborhood."

"Now that's not fair!" Steve rose up. "I have lived in this neighborhood for more than thirty years, and as a member of the Association... "

"Fuck you, you white, bourgeois motherfucker. What do you know about my life?"

The District Commander tried to calm everyone down. "Now, now, there is no need to get heated."

"These ghetto kids are taking over our streets," exclaimed yet another outraged citizen. "Ever since they built that damn Center on Halsted, these hood rats and thugs have been invading our neighborhood in packs!"

"There is crime everywhere in the city of Chicago," said a handsome, mature black man, as he rose. "Are you just waking up to it now? The Center, Broadway Youth Center, and any other organization trying to help is not to blame."

"You're biased!"

"That's right I'm biased," continued the handsome black man. He addressed the whole crowd. "I'm biased as hell. I'm Edward Curtis, I direct Haven, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth. I've lived in Lakeview most of my adult life and rise in crime or not, I can tell you first hand that racism has never been a stranger to our fair neighborhood. That's not the point of why we're here. LGBT youth are coming here in droves, from all over, and sometimes they fall on hard times and live on the streets. If we can't give them the proper resources to educate themselves or make a better life for themselves, what else are they going to do but turn to a life of crime? Let the police enforce the laws on those who come here as predators under the guise of troubled youth, who go back to their homes with stolen money and goods. Not the children who weren't afforded the same opportunities we were as we came of age in this great neighborhood. Let us separate these two issues."

"Here we go again," scoffed a middle-aged Caucasian man.

"Yes, we're going to go again," continued Edward. "We'll go until it stops. I am sick of being mocked and chastised and ignored for bringing up what is blatantly a community problem. Do I abhor crime and criminal acts? Absolutely. However, we must begin to build relationships and trust as a community between residents, visitors, police, and those youth who have nothing whatsoever do with violent crime. So put your money where your mouth is and help out these organizations that are trying to give back."

"Are you done panhandling?" asked the middle-aged Caucasian man. "Say what you will, the facts are crime is on the rise over the last three years. Since that goddamn center opened up... "

"Correlation is not causation," said Edward.

"SHUT UP! I let you talk. It's MY turn. You can blame crime on whomever you want. Hell, blame their unwed teen mothers for not raising them right, it doesn't change facts. Large groups of young blacks ARE attacking good, law-abiding citizens like myself in this neighborhood just because they are white. Large groups of young blacks ARE attacking gay people just because they are gay. This IS happening!"

"This is such BULLSHIT!" Tyler roared as he stood up. Seeing the bruises and the cuts on his once sweet face, a hush fell over the room. "All you guys are doing is finger pointing and being racist assholes. Yeah, the guys that attacked me were black but it wasn't because they were black that they attacked me. It wasn't because I'm white that they attacked me. They're poor kids, probably without homes, and they needed the money. They were gonna attack someone. And it was me. Did it suck? Yeah, it fucking sucked. But I'm tired of being scared or angry about it. I came here because I thought we'd figure it out together, like a real community. But all we're doing is passing the buck and ignoring what really, truly matters. I came to Boystown because I didn't have anywhere else to go, because where I'm from, I can't be who I am. Don't you see? Some of these kids, the same thing probably happened to them. The only thing that separates me from them is a stroke of good luck that got me to a home and a job. Who knows that I wouldn't be doing the same thing they are if things didn't work out for me? I came to Boystown to find a home, a safe space. That's not what's here. So what are we going to do? Who has something to say, a plan of action, that doesn't involve insulting someone else's personal integrity or trying to racially profile every outsider who comes into this neighborhood? How are we going to take responsibility for this neighborhood without it being at the expense of someone else?"

Not a word was said. Not a single person in that room could figure out a plan of action or strategy within the parameters Tyler set. After a few moments of silence, Tyler shook his head and left.


Hunter was still playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 when Tyler got home.

"How'd it go?" Hunter asked.

Tyler grabbed a control and joined in. "You were right. All talk."

"Hate to say I told you so."

"Yeah, yeah." Tyler selected Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Iron Fist as his team. They played for a bit.

"You gonna do something about it?"

"Yeah," said Tyler, his Spider-Man dealing Hunter's Ryu a fatal blow. "Boystown is my home. And I'm taking it back."


Tyler's well-spoken and might be getting in over his head.

by WalksTheEdge on Sat. Oct 26, 2013

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