I move into another apartment. This one is made of crumbling bricks and tall windows. It smells of stale bread and moldy floors. It looks like forgotten pasts and abandoned futures. This is my home now.
We get out of the taxi, my mother gives the driver some cash, then we walk through a rotting wooden door that is almost as tall as my father. The entryway is a small lounge on the ground floor which has nothing but a desk, an empty chair, and a single ringing bell. I reach to ring the bell but my mother puts her arm in front of me. Anyway, I can’t even reach the top of the desk.
As we begin to leave the room with the desk and empty chair, we go to a door with a long red handle. The door refuses to open for us the first four tries, but then finally gives in and lets us through. It leads to cement stairs and metal railings that smell of cigarettes on a Tuesday afternoon. The stairs are tall and many, the top of this flight seeming further away than my old house. Before I can say anything, my mother yanks me by my arm and pulls me up the stairs. I float away with her only being ever so slightly held back by the wind.
We climb up the large stairs for what seems like hours before we reach the hallway with many doors of which one is ours. The doors are all identical, some with more stains than others, all with the same metal handle, thin plywood, and rusty deadbolt lock. The carpeting has the same dizzying pattern that I quickly get lost in all the way down to the metallic door labeled: EXIT at the end of the hallway. About three doors away from that one, we finally reach the one we want.
The door handle is messy and rough, and it doesn’t open until my father pulls on it with all his might. The door then violently shakes, and a few more punches and pushes make it swing open to reveal the inside like a salesman on the television saying, “but wait, there’s more!” “More,” is one bedroom and a bathroom with a sofa, an old box television, and a bed large enough for my parents to sleep with each other. They still choose not to.
This isn’t what I thought it would look like. In the magazines and television movies, the people always have a home with lots of floors and sofas and tables. They always have funny looking chandeliers and TVs that are too big, with lots of stairs and tall ceilings. This one is nothing like those, the ceilings are low and drip slimy fluids on to the floor, the sofa is dirty and stained, and the TV doesn’t work unless you punch it.
I sit on the sofa where I will be sleeping and stare at that blank television. My father sets up his sleeping bag next to my mother’s bed, where she shifts her pillows around and tosses one to him. It’s not my bedtime yet so I ask to roam the hallways and my mother says I can with a mutter. My father gives her a quick glance but then quickly looks back to his book.
My father opens the door for me because I can’t seem to figure it out, then I go outside the door and begin walking. As I walk down the hallway, I put the fingertips of my right hand on the seams of the wallpaper, lifting them back up whenever there is graffiti or dead termites. I walk like this for a while, my fingers grazing all the bumps and scratches picking up all sorts of dirt and grease along the way until I reach the end of the hallway. By then my fingers are browner, so I decide I have done enough walking for today and turn around.
On the way back I see the faint figure of a white boy playing with his trucks by my room. He is small and plump with a t-shirt that doesn’t fit him, pants that are too big for him, and messy hair that almost cover his dirty brown eyes. I get closer and see that he blocks the way to my door, so I start to talk to him, hoping I could eventually kindly tell him to move.
I ask him about his trucks. He tells me what kind they are and how much each weighs. I don’t understand most of what he says but I appreciate the toys. I sit down to play with him and his replicas and reach for one of his trucks, but he grabs it and violently pulls it to his chest. He tells me I cannot touch his trucks because I am too dirty. I look at my hands in response and he reacts before I can even say anything, and tells me that it’s not just my hands. My body is dirty and so is my inside and he doesn’t spend time with dirty girls. He opens the door to his room and takes his trucks with him.
I go to sleep that night with empty thoughts. I lay my head against my pillow on the sofa and only think about sleep. The room is so dark I don’t even have to close my eyes.
Wesley Bozman is a 14-year-old freshman and Friends’ Central School. He loves writing creative fiction and music. This sample is a vignette he wrote inspired by the book, “The House on Mango Street,” as well as wanting to tell a story of a relatively small and normalized act of racism which happens much more frequently to people of color than most people would think.