I could feel the nerves in my hand tense up. As I stood in the bus shelter overlooking the Tapscott town homes across the street, I just knew I was in trouble. Not only was his refusal to leave the shelter making me more and more uneasy, his dedication to not reveal what his hands were holding inside the oversized North Face jacket had me nervous as fuck.
“Yo. You didn’t hear me dawg?”
His voice was not deep, not slick. Like a dealer at a casino table. Glancing over, I could just see his shiny gold grill covering his upper fronts as if his mouth stayed open just enough for one to notice.
“Typical screwface nigga,” I said to myself, ensuring that he could hear my whispered voice.
The much louder response was followed by the sound of a metal against a hard surface. It was short, but distinctive. Now I knew this wasn’t your typical random nigga conversation.
“Yea,” my voice lower than normal. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to admit it, but I was definitely scared. What that a gun I had just heard? Was it something else? I had successfully survived the ills of Scarborough streets for three months. Was that about to end here? One thing I had liked about my personality was that I never went looking for trouble. Nor did I provoke it by engaging in foolish arguments, initiating foolish beef or acting harder than I was (unlike a lot of cats out here). However, today seemed to be a tale of irony as the one who never looks for trouble, had found it.
“So what’s in your pockets dawg?”
His voice got greasier and greasier. Intimidation was definitely his forte. So much so, I was tempted to ask him if he’d ever considered working as a detective one day up at 42 Division. He could certainly put his menacing approach to good use there. Continuing to avoid eye contact, I pulled out my wallet and Motorola cell phone as proof that “no, I’m not a G like you. I’m just a little school nigga trying to avoid your lifestyle.” Quickly reaching for the wallet, he scanned its contents and in no time, pulled out my TD debit card from its slot.
“TD eh? YA EH?”
Great. If I was smart, I would have slowly removed that card from my wallet during his intimidation 101. But I was bummy. And as I had taken notice since my street introduction a few months back, when you get bummy, the majority of the time, niggas don’t think straight. This was clearly my time for not thinking straight. Like why I chose not to run for the Nugget Bus as I left the mall. I saw it approaching Blackwell, why didn’t I make a run for it as I did with countless other buses numerous times before? I knew he was following me, why didn’t I just cut? There was no sense in contemplating the outcome because here I was. The cold winter wind did not snap me out of the mental trance I was in. That’s how I knew I was scared. No sooner after a brisk breeze passed by, the nigga’s voice refilled the already tense atmosphere.
“Yo, let’s go yo. Back to the mall.” He proceeded to exit the bus shelter, something I was waiting for the past ten minutes. I thought of making a cut across the street and into Pearson, but the nigga had my wallet! Reluctantly, I followed him across the icy parking lot and back into the mall. Stopping at the Scotiabank, he motioned for me to step up to the ATM, handing me back my TD debit card. As I took it back, I looked him square in his face. He looked pissed. Really pissed, almost as if he wasn’t getting his way. I didn’t get it. Was it all just a front? A front to get paid? His french braids seeped out of his hood, adding to his over-threatening look.
“And don’t try no funny stuff eh? Withdraw EVERYTHING.”
Fuck. I had no more than six hundred dollars saved up in my savings account, and I needed that. Annie, the youth worker at the Base shelter I was staying at, was on the verge of finding me housing with TCH. She had told me so just over a week ago. I was going to need first and last. I hesitated, but remembering that metallic sound a minutes ago, I decided to go along with his plan.
“Dead bodies can’t accept no housing anyway,” I told myself as I entered in my password at the ATM machine. Selecting a hundred dollars for withdrawal, I completed the transaction in what had to have been record time. As I press last button for confirmation, I heard another unrecognizable voice behind me.
“… nigga get that. Yo trust nigga, we gon be around the block in a few. Call Alicia if anything, seen?”
“Who the fuck was that?” I thought, avoiding turning around before the money came out. Whoever it was, clearly with either in on the set up, or at least knew what was going down. Remaining clam and focused, I waited for the money to spit out and in a few seconds, it did. Five twenties. Folding them up in my palm, I quickly turned around to see the mysterious second character’s back as he exited through the McDonalds. Mr. Intimidation, however, stood in his same spot, eyes now solely focused on the paper in my hand. My paper. He did I quick scan of the crowd to ensure none was watching (or catching wind of what was transpiring), and quickly grabbed the cash. I sigh of relief came over me as I took it, knowing that it was over. He counted it quickly, and looked at me with slight satisfaction.
“I need my wallet back,” I said, sounding a more like the Jesse I knew.
“YA HOLD ON..” he snapped back, as he counted the green bills once more. Seemingly satisfied, he reached in his pocket for my wallet and was in the midst of handing it over to me. RIght then, the ATM made a noise, as if it were printing something. His arms immediately stopped, as we both looked over to what the noise was. The receipt.
“FUCK!” I said subconsciously, realizing what this now meant. I had mistakenly told the ATM to print a receipt! I must have been distracted by that second voice as I was finishing up the withdrawal. FUCK! Eager to see what more info the receipt revealed, Intim grabbed it out of the slot, scanned it with his menacing eyes, and then, with what must have been the coldest looking screwface in the history of Toronto’s street culture, looked up at me.
“You playing me dawg?” His voice was quieter, but much more meaner. “You still have more money eh? Five hundred and twenty-six??”
I didn’t know what to say. The proof was all on the receipt. And the truth of the matter was ya, I was playing him. But what the fuck, who asked him to rob me anyway? This was his fault, not mine. Thinking of the most reasonable answer, I spoke.
“Well the card isn’t going to work in this ATM anymore. Withdrawal amounts are on one hundred max.” It seemed like a reasonable excuse. Perhaps he would accept it and simply allow it.
“Na dawg, you fucked up. You fucked up, eh! Know that.” I heard the metal object again. It must be banging against another object in his parka. I was scared shitless. I didn’t know what else to do. And the worst part was, what was going to happen from here?
Ch. 2: Toronto Streetlife: My Inaugural Welcome
I watched the snow fall from my awkward spot aboard the 102 Markham Bus. Normally, the winter rush hour traffic aboard the TTC would make me feel claustrophobic. Not this time. I could feel Intim’s presence lurking over me. Still in possession of my cell phone, I glanced at the time. 5:46pm. The light on the screen flickered on and off. I had owned the phone for about a year ago, and had desperately wanted a new one. However, given the predicament I was in, that was now the furthest thing from my mind. What I really wanted right now was to get the fuck up out this situation. Never mind ’bout a new cell phone! I was almost inclined to offer the phone to Intim as exchange for the rest of my savings. It was on a three year plan, postpaid. So he could use it whenever, however he wished. Call the US. Fuck, call Germany. I don’t care! Just let me go. That’s all I wanted. He had already used it twice since we left Malvern Mall. Now on our way to the TD across from Cederbrae Mall, I could only imagine what lay in store for us there. I regripped the pole I was holding onto. I could feel my palms just bulging with sweat. I titled my head to pear out the window once more, only to see our final destination starring back at me through the window pane. Perhaps my final destination. being shorter than me, Intim noticed it as well and motioned for me to make my way to the doors. Was the gun really keeping me from fleeing? Was it really a gun? Was I willing to test him and find out? No. I wasn’t. The bus came to a halt, and I stepped down and exited the vehicle. Intim close behind. The large snowflakes landed in my nose, almost as if Christmas was upon us once more. Only this time, Intim was the one receiving all the gift (or a gift to be exact) and I was the charitable sponsor. What surprised me in all of this, what his patience and persistence to get everything. From the mall, we had walked to the TD on Washburn, only to find out that it had just closed. What shocked me was Intim’s commitment to the robbery as he asked the security guard to ask one of the teller’s inside where the next closest TD was that was open. This nigga was really foreal about it. Now, as I cut across some grass to enter the branch, I was reminded just how foreal he was.
“Now remember, no funny shit seen? Just withdraw the money and you’ll be cool.”
His voice had toned down in terms of aggression, but had still maintained its criminal integrity. We walked into the branch and the first person I noticed was the security guard. A slim, average height man, middle aged with what appeared to be an East Asian background, I began to wonder if people could read minds. Because if he could, I would be home free.
“Actually, you wouldn’t.” My subconscious was quick to put things in perspective. “First of all, the line isn’t long. Even if he could read your mind, by the time he calls the police, Intim would be long gone, even if he didn’t know they were coming for him. And besides, its not like the man can do anything to Intim right then and there. HE IS NOT ARMED JESSE. INTIM IS.”
Damn. Subconscious was harsh. But truthfully harsh. The best thing for me to do in that situation was to withdrawal the reminding five twenty-six, give it to Intim and hopefully, he would be on his way. Making my way to the back of the teller lineup, I decided that this was what I was going to do.
“Five minutes! We close in five minutes!”
The security guard’s voice, although reassuring, felt aimless. I looked at my school uniform through my partially unzipped Raiders bomber jacket that Donut had lent me, just to see if it was still there. To remind myself that I was still here. Alive. Still in a mental daze, the teller’s voice almost didn’t make it through my eardrums.
“Hello? Sir? I can help you over here.”
Slowly acknowledging her request, I proceeded to walk up to her till.
“How can I help you today?”
“Ya, can I get what’s left in my savings account?” I asked reluctantly as I entered in my pin in the debit slot on the counter.
“All five hundred an-“
“Yep,” I said abruptly, cutting off the last two digits from her sentence. I glanced behind me to see Intim nervously scanning the crowd, for anyone who might by onto what he was doing. I thought changing the amount once more, but fuck it. What if he noticed the difference before I had a chance to leave? What then?
“Ok then. Just sign right here. I’ll be right back with your cash.”
She should have said “his cash.” Shit, it was now anyway. No sooner form when the teller left, she returned, a small stack of twenties and fifties encompassed in her right hand. It is only then that I had noticed how young she was. he hair was tied up in a bun, her complexion an off-peach tan. I liked it. But what could I be concerned with a girl now? This was a robbery. And I needed it to be over. Counting the money in front of both me and Intim, she handed it to me before asking if there was anything else I needed from her. Ya, help. But I couldn’t say that. Folding the money in the palm once again, I proceeded to exit the branch, Intim in close pursuit. The cold evening wind chilled my face. It was good. It reminded me that the fear that had engulfed me for the past two hours was finally beginning to disappear. Looking at Intim, he waited for me to extend the paycheque savings from my part time job at Moores Clothing over to him. Deliberately taking my sweet time, I reached into the bomber jacket and grabbed the cash. Once in my hand at out the pocket, I looked at once more before handing it over.
“Ya. Good job dawg.”
I felt horrible. This was everything I stood for, in reverse. Waiting for the retune of my wallet, Intim proceeded to walk towards the Shell gas station at the corner.
“Yo! My wallet!” I shouted to him, hoping that just forgot.
“YO FOLLOW ME.” The aggression returned. Wow. Was it still not over? I guess this is what I got for leaving Mississauga. Or perhaps this was punishment for the amount of clothing apparel I stole over the years. Whatever. I followed Intim to Shell where he bought a pack of smokes, before exiting the tiny attendant station and walked towards the 54 Lawrence bus stop, westbound. I knew Tracy lived directly behind the gas station. I just wanted my wallet so I could go there and vent. I knew he could be home. But Intim clearly had another plan.
“What we doing here?” I asked, “you got what you wanted.”
“What does it look like? We’re waiting for the bus!” He snapped back.
The brim of my NY Mets fitted began to feel uncomfortable, so I took it off and placed it inside my backpack. Intim noticed and responded immediately.
“YO. What are you doing over there? You calling police dawg?”
I ignored his reaction, put back on my backpack, and waited in silence for the next 54 to arrive. Realizing that his accusation was far from the truth, he relaxed his stance. The 54 pulled up about a minute later, both of us boarding first. I followed Intim to the back of the bus which was fairly empty, and sat down. I didn’t even want to pull out my mp3 player. I wasn’t scared anymore, just not in the mood to listen to music (as I usually was on the bus). As I watched the Tuesday sky turn to night, I thought of my mother. What would see say to all of this? Would see empathize with me over the unfortunate incident? Would she blame me for leaving the west in the first place? Our relationship hadn’t been the same ever since we moved into that house a few years back so I was unsure as to how she would react. Beofre long, the bus pulled into Lawrence East Station’s bus bay, and the passengers taking the RT descended off the vehicle. Intim then toss me my wallet and followed the rest of the passengers, but not before his last remark.
“And remember eh, no snitching, seen? Or else…”
The “or else” was immediately followed with a gun squeezing motion with his left finger. Pointing it straight in my direction, he smirked before exiting the vehicle. It was over. A sigh of relief came over me. I thought of calling Jinx. He had been calling me all afternoon. I then thought of exiting the bus too. After all, Base was at Kennedy. I didn’t want Intim following me there, so I decided to stay aboard. The 54 pulled off and continued on its westbound route along Lawrence Avenue. I wouldn’t sure where I was going to get off. I cracked the window I was sitting next to so that i could get some fresh air.
“Hey! Close that!”
A young cat sitting across from me disapproved of my window gesture. I starred back at him with a face that probably would take second place in Toronto’s history after Intim’s screwface. I could give two fucks what this young buck wanted. He hadn’t a clue what i had just went through, and right now, I just needed to breathe.
An excerpt from A$S: A $MARY STORY. Ch. 1: The Introduction and Ch. 2: Toronto Streetlife: The Inaugural Welcome