I finally recognized that nervous boy as one of the lads who had teamed up with other Westindian boys to make my life miserable often threatening me near San Miguel Hill. This morning, following the first day’s assembly, however, we were given the orders to go to class. In several lines, groups of students marched soberly to their designated classrooms. While I thought quickly of how to hold this little delinquent who was obviously far from his hunting companions, I said to myself, “You little piece of shit! I’ve got you now!”
Suddenly, I felt the boy sidling up to me discretely saying to me in a low voice so that the rest of the guys couldn’t hear him, “Hey I want to talk to you.” “Talk to me now, will ya?” I thought. “So, speak up then,” I said as I glared at him. “I just want to ask you to please not bring up the problems we had in Panama here in Colon. I just want to get a new life, and hopefully we can start out on a good …”
Listening intently to his pleas, I kept following him while we talked and the boy kept examining my face and the pronounced frown that creased my brow as I observed the crowd of boys for any more members of the pack from Panama that had caused me so much grief on more than one occasion.
Satisfied that he was the only one from that original little gang of cowards from “M” Street, I decided to concentrate on this boy who, by now, had started to beg. “I would like you to forget those things in the past because I simply cannot have any problems here in Colon. I would like us to start over again as if nothing had ever happened,” he pleaded.
While the boy spoke, the rage continued to well up in me when I flashed back to the first scenes in which I had encountered this gang of West Indian youths who had threatened to beat me up for no reason. If memory served me, there had been four of them who used to prowl around at night like a pack of young wolves looking to attack whoever crossed their path. I was shopping with my aunt at the Curundu Commissary when I encountered them, seemingly becoming just what they were looking for- a defenseless victim for their violent antics.
My aunt was about to leave for home with all her sacks of groceries when she decided to go back inside the commissary again while they were closing up the store. “Stay here now and watch the bags,” she ordered me as she left me in the enclosure next to the entrance to watch the bags. I stayed posted like a sentinel when this band of black boy marauders from the surrounding area began to shout, “We’ve finally caught you…you Rass you. Now we’re going to waste you!”
It was true that they had finally caught up with me, but it was equally true that I wasn’t going to run from them. I wasn’t afraid to take them on one by one even while I was doing my duty for my aunt. “We’re going to give you what you deserve, Rass boy!” they said feeling confident within the protection of their gang. I stood my ground defiantly, however, since the last time I had met up with them they had also pounced on and beat up one of my cousins. They had failed to get me that time, however, because I had evaded them and escaped.
I had been on an errand for my grandmother that time lugging, of all things, a can of kerosene back home all the way to San Miguel when they spied me and gave chase. As I ran from them they continued to shoot at me with their homemade wooden weapons which we later recognized as zip guns. I had really seen them first but since I was carrying the heavy can I hastened my pace and ran as fast as I could across “M” Street leaving them far behind. I knew I had humiliated them that day as I had treated it like a big game but later their threats became more violent and they rained down a pummeling on my poor cousin Conrado. This time, I wasn’t going to let them intimidate me.
This story continues.