Every minute someoneís beaten, stabbed, or robbed. Requirements to live: shut your mouth, avert your eyes, and donít believe. Luck wonít save your punk ass in West Philadelphia. Summertime, the only swimming you might do is stuffed in a plastic bag floating to the bottom of the Schuylkill. †
My step-dad, Trey, bashed my head last night, and I swear I saw Jesus. Requirements to leave: silent surreptitious surrender to faith. Yeah, I know Iím double crossing myself as I beg for a miracle. Plus it helps to steal a few hundred from Trey (took me two months), tuck a purloined St.Christopher medal in my pocket for travel (sorry, Mom), and have a goal: survive. †
On the lam, I bought the cheapest ticket I could, and Iím invisible on this train. Tucked into a corner, I rest my slight seventeen going on seventy-year old bones. On my lap, a small duffle bag holds my history. I open it and pull out a crumpled ancient postcard from my grandmother. Closing my eyes, I wish (not pray), and slip the picture into my blouse pocket, nearer my heart. †
Miles of track soothe my mind. I find the tiny restroom to freshen up. Requirement for renewal: smiling smooth faÁade. I practice in the mirror and laugh out loud. †
Slowing arrival rumble stop, I stumble off the train, blink, and I see it - my destiny, my altar. I walk, run, and Iím there. The Arch, Saint Louis: gleaming gateway of aspirations.