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

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16-20 recap: volume 1

Crime and racism are examined in Week 4 of BOYSTOWN. Volume 2 will launch 8/27, right here on and the GoPride network!

16-20 recap: volume 1
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Crime and racism are examined in Week 4 of BOYSTOWN. Volume 2 will launch 8/27, right here on and the GoPride network!


Berlin was always good for a random make-out and Charlie had had a couple too many before he decided to call it quits. The last-call crowd was spilling out into the streets, moving to various after-hours bars or to the train. He decided to avoid Halsted and cut across Clark. As he passed Aldine, he looked east and saw three figures kicking the shit out of someone lying prone on the street.

"HEY!" screamed Charlie, getting on his phone to 911 right away and running towards them. They looked up, saw Charlie and consulted quickly. One grabbed the victim's wallet and they scattered in all directions. Charlie ran to the poor guy lying on the street and as he leaned down to help him up, he noticed beneath the blood and cuts and possibly broken nose was a sweet idyllic face reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was Tyler.


Hunter was working the window for the post-last-call hangers on. As he sat on one patron's lap, letting the guy rub his stubble all over his back, he saw two familiar silhouettes walking up Halsted. He got off the guy's lap and stepped outside for a closer look. Charlie was holding up Tyler, who was bruised and battered. He ran to them right away.

"Who did this to you?" Hunter said, his voice low and steady.

"These like, drag queens? Three of them. One had these braids. They got my wallet."


"I was walking down Aldine... " Before Hunter could hear the rest of what Tyler said, he ran off, in a rage, on the hunt for the assholes that would do this to Tyler.

"Hunter! Stop! Don't do anything stupid!" But Charlie's cries went unheard. Charlie started helping Tyler into a cab, but Tyler stopped him.

"Charlie, you've gotta go after him! You have to stop Hunter from finding those guys!"

"The only thing I've got to do is get you to the ER and call the cops."

"You don't understand. Those drag queens... they had a gun. They were going to kill me. And they'll kill Hunter too."


Hunter knew which alley to find them in. It was the home base for a lot of them when they needed to call "olly olly oxen free" after a hustle gone wrong. There were just three of them when he got there. One had braids; he punched her first. He dodged a smack from the one in booty shorts, making her lose her balance and fall backwards. The one with the Rihanna hair pulled out a gun while still holding Tyler's wallet. Hunter kicked the plastic toy out of her hand and smashed it beneath his combat boot. The other two fled as Hunter knocked Rihanna down, putting that same combat boot to her neck. She just smirked as she threw Tyler's wallet at him.

"Here it is. Let me go." Rihanna purred.

"Yeah fucking right."

"If you turn us in, you'll have to turn her in."

"Her who?"

"You're Hunter, right?" Hunter nodded, cautiously.

"Man, you really pissed that bitch off."


DeLisha opened the door wigless, wearing nothing but a flimsy kimono and last night's makeup.

"Well," she hissed. "Look who has darkened my doorstep with her presence."

"Did you send those guys after my roommate?"

DeLisha feigned mock shock. "Oh my! Did something happen to that little farm boy?"

"Cut the shit, Daryl. How do you know about Tyler?"

"I've got eyes everywhere, darlin'." Hunter grabbed DeLisha by the lapels of the kimono and shoved her against the wall, her feet dangling slightly above the floor.

"Did. You. Send. Those. FUCKERS! After Tyler?"

DeLisha maintained her composure. "You know how crime is rising in this neighborhood. Am I to be held accountable for our wayward youth gone astray? But if I were to have... convinced a few of those wayward youth to do me a few favors, what would you do about it? Would you have the heart to report ME to the police?" Hunter panted with adrenaline and anger as DeLisha's face twisted into a smirk. After a moment of impotent rage, he dropped her, punched the wall, and stormed down the hallway.

"This can all be over. You can protect the ones you care about. Come back to me," she pleaded. But he was gone.


The text from Charlie told Hunter which room they were in at Illinois Masonic. He opened the door as quietly as possible to see Charlie sitting by a sleeping Tyler. The swelling in Tyler's face was going down and his nose was in a cast. Charlie motioned for Hunter to enter quietly.

"How is he?"

"Bruised up pretty bad, obviously. Broken nose. A couple of fractured ribs. They want to keep him over night just in case."

"Jesus." Hunter quietly pulled up another chair and sat down on the other side of Tyler's bed.

"That was real fuckin' stupid. The John Wayne act. You could've gotten hurt." Charlie was just as stunned as Hunter at the concern and worry in his voice. Tyler stirred.

"Hey," was all Tyler could muster under the haze of painkillers.

"Hey buddy," Hunter said softly, brushing some stray hair off of Tyler's face.

"I was so worried about you. They had a gun."

"They haven't been practicing their moves with Soul Caliber V. They never knew what hit ‘em." He reached into his pocket and fished out Tyler's wallet. Tyler managed a weak smile.

"My hero."

"Always will be, dude."

"So, did you catch them?"

Hunter was quiet for a moment. He looked at Tyler, then at Charlie. "No. No, they got away."

"But don't worry," Charlie said, reassuringly. "We'll catch ‘em."

"Good. That's good." Tyler yawned.

"We should go," said Charlie. "Let you get some rest. We'll be back in the morning."

"Can you guys... do you mind staying here with me tonight?" Tyler's eyes welled up a bit and a couple of tears streaked their way down the dried blood on his cheek.

"You bet, buddy," Hunter said.

"Never leaving your sight," Charlie smiled at him. Tyler closed his eyes peacefully. And as Hunter brushed the hair out of Tyler's face again, Charlie took a damp cloth to wipe off the sweat from Tyler's brow. Their hands touched for a moment. They looked at each other, then took each other's hands. They sat like this for a while, watching guard over Tyler as he fell asleep.



Steve couldn't believe that he'd resorted to online dating. It wasn't that he was feeling especially lonely; after twenty years of being partnered he actually enjoyed the independence. But there was always that little nagging feeling whenever he'd leave dinner with his friends, watching them revel in their still successful marriages as they caught cabs home. He was just a little tired of being the lone man on the street waving them off and hitting the bars by himself. Steve never wanted for attention, not suffering from the bitter "invisible" feeling most men his age felt when they patronized the bars on Halsted. But truth be told, he was feeling a bit too old for the cutesy flirting and Lady Gaga made no sense to him. If he was going to date, it was going to be a man of substance. And he'd need a better filter.

Watching all the young guys glued to their phones on these apps to find guys just didn't appeal to him. And it seemed geared more towards one-night stands. Websites like Manhunt and Adam4Adam, with their bare-chested (and often nude) models just turned him off. He opted for the quaint sounding OkCupid, with its many profile questions and percentage-based matches. It was one of these predetermined matches that he messaged first, a handsome African American man of his age going by the screen name Courage2860. Admittedly it was the profile picture that drew Steve in, the handsome face, the twinkle in his eye that betrayed a much younger heart than the numeric value assigned to his age. Perusing his profile, they shared the same love of Mexican food, Nina Simone, and Jim Carrey movies, and similar disdain for movies about sparkly vampires and (hot) under aged werewolves, so he took a chance and messaged away.

"Hey handsome," came the immediate IM response.

"Hey there!"

"Listen, I don't know about you but these computers make my head twitchy. Want to grab a drink?"


Steve sat at a table for two by the bar at Jack on Halsted's as he saw Edward cross the street at Belmont through the window. As Edward came in, Steve took a quick breath. Edward looked much more handsome in person. He rose to greet him, shook his hand, and waved the waitress over to place their order.

Two dry martinis later, they were both chuckling at each other's failed relationships. There was something comforting about meeting someone in Boystown who remembered when Nixon was president and color TV was a novelty. Talking to someone whose value wasn't placed into the chase for youth or the latest designer clothes was invigorating. Edward was in the middle of a ridiculous story about one of his last affairs, when Steve's phone vibrated in his pocket, reminding him of the time.

"He actually wanted to role-play taking me across the Underground Railroad and then ravage me on the way to the north. I mean, had this fucker lost his goddamned mind? Do I look like Butterfly McQueen?"

Steve laughed from the gut for the first time in years. Now, there was a twinkle in his eye and Edward had put it there. "God, I wish I didn't have to run."

"Then don't," Edward winked at him.

"I have to, though. It's my first association meeting."

"Really? You are far too young and adorable for AARP."

Steve blushed and laughed that off. "No, turkey. The Northalsted Merchants Association."

"Those chuckleheads?" Edward chuckled. "What business do you have with them?"

"Well, I'm about to open a bar so I joined."

"Get ready for a lot of finger pointing and passive aggressive racism."

"Oh come on, they're not that bad."

Edward regained his composure. "Not individually, no. Most of them are really nice folks. I wished they handled their business differently, but... "

"Well, I guess I'll have to go on in there and make it a better place."

Edward gave him a kiss on the cheek for that. "You do that, handsome. And tell me all about it on our second date." Steve walked Edward out and with schoolboy glee, kissed him goodbye. Edward kissed back.

"Tell the Association Edward Curtis says hi."

"So you have a history with them? Do they not like you?"

"I don't know how they feel about me, but they sure don't like my kids roaming their streets."



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."



Jaison could kill them Bitches; they were always running late. Wasn't it supposed to be stereotypical to him and his? The first time he heard someone use "colored people time" he responded, "Fuck that ignorant shit!" and made it a point to get to places fifteen minutes early. Well except that one time. And that other time. And that one other time, at Spin. Whatever, the point was he was there at the corner of Halsted and Buckingham because he sure wasn't waiting for them late Bitches outside of Scarlet by himself. He sent a group text to Tristan, Braden, and Efrain: "Where the fuck you Bitches at?"

A stocky white guy in green approached him. "You're gonna have to move it along."

Jaison looked up from his phone. "Excuse me?"

"There's no loitering on the street. You have to either patronize one of the local businesses or go back to where you came from."

"Where I... ?" Jaison stood aghast. "And who are YOU, exactly?" Stocky white guy in green tapped at the security logo on his t-shirt. Jaison stood appalled, not moving. Stocky white guy in green pulled out a police badge.

"Listen, I may not have the official authority right now, but I'm a cop and... "

"I'm waiting for my friends!"

"Great, because that's exactly what this neighborhood needs, more of you and your friends." Jaison was about to get real loud and ignorant, when Tristan, Braden, and Efrain came up hooting and hollering from around the corner.

"That's where you is, Bitch!" screamed Tristan as Jaison came into sight. Seeing stocky white guy in green, he said, "Oh sorry boo. We didn't mean to... "

"Nah, that's cool. We're done here, right officer? Here go my friends, we're about to patronize that business right over there." Jaison flipped his imaginary hair as he pivoted away, Braden, Efrain, and Tristan gawking at the off-duty police officer.

"What was that about?" asked Tristan, as they showed their ID's to the door guy at Scarlet.

"Racist asshole," muttered Jaison. The whole incident left Jaison with a bad taste in his mouth and even the second round of drinks couldn't wash that taste out: he was salty.

"I know it sucks, babe, but I'm glad for the security," said Tristan. "Makes me feel a little safer."

"But I wasn't even doing anything!"

"You know them stupid pigs are always looking for some reason to fuck with us, mija," said Efrain.

"And it's not like you're like the other ones anyway," Braden pointed out. And if the drinks weren't so expensive, they would've been dropped.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Jaison demanded. Braden was taken aback by his tone.

"I just mean that you're not like them. You don't rob or steal or anything. You're not THAT black." Efrain and Tristan took a step back.

"Is that supposed to be a compliment?!"

"Look, security wasn't hired for people like us, alright? It's for people like them. And you're not like them."

"Yeah? Well tell that to your precious fucking security! Shit on this block was racist enough before they showed up!"

"Maybe if there'd been security all along, Tristan wouldn't have been robbed!"

"The fucker who robbed Tristan was white, STUPID! But you don't see THAT on the news, do ya?" Jaison slammed down some cash on the bar. "This one's on me, Bitches. I'm finna go. Not feelin' quite so sociable tonight." Braden scoffed indignantly as Jaison left, but Tristan hated it. He hated when his Bitches fought and he hated that this whole race thing or whatever was an actual issue with his friends. He wanted to chase after Jaison and talk it out but he knew that Jaison would need his space. And he knew that it would definitely take more than one night to talk it out.

The night played out per usz, just sans Jaison. Braden chased a boy for most of the night and Efrain danced his ass of off until he sweated the vodka out. Tristan tried to make time with some random, but his heart wasn't in it. After a couple more vodka cranberries, he slipped out quietly.

Shit like this didn't really affect Tristan so he never really thought about it. And besides a good kiki with the Bitches, Jaison never really mentioned it either. Sometimes, Tristan just flat out forgot that Jaison was black, it was just a part of him. He wished that Braden hadn't gotten so ignorant and that Jaison hadn't gotten so mad. Sure, it was a touchy subject, but they were friends: couldn't they just agree to disagree?

As Tristan walked south on Halsted, on the west side of the street, a group of black teens were walking towards him. Some were in various stages of gender transition. Some of the guys were wearing wife-beaters and sagging, baggy shorts. They were hooting loudly and crassly. Each step they took closer to Tristan made his heart beat faster. As if out of instinct, Tristan looked both ways, than ran across the street. He began walking the opposite direction from his place to excuse the sudden cross. Part of him felt that he did the right thing and felt safe. Most of him felt like shit about it.



The fist coming at his face almost clipped him, but Tyler hinged backwards and dodged it. And then the shooting pain from his fractured ribs brought him to the floor. A combat boot stepped down on him, and as he shielded himself with his hands, the boot stopped mere centimeters from his face.

"Good. That was good," Hunter said, helping Tyler carefully off the floor.

"At a slight disadvantage at the moment."

"Yeah, but if anyone tries to fuck with you again, they won't care. Gotta be ready for anything."

Tyler brushed himself off. "Let's go again."

"Easy dude, this isn't a game. Your HP isn't going to magically restore and there's no turbo mode. Next time it happens, it's just gonna be you and them."

Tyler swung at him and Hunter deftly ducked it. Demonstrating what Hunter had taught him yesterday, Tyler quickly pivoted his body, breathing through the pain, and round-house kicked to Hunter's face. He held his foot there for a moment, then put it down.

"Grasshopper learns quick."

"That would've taken you down SO fast." Tyler took off his t-shirt and wiped the sweat off his brow with it. Hunter did the same, then threw his shirt at Tyler's face. Distracted, Tyler never saw Hunter coming. One moment he's taking Hunter's shirt off his face, the next he's tackled to the couch, Hunter straddling him.

"Dude, you gotta be ready for anything." Hunter said, sweat dripping off of his nose and onto Tyler's bare chest. Tyler lay panting for air, breathing through the pain. Charlie came in from the kitchen and paused at the sight of his sweaty, shirtless roommates on top of each other on the couch. He wanted to comment on this tableau's striking resemblance to a Corbin Fisher video, but he opted for the Mrs. Garrett response.

"Hunter get off of him! His ribs aren't healed yet!"

"Uh oh," Hunter smirked at Tyler, "Mom's mad." A pillow thrown to his head was Hunter's response from Charlie. Hunter chuckled it off, wiped the sweat off his brow, and helped Tyler off the couch.

"Come on dude," Hunter said as he and Tyler brushed past Charlie. "Let's hit the showers."

"What?!" Charlie's voice cracked like a hormonal freshman in high school.

"Don't worry Charlie, I'll let him go first. God, why are you so jumpy?"


Edward Curtis greeted Charlie and Tyler as they arrived at Haven.

"Steve said his boys were coming to volunteer! I had to meet you and thank you personally. So many people are quick to criticize yet so few actually offer to help. Volunteering can make the hugest impact on the lives of our youth."

"How do you know Steve?" Charlie asked politely.

"Well, we're... from the neighborhood mostly. Let me show you around the facility." The front reception area had the dull beige walls and florescent light hum of a clinic. As they walked through the main office, Charlie noticed the attempt at organization surrounded by disarray. "Our resources are a bit... stretched thin. The downside of being underfunded."

They passed through a cramped room that doubled as a dining hall and a make-shift study hall. Shelves of tattered books lined the walls and long tables that doubled as desks filled the center of the room. Through an open doorway, Tyler could see a larger room filled to the ceiling with beds. If he hadn't stumbled onto his current situation, he could've ended up here. Or a lot worse.

"Some of the youth help around the shelter to stay out of trouble during the day. The majority of them come closer to dinnertime and we like to keep them here for the rest of the night. They're free to come and go as they please, but if they're not signed in by curfew, they're on the streets unfortunately." They arrived at a table where one of the youth was studying with a tutor.

"Travell, this is Tyler, one of our new volunteers. Would you show him to the kitchen? There's still a lot to do and the dinner crowd's gonna be here soon." Tyler looked a little nervous to go, but Charlie gave him a reassuring nod. Travell and Tyler walked to the kitchen as the tutor turned to greet Edward and Charlie.

"Charlie, Steve tells me you're a teacher and we can definitely use more tutors. This is Josh, our education coordinator."

"Hi," said Josh, smiling at seeing Charlie again.

"Hi," said Charlie, a little breathlessly. There it was again: the same spark he felt that random night he met Josh at Roscoe's. When Josh's bitchy boyfriend dragged him away. The night Josh came back to look for Charlie. The spark... was still there.

"I'll leave you two to get acquainted, go over the programming." Edward said, heading back towards the office. "Thanks again for coming, Charlie, I know you'll make the biggest difference in these kids lives." There was a moment of awkward silence.

"So," said Charlie. "Most of the kids trying to finish up their GED's?"

"You never called," said Josh, unable to hide his disappointment.

"Yeah, I um... life got a little busy. Tyler got attacked... "

"Oh. Is Tyler... is he your boyfriend?"

"What? No. And anyway, what does it matter? Don't you have one?"

Josh was quiet for a moment. "I didn't mean it quite... I was just curious, is all. So what do you teach?"

"English. And you?"

"History. At Whitney Young."

"That's great. Well, I guess it's a good way to test out my curriculum for the school year. How many... ?" Some of the youth began to arrive, their loud shouts and laughs announcing their presence before they even arrived at the dining hall.

"Wanna get out of here? It's gonna get pretty crazy with the kids arriving. We can grab a cup of coffee and go over schedules and curriculum."

Charlie wasn't sure whether to be excited or wary, so he just said, "Sure."


Tyler's phone vibrated with a text from Hunter: "Gotta be ready for anything."

"I wouldn't pull that phone out in front of the other kids," warned Travell. "I mean, most of us, we're just trying to get by, but we don't hurt nobody. A few of ‘em though... let's just say I sleep holding my bag every night."

The hungry youth were already lining up with trays in hand as Tyler, Travell, and the kitchen manager D'orothea manned the line. As he scooped instant mashed potatoes onto their trays, Tyler really hoped that this was the start of him making a difference. It was easy to be mad, it was easy to be scared, but people are people and you gotta help them out. As they all passed by, Tyler knew that they each had a story, some that would probably stop his heart. He had it rough, sure, but there was no way it even compared to what some of these kids must've gone through. Maybe if they could see that people cared about them, it would affect how they saw the world. You never know what will make a difference. He made a point to look every single one of them in the eye and smile as he gave them their food. And as the line neared its end, he was happy knowing that maybe somehow he had been a positive part of someone's day. He was going to love volunteering here. The last person in line got extra mashed potatoes.

"Thank you," she said timidly, looking down.

"You're welcome," smiled Tyler, maintaining eye contact. The timid trans girl with braids looked up and smiled back. And then they both recognized each other immediately: she was one of the people who attacked Tyler that night.


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