Photo by Olivia Obineme//The TRiiBE
Aspiring writer Gerry Staxxs walks us through what it’s like to be a Black millennial navigating two distinct worlds within the same city in his short story, “Gerry Staxxs Adventures: A Tale of 2 Sides.”

I thought I’d bid my last farewell to this cold ass bus stop after my high-school graduation. I stacked up a lot of paper working in college to buy my first reliable car. It got me and the homies from point A to point B, and that’s all that really mattered. I could ride over to bae crib and scoop her. I could have sex in the ride if the parents were home. I could pre-game in the car on the way to the party. It was independence. The whip was my roundtrip ticket to see the world outside of what I was used to.

My irresponsibility snatched my freedom like a hype in the night. So here I am, standing on this cold ass corner waiting on the #112/Vincennes bus with my big homie, E. We’ve been waiting for about 10 minutes. CTA prides itself on being ontime, running every 3 to 5 minutes. That’s not the case in the hood though. E slammed his burning cold hands into his Pelle Pelle jacket. He then took three steps toward the curb, leaned out into the street and angrily returned to his original position.

“Man. It was tough waking up early in the morning just to take the bus to 35th & Michigan to De La Salle. I used to take the #46 bus down Western to 35th. Chicago still cold as fuck bro. I’m tired of this wind smacking me in the face,” E said while shaking his head.

“The wind to the face ain’t that bad, bro. It’s the wind to the throat that’ll kill a mufucka,” I replied.

Chicago winters are simultaneously the best and worst parts of living here. Between December and March, the beat of the city is silenced. You can no longer hear the bass knocking obnoxiously from the blown-out subwoofer of a passing car. I remember when Young Jeezy’s Can’t Ban the Snowman mixtape came out. Everybody in the 100s was banging that joint in their cars that summer. Now, the sounds of the block are muted – you can only play G Herbo Humble Beast so loud when the windows are rolled up to keep the Hawk out.

Then again, when I’m mobile there’s nothing better than cruising down Lake Shore Drive with your girl in the front seat, Jeezy on the aux and the city lights reflecting off the fresh snow. Name a skyline – outside of New York – that can compete with ours. I’ll wait. She’s off the brown, and I’m sipping white – Pure Hennessy White Cognac. We way too gone, boy.

Reflecting on my bus stop days, compared to my days of mobility, I didn’t know this side of Chicago as a kid. I didn’t have the whip to get away from the box I grew up in. In the wild 100s, I can cover up the skyline with one hand. The vibrant Chicago seen in TV shows didn’t exist on the far South Side. Things are bleak here. I don’t think my homies have ever left the 100s. Well, some of their asses did leave to go out west, taking 290 to North Riverside Mall to grab the new Mikes. I promised the old dude, who pumps everybody’s gas on 100th & Michigan, that I would go to college and travel the world. I did all that, and when I returned home, he was still on 100th & Michigan pumping gas. Crazy, right?

I got off the bus in front of Connection Clothing on 69h & Western. That’s where I saw a number of pumpkin heads growing up. Yeah, you could catch your issue over there. But nothing stopped me from walking to 68th & Western. I grew up in Penny’s Barbershop. My barber Sherman has been cutting my hair since I was 5 or 6 years old.

“Yo, Sherm. I find it interesting that the IT Analyst job I got up north makes mills off the violence on the low,” I said from the barber’s chair.

The shop is where the realest of the real convos go down. Sherm was the first person I saw the day of my interview with the IT job off Belmont. It was my first interview since I moved back to my OG house from Washington DC. So I had to get a crispy lining before the interview.

“Yeaah, for real? What that lick hit for?” Sherman asked.

“Put it like this, bro. Every time the murder rate shoots up, they make bands. They sell hospital goods, latex gloves, medical supplies, bandages, shit like that. So if you got a lot of crime and a lot of people in the hospital, they make money. It’s that simple, my G.”

“Wow. So this stuff’s all interconnected, huh?”

The hum of the clippers lulls me into my imagination. That’s where I become Robin Hood. For years, I only saw us stealing from white people. One summer, every other news headline talked about Black teens robbing white people on the Magnificent Mile or up north. The city heightened police presence in those areas so the white people felt safer. When you really sit down and think about it, though, these white people are stealing from us. They lock up Black boys from our hoods to keep the prisons full. They watch our homes go into foreclosure so they can buy them for cheap and turn them into condos.

So, like Robin Hood, I go up north to steal. Whether through my IT job or my Uber hustle, I use the loop and the north side to see how the other side lives. I’m always coming up on something new to bring back to my people. I’m taking that north side money and spending it on the south side. The plan is to slowly catch up, to learn everything I can from “the man,” to build my credit, to invest smartly and to really seek Jay Z’s 4:44 blueprint for my kids’ kids. We may not see all the benefits of our labor, but our kids surely can.

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