October 11, 2011


He was a twenty-something Latino (like me), just waiting for the bus. 

He wore a white 'wife beater' shirt and baggy jeans.  His entire body was covered in tattoos - even on his neck and face.  He wore dark, wrap-around sunglasses and had a blue bandana tied around his bald head. 

He watched me closely as I limped under the overhang of the bus stop to get out of the rain.  I was really learning to hate this kind of weather.  Every time it rained, a relentless dull throb would settle into my leg and my hip.  I was too young to feel this old.

I felt uncomfortable having him stare at my cane and the scars on the right side of my face, but I didn't show it, I was raised in these neighborhoods and knew to never show fear or weakness.  I just looked blankly ahead and sat down on the bench a few feet from him. 

He stared intently at me for a couple of minutes before speaking.

"Dude, that sucks."

I looked over at him.

"What the fuck happened to you?  Car crash?"

"No. Afghanistan."

"No shit?  Wow man.  Tell me about it."

Normally I tried not to talk about what had happened to me over there - the memories and the pain were still pretty fresh; but he wasn't asking me to talk about it, he was telling me.

I gave him the condensed version about the night that my convoy was attacked - how my Humvee was hit by a "home-made" roadside bomb and how my face was burned and how I lost part of my leg in the explosion. 

I left out a lot though.  I left out how I was considered lucky since many others had died in the ensuing firefight.  I left out the incredible guilt that I carried every day because I survived.  I left out the intense physical and mental pain that I experienced over the course of the next several months as I fought to heal my body, my mind and my soul.  I left out the fact that my fiancĂ©e had left me for another man while I was still on my back in the hospital fighting for my life.  I left out the fact that I had become increasingly addicted to the pain meds that the doctors at the V.A. hospital fed me like candy.  I also left out how I'd thought of killing myself...

He said his name was 'Chewy' and he asked me a lot of questions.  On the outside his demeanor seemed to be friendly, but from behind his sunglasses he was studying me - like a predator.

"You lose a lot of home boys over there?" he asked. 

I nodded.

"Yeah, I've lost a lot over here too.  Funny how you went over there to go to war, but I’m at war right here in the streets – every day."  As he said this, he made an elaborate ‘gang sign’ with his hands.  I nodded solemnly so that he wouldn’t think that I was disrespecting him.

We talked for awhile, trading ‘war stories’.  Chewy pulled up his shirt and showed me the scars from bullet wounds put there by a rival gang years before.

Eventually, he took his shades off and looked at me in the eyes.  "You know what homey? I respect you.  I really do.  You've been through the shit and you're still here."

I returned his gaze, lied and told him that I respected him too, which seemed to make him happy.

He reached out and firmly shook my hand, “You’re alright Vato.”

Suddenly Chewy's demeanor changed.  He let go of my hand, stopped talking to me and slouched down on the bench.  A low rider had turned the corner and slowly drove down the street, stopping right in front of the bus stop.  The windows were tinted and I could hear the bass thumping from the music inside the car.  I tensed my body, getting ready to throw myself to the ground in case there was trouble. 

The passenger-side window rolled down slightly.

"Yo Chewy!"

Chewy got up from the bench and slowly strolled over to the car in the rain.  He bent down and looked in the window.  I heard him talking to the people inside the car.  I couldn't hear what they were saying - at first the conversation seemed heated, but finally I heard them laughing.  Chewy reached in and clasped hands with one of the passengers.

"I'll talk to you later Homies."

My body relaxed. 

Chewy turned around and started walking back towards the bus stop.  When he met my gaze, he smiled warmly at me like an old friend.

He was almost back under the overhang when a voice from the car called out.


As he turned towards the voice, automatic gunfire erupted from the barrel of a gun that had suddenly appeared from the passenger side of the car.  Chewy's body spasmed as the bullets slammed into his body.  I dove to the ground as the glass from the overhang rained down on me.  I felt searing hot pain as a bullet shattered my already ruined knee.  I lay there in the glass and blood, covering my head with my hands and screaming in terror until finally the shots ceased and the tires of the low rider squealed as it sped away down the street.

I looked up and saw Chewy's body twisted obscenely just a few yards in front of me.  The rain was already carrying the blood away from his lifeless form in small rivulets. 

From somewhere in the distance, sirens could be heard over the sound of my sobs...

He was a twenty-something Latino (like me), just waiting for the bus. 

copyright © 2011 Kevin Routh


  1. Dude awesome story!!! Your a really great writer, I don't usually give a long blog post a chance. But I read the first line and knew that this was something I can relate to. Its soo vivid and the discriptions made me feel like I was there. I'm a latino and sad to say but I have family member in gangs and some that have died due to the violence. My favorite cousin that taught me how to read, swim, and ride a bike. Is still currently in jail due to gangs (never murdered anyone fortunetly, and will be out soon)

  2. Liked it?? I loved it.... This post perfectly show how uncertain life is.... Life is full of surprises.

    God bless you!!

  3. Brilliant story and the pace is also superb. Absolutely love it!!

  4. This is a powerful story I was caught by the first few lines. It cracks along at a pace which is perfect for the theme.The unpredictable is a great strength which this certainly has. I loved it.

  5. Another great post! Keep up with the excellent blogging! You're really good at it! - http://www.d22-zone.com

  6. Thanks for the great comments! I really like how this one evolved. I wanted to show two young men with similar upbringings/backgrounds who took drastically different paths in their lives...

  7. Great piece of story telling. I was captivated from the beginning Two born from a similar place taking paths so different from one another..sadly it happens too often


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