Not the Swapmeet

Her mom didn't have a car. 

Nor could she drive if she tried.

The way they would travel through and from Wilmington was through the Metro, mostly by bus. Sometimes, they would take the Blue Line to Downtown LA in the maquiladora district where her mother would go to work sewing on Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Raiders patches.

Every Saturday in Paramount, there was a swapmeet.  A place to get cheap stuff, and most importantly for a 13-year old, externally-motivated Araceli, cheap food.

For Araceli, going there with her mom, meant that she might get a hot dog or something.  Finally, something that wasn't divided or shared with her 4 other sisters or little brother.  Eating out was a rare luxury, something Araceli didn't do much throughout her childhood.

One day as they were at the bus stop near their house, instead they got on a different bus.  Which of course put in danger her opportunity to get her hot dog.

"Mom, this doesn't look the way to the swapmeet."  She knew her mom knew her way around the buses, and this was definitely not the way there.

"Araceli, callate!"her mother responded through gritted teeth, while grabbing her stomach.

Not just any other stomach.

"I am having this baby" she told Araceli while focusing and staring doggedly ahead, as the bus plodded its way to Harbor-UCLA from Wilmington.  She'd had 6 already, what was one more?

No frantic screaming, no panicking.  Not in public.

They made it to the entrance of the hospital when she said, "go get help, tell them I'm having a baby!"    She couldn't walk anymore.  Araceli ran frantically to get help.

She found a nurse.

The nurse asked,"Where is she?"

"She cant walk, shes at the entrance," responded Araceli

They got a wheelchair and rushed to the entrance, only to find her mom, walking with both hands on the handrails.

An hour later, the world welcomed Emma arriving by c-section, delivered by Metro bus lines.

Getting Assaulted on the Blue Line

The Eve of Christmas Eve.   7PM.

A long day of work in a week where no one else is really working.

A full and packed Long Beach-bound Blue Line.

I made it safely enough to the area where bikes are supposed to be located --- in the middle of the car.

Sitting next to one of the exits, I noticed a black woman with short hair.  At the start of the ride, she seemed to be singing feliz navidad, quite loudly.  It was then that I noticed that this black woman wasn't a black woman at all, but a gay Latino man.  He was texting, and just otherwise minding his business.

At around the San Pedro stop, a group of 10-15 black teenagers packed the car to its capacity.  They spread themselves all over the car. The atmosphere of the bus got a bit louder and maybe even livelier.  Nothing really than just teenagers in general making noise, wanting to be heard, etc.

Some of them had mentioned something aboutTrayvon Martin, or something to that affect.  I looked at them closely.

A few of them noticed that a cop had entered a car.  They announced to each other that they were going to get off at the next stop, presumably because they had no ticket.

Teens still being teens.

I didn't really care one way or the other.

Before the next stop, they called out their dance group, whatever group they were a part of. "Blah blah blahs, make some noise!"

One of them had said out loud, "damn it stinks in here!"

Then all of a sudden, arguing.

The Gay Latino man was suddenly standing up, presumably indignant at some comment they had made.

One of those teenagers was indignant back threatening to beat him up.

Oh great.

No one needs this shit, I thought.

He started hitting him and it looked really sad.

A group of cowardly teenagers ganging up on some dude.

I put my arm in front of the aggressing teen, who was probably about 5'10 - 6'0 trying to just halt any action and bring this to peace.  Why you want to start shit?  I was thinking.

Probably cause you're a hotheaded dumbass teenager, I also thought.

I said, "calm down."

A few weeks ago, I had talked a guy out of possibly getting money out of me.  I really thought I could stop what was going down.

I am a peacemaker, I was just here to make peace.

He said to me, "oh you want some of this?"  I looked at him wondering what he was about to do.

ONE BAM!  TWO BAM!  THREE BAM!  FOUR BAMS!  So much that I didn't even know where my head was or where my body was.

I was getting hit by multiple people it seemed like.  It felt like I didn't have any time whatsoever to react.

I curled up, I think.

I didn't know how it was going to end for me, but I was just concerned that they wouldn't damage my glasses.

Everyone was just looking around.  I couldn't remember, as I was just making sure I didn't lose consciousness and that I wasn't that badly hurt.

I saw the guy beat on the gay man even more.

Disoriented and looking for my glasses, it was over and they left.

The people on the car didn't seem to know how to react.  I saw some girls probably laughing.  I was just searching for my glasses, god forbid those expensive things get broken.

I could feel people's eyes on me.

The Latino man was calling the phone.  He called whomever he was talking to before and said "I just got beat the fuck up."

Another Latino man with tattoos called out at him, sort of imploring him to be quiet.

The gay Latino man, "what you want to fight me too?"

"Naw, homey, I don't prey on the weak," the Latino man with tattoos responded.

An older black man who saw the melee approached me and said, "You don't need to defend him, he's a homo-sexual."

I told him, "naw man, it shouldn't be like that, were just all trying to get home and ride in peace."

As the ride progressed, the man called the cops and got off at Florence station.

Later in the ride as the majority of people got off at the Willowbrook station, a few people gave me sympathetic nods.

A Latino man with tattoos asked me, "you stood up for that guy?"

I said yeah.

And he lamented "nobody did anything."

I was just glad that I could take a punch and that I could walk away.

I can't fight, I didn't have it in me.  I don't really know how.  I couldn't fight because I didn't have any anger in me to do anything other than to increase the peace.

The back of my head hurts a little bit as I write and recount this.  I'm grateful I was able to bike home and still have enough concentration to write this.

To those teens if you ever read this:  I don't know you or what you've been through in life, but may you find your peace.  Really. 

Maybe you got some instant rush from punching a few people, but ultimately what were you proving?

I suspect that maybe you're just looking for respect in the world. 

Well here is some.  I truly feel sorry for you and whatever your pain is.  Thank you for sharing it with me.