There’s a lone street downtown off on the East side of the city. Most of us leave it alone, because it’s really the dividing line between the Frats and the rest of us. There’s been a lot of blood shed on that street. Back in ’91, a couple Frats jumped a Malan coming home from work. It was an awful mess, I’ll tell you that. Then, in ’97, twelve Malans ambushed four Quirens. Little did they know that their switchblades and knives were useless against four loaded pistols. When the cops arrived, they found twelve dead Malans and a dead Quiren. And in ’99, the Malans, the Quirens, the Cocorons, and the Portens all staged the “99 War” against the Frats, which resulted in 227 deaths. It really is a bloody place.
I’m pretty sure all this gang warfare started before I was even born. Both my parents lost their lives to it, and honestly, even if we had stayed in Los Angeles, I probably still would have gotten involved in it, mainly because let’s face it…there are crazy assholes everywhere. I mean, you kill one or he gets thrown in prison, and seven seconds later some new guy has taken over.
But this isn’t the story of the gang warfare.
This is the story of three orphans, having to fight to stay alive in the world’s most dangerous city- New York. This is my story, my brother’s and sister’s story, my gang’s story. The story of Odysseus Copella.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,
You own it, you better never let it go,
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow,
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
“Yo, Ody, you ready or what?” I looked up to identify the voice.
Jay West, my best friend, looked down at me. He was leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette. Jay was every girl’s dream. He was tall, muscular, and dangerous. We had been best friends since 8th grade, when the some punk in our class, a Frat named Six had decided to pick on the new kid (me). Jay stepped in as soon as the first punch was thrown. Needless to say, Six and his bitchy sidekick Wizt had their asses handed to them. It was an awesome day, and I would say it was the day our friendship started.
“Shit, man, I have such a hangover,” I said. My head hurt like a bitch and I felt dizzy. I leaned over and retched for a couple minutes.
“Are you sure you still wanna do this? We can go another time,” Jay said throwing his cigarette on the ground then stepping on it.
“Nah man we gotta do it now. Blackjack and B.S. are backing us up anyway in case things get ugly. I’ll be fine. Let’s go.”
“Okay, whatever. You ready?” Jay asked.
“Yeah, man. Let’s blow this shit,” I said getting up.
Jay and I were supposed to meet with Josef Malan, head of the Malan gang to think up some strategy. Now don’t get me wrong. Malans are some messed up figures of society. Same with the Quierens. And don’t get me started on the Cocorons. I mean, those guys are high off crack half the time. The Protens aren’t too bad. I have a friend named Vino who’s a Proten. In fact, the other day him and I went shopping for our girlfriends.
My girlfriend’s name is Lirit, and she is the most beautiful girl in the world. Screw Jennifer Lopez. Screw Natalie Portman. Screw every other girl. Lirit is the most beautiful girl in the world, and if anyone dared say otherwise, I would rearrange their face.
Lirit and I met back in freshman year. Jay and I were hanging out waiting for B.S. and Blackjack to show up so we could go pick up some girls when I saw her just sitting on a bench, looking cold and sad. Jay knew I liked her, and saw me looking at her, and said “Goddamn, Ody, are you just going to stand there gawking at her or are you gonna make a move? Go get her, tiger,” he said, and pushed me towards her. I flipped him off good-naturedly and walked over to her. She looked up. I put my hands in my pocket and asked “can I sit here?” She smiled and said “of course.” We made small talk for a little bit until I noticed that she seemed to be holding back tears.
“Hey there,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
Then she let go. Like, she literally let go of the bench and burst into tears, sobbing about how her dad had just called and said her brother had been killed in a gang fight outside of some club in Quiren territory. Honestly, in my opinion, it’s his stupidity that got the little punk killed, really. But I resisted the urge to say that, because getting slapped kinda hurts.
Anyways, I comforted her for a while and then we started talking. Soon enough, we started a difficult but amazing relationship. I learned more about Lirit.
She was a semi-wealthy girl. Upper-middle class. Her dad was almost never home because he was always traveling to some poor country. Foreign aid guy, bless his heart. Her mother was a successful lawyer who lived in Vermont. Apparently, she was living with her aunt, because her mom was “too busy to handle family matters.” What a bitch, huh?
Lirit had beautiful brown eyes that seemed to glisten whenever she smiled, as well as brown hair and freckles. She was a petite girl, with a small-built body. She was about my height, and very skinny.
Unlike most teen guys, I don’t think about sex when I see a cute girl. I don’t look at her breasts or make her bend over to pick up my pencil so I can see her ass or whatever. I could really care less about her “Double D’s,” as this one Proten, Antonio, calls them. And I find it pathetic when guys drop down and beg for girls to wear those “Love Pink” yoga pants.
Jay can be like that too. We have a lot in common. While B.S. and Blackjack can’t get a girl for shit, girls seem to always be hanging out with us and flirting. I guess it’s a matter of respect. Blackjack once met a girl at this party, and immediately thought she was a slut, apparently. Turns out she wasn’t, and she had a big fat-ass boyfriend who jumped us three days later with a little posse of his. Damn, we kicked their asses straight down to Mexico.
The number one thing a girl had ever called me, besides “cute,” was “sweet.” The number one thing a guy has called me is “faggot.” This just proves my point that girls are, in the end, nicer than guys.
The funny thing is, guys call me a faggot because I spend so much time with girls, when really, it’s just girls who hang out with me. In fact, most of the dumbass dickheads that call me a faggot at my school were ugly jerk-offs who couldn’t get a girl if she was blind.
Jay has gone out with a total of 24 girls in the seven years from 6th grade to 12th. Don’t think he’s a player. Well, maybe he is. But girls legitimately throw themselves at him. His longest relationship has been with his current girlfriend Taylor, and they’ve only been going out for like six months.
I can honestly say that I know I’m good-looking. I mean, I don’t have that dangerous-hot-boy look like Jay, but I’m definitely not what you would call an ugly person. B.S. and Blackjack? Not so much. And their overconfident cocky attitudes don’t help.
When we arrived in the parking lot, there were three black and red sedans, all tinted windows and headlights off. When Jay and I walked in, the one in the middle blinked its headlights. Then, the three sedans turned off, and out of the cars came an estimated eight men, each dressed in the Malan colors, black and red. Each carried a fully automatic rifle, and a little pistol hung from their belts. Then, one came forward. Josef Malan, one of the most powerful guys in the city. He was a tall man, and at age 19, he had the look of a fifty-year old. Yeah, apparently running one of the biggest Mafia groups in New York City ages you terribly.
Anyways, Malan walked up to us, his cigar lit and his nose in the air. His men kept their guns trained on us.
“Okay, Joey, this Cold War shit needs to stay at home. We don’t got no guns on you, do we?” Jay said, annoyed.
Josef sighed and snapped his fingers. Two more Malans came out, carrying a struggling B.S. and a beat up Blackjack. The Malans threw the two to the ground
“No guns? Well then explain why I found these two hiding. This one,” he delivered a powerful kick to Blackjack’s chest, “had a gun. A nice one too. Thanks for that.”
“Shit…” I said.
We were in a mess. The Malans were horrible people. In fact, the only reason we had agreed to attend this meeting with them is because we needed allies against the Frats. I started panicking and thinking of a solution, but Jay was calm and cool, as usual. This was usually about the time he picked which four he would kill, but instead, he whistled.
It was a short whistle, just three notes, but Malan didn’t like it.
“Are you finished?” he said coldly.
Jay smiled and said, “Yes ma’am.”
“You know West, I never really did like your attitude. Too cocky, too arrog-” Josef flinched. He gasped for breath and his eyes shrank. Reaching behind him, he pulled a bloody throwing knife out of his back.
“ATTACK!!” one of his men yelled. Jay quickly withdrew his .44 Magnum, and I flipped out my switchblade. Off two nearby balconies came at least 30 Protens. In an instant, the Malans were on the ground, bloody, terrorized, and beaten to a pulp. Their leader was crawling to his gun when I stepped on his fingers.
“Okay, Joey, let’s not make this harder than it needs to be,” I said harshly.
“Don’t…call me...Joey,” Malan said, gritting his teeth.
“Hey guess what? Shut the fuck up, punk-ass bitch,” Jay said, kicking him in the face. “You wanna fuck with us? Fat-ass piece of shit.” Jay spat on his face.
In a second, Josef flipped over, pistol in his hand, aimed at Jay.
“NO!” I yelled, kicking it out of his hand.
Josef now realized his mistake. Before, he had a choice of living or dying. Now, he had a choice of how we were going to kill him.
If you thought Jay was pissed before, you should’ve seen him after that.
“Hey, Masco!” he waved over the leader of the Proten.
Masco was my friend Vino’s older brother. He was a great guy, always smiling and helping out whenever we needed him. He was an Italian immigrant, like all the other Protens. They were by far my favorite gang, and we had never fought with them.
“Whattup, fratello?” he said, fist bumping us both.
“Masco, I hereby give you permission to torture this motherfucker however you want. Take their guns and shit of course, and let his men go. Ody and I have got to bail, we’ve got dates tonight. Just make this motherfucker feel it.”
“Yeah bro, trust me, he will,” Masco said, grinning.
“Thanks, c’mon Blackjack, B.S., we need to go.”
After we all piled in Jay’s car, I turned to him.
“But we don’t have our dates for another two hours,” I said.
“I know, but I didn’t want to stay with the Italians and those dumbass Malans for two hours. Besides, we need to fix Blackjack up, isn’t that right buddy?” Jay responded with a grin, looking through the rearview mirror.
A long groan was our response, and B.S., Jay, and I laughed.
I can still remember the day Mom and Dad died. It was February 14th, believe it or not, and I was at home doing homework. My little brother Alphonse was only eight at the time, and he was watching TV in the living room. My older sister Elizabeth was upstairs on her computer, probably checking her Facebook or something. The rain was pounding outside, and I hoped Mom and Dad would come home soon from their romantic dinner, so that we could all watch a movie before going to bed.
Just as I was about to call them, I heard a heavy pounding at the door. Now I’m no idiot. Mom had told me countless times to never open the door when she wasn’t home, so I quickly ran upstairs to my balcony. There I saw…my Uncle Fremont! I raced back downstairs. He came inside…and I noticed he was sobbing. “Uncle Fremont? What’s wrong? What happened?” I had asked, panicking. “Your mother…and your father…were on their way back when a man stopped them…he had a gun. He told them to get out of the car…as they did…he shot them both through the head…and drove….away!” my uncle had cried.
The first thing that hit me wasn’t grief. Or pain. It had been shock. I had just stood there, mouth agape, looking at Uncle Fremont.
Then, stage two set in. Confusion ran through me like a slithering snake. I stumbled over to the living room, stared at my brother…
And then stage three flew in. Tears flooded out like a river of despair, and Alphonse jumped up from the couch, where he was watching SpongeBob Squarepants. Yes, you read that right. I do believe that my little brother is the only person in the world who watched SpongeBob Squarepants and enjoyed it all the way to 6th grade.
Anyways, my little brother jumped up and ran to Uncle Fremont, who told him the story. Elizabeth came down to hear the news.
A week later, my entire family organized the funeral. Over eight hundred people came. Eight hundred “I’m sorry’s.” Eight hundred “Are you okay’s.”
Needless to say, I wanted to shoot the next person to ask me if I was okay. I was only a kid, and I had lost both my parents. I could just imagine a conversation:
“Are you okay?” “Actually, ma’am, I’m feeling just a tad bit sad at the moment. It’s probably nothing.”
A month after Mom and Dad died, we went to go live with Uncle Fremont and his wife, Aunt Pequina in Las Vegas. They were both amazing people, willing to do anything to help us. I felt like a son to them.
Two years after we moved in with them, Aunt Petunia was beheaded and hung naked from a lamp post by some street gang.
Uncle Fremont lost it. He began doing drugs, injecting heroin and sniffing cocaine. And he became an alcoholic. He was always drunk. Whenever I walked by him, his intoxicating breath suffocated me. It was an overwhelming stench of rum, whiskey, vodka, beer, and failure.
One day, I came home from school to find him molesting my little brother. Way drunk and high, he had no self-control or conscience, and Alphonse was screaming and crying when I found them.
I don’t enjoy talking about what I did at that point. It reveals my darker side, and that’s not something I’m proud of. Let’s just say Uncle Fremont, if he had not been taken off life support, would still be in the hospital, thirty years later.
Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking, “ok, Mr. Sad Sack, we get the point, stop taking pity on yourself.” So let me just say right here right now that if there is one thing in this world I hate, it’s pity. I mean, if you have empathy for someone, it’s like “I know what you’re going through, I’m sorry.” If you have sympathy for someone, it’s like “I’ve never had this happen to me, but I’m sorry.” But if you have pity for someone, it’s like “I feel bad for you, you have it rough.” How condescending is that? How degrading. I would rather have someone’s empathy or sympathy than their pity. Pity disgusts me.
Well, not everything was bad. Elizabeth, who had just turned 18, was now at a legal age to “adopt” Alphonse and me. She had also gotten a full ride to Yale, for her extraordinary grades and community involvement. Using the money she saved, and the money we had inherited from both our parents’ wills and our aunts’ wills, as well as the money saved since we didn’t even bother paying for life support for Uncle Fremont, she bought a nice apartment in New York City and got a job as a waitress at a great diner.
I was not charged or arrested or anything, mainly because I was a minor and Uncle Fremont had been so fucked up. Alphonse recovered after a couple months of therapy from an aunt on the other side of the family, Aunt Susan.
We moved during the end of summer, and at the beginning I thought my life had officially gone to Hell. Everyone loves NYC, but I hated it. And when school started, it all went downhill from there. That is, until I met Jay. And you already know that story.
The next year, after meeting Lirit, I asked her to the homecoming dance, and she said yes. After the dance, I asked her out, and she said yes. We’ve been going out for years now, and I think if I had to make a list of the most important people in my life, she would be #1.
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