Moving Into the Pits of Hell

At the age of twelve the act of moving into a new neighborhood is supposed to be a little terrifying. The idea of being alone, without friends and completely at a loss for familiarity with your surroundings is enough to scare anybody. I believe I may have been able to adjust to my new environment if that were all I had to deal with but what I discovered was beyond anything I could have imagined. If you could take the terror and fear that I have just described and move it from my imagination where it was residing into the depths of my soul where it could make me tremble and shake in horror, then you would understand how I felt when I first realized that I had moved into the pits of hell.

My previous neighborhood had what you would call a family orientation. Walking down the street meant passing in front of the homes where familiar faces lived. Some of the homes had families that you knew more intimately than others but all of them had something familiar about them and all of them made you feel like you were in your own environment. Growing up in such a neighborhood meant that I could walk for 5 or 6 blocks in any direction and point out the houses where my friends lived; where my fellow members of the Junior Sportsmen lived; where all the pretty girls I had a crush on lived. It also meant that I knew where the best locations were for playing a game of baseball, riding bikes, playing marbles or tossing a football.

The horror of my new neighborhood was not in the lack of everything I knew to be familiar but in the presence of the group of evil looking guys that liked to hang out on the corner, across the street from where I now lived. The only consolation I could find in which to take comfort was that they were a half a block away and I was living in a back house where I could easily hide from their view. Also, the pretty girl that lived in the front house gave me hope for being able to make friends. Since we had moved in at the beginning of summer vacation I would have around three months before I would be forced to make direct contact with the gang bangers from down the street.

The girl that lived in the front house was named Curley Tops and, like the gang bangers on the corner, she was also my age. Her mother was pretty strict with her so she really couldn’t go anywhere except to spend her time sitting on her front steps. Little did I know at the time that over the course of the next three months we would become very close and she would change my life forever? Curley Tops and I spent almost every night together sitting on her steps listing to music on our radio and talking. During this time she taught me everything I needed to know to survive my encounter with the guys on the corner. More importantly, she taught me how to be a man.