It was a Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining, and everyone was out in their summer clothes looking to absorb the heat. In a barber shop in Hackney, south of the borough, there was a huge queue today as it was Friday; many people are planning on going out tonight. Peter walked in expecting to get his hair cut straight away but was dismayed when he saw the amount of people waiting to get their hair cut. He walked up to his barber and asked him how many people ahead of him ‘there are about 6 ahead of you’ he replied. Peter took his seat, he noticed his friend James walk past the shop and ran to meet him ‘where are you off to? Looking all sharp, I see you got your Christmas clothes out, going to link a girl innit? James smiled as he pulled up his £100 Levi jeans, and dropped the Prada sunglasses from the top of his head unto his face ‘you know me man, I have this sexy chick I met yesterday, you know the routine, babes can I take you out for a drink sometime? She was all over me after that. Peter replied ‘I see your swagger is on point today, she must be sexy! Well am just here waiting to cut my hair man, the queue here is mad today. James looked into the barbershop and saw the amount of people, he was not impressed. James said to peter ‘am off call me later on, bless.
Peter decided to stay outside; the barbershop was a bit too hot for comfort. Peter was not an average sized seventeen years old; he was 5’11 in height and has muscular build. Peter was known in his area, even though he kept himself to himself these days it was not always like that. When Peter was 14 he started making a name for himself, he earned his stripes by doing things that got him respect. Around here respect it is not something you play with, you have to earn your respect and if your respect has been undermined; what you do next will be what people talk about. So around here if you were disrespected then you dealt with it with the only way people knew how, which was with violence. Around here you need to be able to take care of yourself, if not you will not survive. Some call it survival of the fittest; philosophy around here is that they are product of their environment. So at age 15 Peter was well recognised by his peers and feared by his enemies. One thing he managed to do was to keep a low profile from the police, he made sure that he never crossed paths with them.
Still outside the barbershop Peter heard a loud cheer inside, so he went in and saw that the match was about to kick off. It is August 18th first game of the season and it was Arsenal vs. Tottenham. The place was buzzing, majority of the people inside were Arsenal fans, only one barber and a customer were spurs fans. The banter had begun; it was Peter who was the ring leader for the Gooners. Peter was a real Arsenal supporter; he loved everything about the club and would not let anyone talk bad about the team, especially from Spurs fans. The animosity between him and the spurs fan was so intense, everyone could feel it. All this was taking place and the match had not even started yet. Peter shouted ‘how can you ever say that spurs are as good as Arsenal, never!’ he said his with real intent as he continued it didn’t seem like banter anymore, voices were being raised so high, you could feel the anger. The match has now started, just as Peter was about to get on the barber’s chair.
The match finished a draw and it seemed like everyone has calmed down now. Peter was not happy as Arsenal were at home and he expected them to beat spurs. The time was 7pm, Peter had a meeting with is mentor Andrew. Andrew was the person who had helped Peter transform into a new person, they have a special bond. They were both born and raised in Hackney, both had parents of mixed race. Peter was a son of a South African man who came to the UK in the early nineties, his mother was a Scottish woman and they both met in the early nineties fell in love and had Peter. Peter mum passed away when he was 13 and now only lives with his dad. Andrew his mentor had a lot in common with Peter, social background and the inability to trust people. Andrew has been there for Peter for the last two years guiding him and sharing his knowledge with him. Andrew was not much older than Peter, he was 24, successful young business man who plans to create jobs to help young people. They planned to meet at Andrew’s office not too far from the barber shop. Andrew saw him and said ‘I see you got that fresh line up, was it JJ? Peter replied with a grin ‘it has to be, I never change barbers, if JJ is away then I guess no hair cut till his back. It’s almost as bad as cheating on your wife, using another barber, hell no! Andrew started laughing uncontrollably ‘you’re too much how can you even begin to compare relationships with someone who cuts your hair. Peter replied with a serious face ‘I don’t play with my hair you know; me and my barber have a monogamous relationship at least I do with him as he sees so many other people. Andrew shouted ‘stop stop you’re killing me’. ‘All jokes aside peter how have you been? It’s been a while since we last met because of my business trips’. Peter replied with a disappointed tone to his voice ‘it’s been alright, the work load was too much just before the summer started, but am into my last year in September; then it’s off to university to study medicine. To tell you the truth Andrew I cannot wait to go away, I feel like am constantly being distracted here. I know the road to becoming a doctor is a long and hard one but the distraction sometimes is too much. Andrew looked at him like a proud big brother, he was really happy with the improvements he had made over the last two years. Listen to me carefully Peter ‘do you remember the first thing you said to me when we first met?’ Thinking back rolling his eyes Peter replied ‘yes’ but he was not quite sure. Andrew reminded him ‘when we first met you said to me; what was the point of having potential if the people around you in education are doing all they can to suppress that. I then said to you that you must first realise you personal worth, because only you can blow your own horn they way you want it blown, you have to change the way people think by doing with your actions, that is the best thing you can do. So being distracted is part of your journey to success, is how you deal with those distraction that make the difference.’
Andrew first met Peter when he was known as Snake on the street. Everyone called him snake because he was tactical, sly and can put fear in those around him. At age 15 he was making so much money by doing whatever seems fit, whether it was drugs, robberies as long as the money was coming in that is all that mattered. Andrew met him at a local youth project were they first had their conversation, instantly Andrew knew that Peter was destined for more than just a life on the streets. He gradually made head way in terms of communication and getting him to open up. At that point Peter was on the verge of going to prison, he and his boys were planning a robbery, on route to this robbery Andrew saw Peter; they spoke briefly. As that was happening his friends has already been stopped in the car, which was filled with guns and baseball bats. They all went down; all sentences to 5 years each. That brief conversation, unintentionally help keep Peter out of prison. From that day on he used it as a sign to try do better, with the guidance of his mentor his on track to achieving his dream which is to be a doctor.
Andrew said to Peter ‘You have a gift and talent to do so much good for yourself and for the people around you. I was not academically gifted like you, but I knew I had to find a way to support myself and to achieve something great. I have always been a business man, when I was in school my parents could not afford to give me pocket money, so I used my own initiative and started up business in school, I sold cookies to those not allowed out at lunch time, I sold mix Cd’s for those that loved music. I even had a hire service as a bodyguard for other student who were vulnerable. So you see with determination and the right people around you, you can achieve your greatness despite all the negativity around you.
That same evening, the sun rays were finally disappearing and a light breeze was blowing. After his meeting, Peter was walking towards his house when he noticed a car circling twice, unsure of what to make of it he takes a detour through an alley where cars cannot go through. The alley way was disgusting, condoms all over the floor, needles from the crack addicts, graffiti all over the place and the smell was horrifying. Peter could not stand the smell so he started jogging, as he came out the dark alley way he saw James, Jason and some of the younger ones from the area. He approached them and said ‘have you noticed a black car, tinted out circling the endz? ‘Nah we’ve all been jamming here’ James replied. ‘Ok, I saw them over and over again, something did not look right. Anyway how was your linkage with that girl you was talking about? James with a fat grin on his face replied how you think it went? She couldn’t resist my game, we didn’t even make it out of her house to go cinema, indoor session if you know what I mean. Peter clenched his fist and gave him a spud saying ‘my man, always on point’. James asked Peter ‘where are you coming from? Peter hesitant with his reply said ‘I am coming from a meeting with Andrew. ‘Again?’ James shouted ‘man seems like you are always with that dude’ Well his been helping me with a few things’ Peter replied.
Peter walked off towards his flat. Jason looked at Peter as he walked away, shaking his head ‘what’s up with that guy? Back in the day I heard he had mad juice now his on this education ting’ James replied ‘things change people change, we both have an understanding, back then, me and Snake aka Peter we use to run this area. We had shit on lock; even men that were older than us could not touch us.’ With a bewildered look to his face Jason also known as Jagz to his friends asked him so what happened since then?’ James had a remorseful look on his face ‘well after we nearly went prison, Peter had a change of heart he started talking all this we need to do more with ourselves nonsense, it got fuelled when he met this Andrew character that has been mentoring him. We stopped talking for a while because I was still on the roads doing what I know best and he was now on this righteous path. Eventually we made up, but agreed that we would never try and persuade each other to do things, so basically he could not try get me to come join him or preach to me about all that system is fucked blah blah blah, and I wouldn’t try get him to come back to the roads.’ Jason shook his head with a better understanding now, everyone respected Peter based on his past but not all understood the drastic u turn he made in such a short space of time.
James; Big J as he would like to be called was now running things in their area. Big J was also 17, tall well over 6 feet, towered over most; he was the son two St Lucian parents. Both his parents were second generation Windrush. His grandparents arrived in Britain in 1948, both still alive and have a big impact on his life. James has a stable home, where both parents are still together, they make and honest living and try their best for their children. James is the second born, his older is sister is now married with kids and lives with her husband.
Big J wanted and demanded respect from all around him, he was not good with authority figures, and this is why he has been kicked out of all the schools he has been in. Big J does not really like to get his hands dirty, that is why he has a small army of young boys, who are eager to get their stripes. James told Jagz to round up some of the younger ones because he had a move (job) for them.
The day was finally over, after a hot day, now the weather is humid and sticky. Peter walked in to his flat, situated on the 6 floor, a council flat amongst many around it. Their home was very small, a 2 bedroom flat, in Peter’s bedroom you could barely fit a single bed in there. The whole flat lacked a woman’s touch, the walls were all the same colour Magnolia cream was the theme around the house. The television in the sitting room was still a CRT set, not able to afford a flat screen. The cupboards in the kitchen were all falling apart, the carpet was old and filthy. Peter walked in and shouted ‘Dad; you home? No answer, he walked straight to the bathroom to get cleaned up. Singing to himself ‘it’s defiantly a cold shower for me, for me. The front door slammed shut, dad was home ‘Peter stop with the singing hurry up and get out, I feel so dirty after that 12 hour shift’. Peter with an embarrassing laugh replied ‘yes pops soon come’. When Peter got out of the shower, he went to the sitting room to go and greet his dad properly, his dad was already asleep.
Mr Vincent Mendel; Peters dad was an ambitious man, determined to make it and live a life of financial freedom. A year before his wife died from cancer, he had plans to move the family to a bigger house and to start a new business, after all, he has been saving ever since he came to the UK in the early 90’s. With the loss of his wife things took a serious turn for the worse. Peter lost control, joined gangs, committed crimes, he had no control over his family anymore, and the vision he once had was now evaporating. After a few years things got better, Peter was now on a path to becoming a doctor; he hoped that he would be the first in his family line to have a degree. Mr Mendel eventually started his business, he used up all the money he had saved up to start up this business, all he had was in this venture.
With the economic climate changing rapidly, his consultancy business folded within the first year. Mr Mendel was a firm believer in taking risk, but this was a risk too far as he has lost everything. Now he works 6days a week as security guard for a consultancy company, the irony!
As Peter tapped his dad to wake him up so he can have his shower. It was not really a shower to say, it was more like two buckets and a cup to rinse the soap off. Times were hard for the Mendel’s, but they both knew nothing would happen if all they did was to feel sorry for themselves. Mr Mendel eventually woke up, got cleaned up and went straight to bed, because he had another 12hour shift, which meant he had to be up by 5am.
Peter; before he went to bed got on the laptop to make sure his CV was up to date. Peter has been looking for work since college closed for the summer. He wants to make some money to help his dad with the bills, plus to have some money for himself in case anything came up.
The weekend was over, Peter woke up early, today was the day he thought he would get a job or at least an interview. Brushed his teeth, got ready and headed out. Monday morning, some would call it the worst time of the week, getting ready to go back to work. The weather was gloomy, as if it was going to rain today, ‘typical English weather, and it is meant to be summer’ Peter was moaning to himself. Walking through his estate, it was the same old routine, the council contracted cleaners were cleaning the blocks, and the rubbish men would come at the exact same time. Seems like nothing changes around here, people get use to the jobs they have and stick with it. Peter wanted more from his life, he has seen the struggling his dad has gone through and wants to break that cycle. Old street station; so many people rushing to catch the tube most of them all heading for the northern line. As Peter squeezed past to get a seat, someone else got there first, so now everyone is squashed like sardines just gasping for some air, the body heat is intense. Most people on the train trying to avoid eye contact with each other, Peter took a good look around, what he saw was working professional looking depressed as they go into work. Most looking worn out already and it is only Monday morning. Peter looked to his left, looked to his right, no one looked happy at all, thinking to himself that he does not want to be in these people shoes one day. Finally Tottenham court road station, Peter was now at his destination, eager and ready to hand out his CV.
The day is almost coming to an end, with the rain drizzling, Peter headed back to his area, and he had one more stop before he was done for the day. Walking through his estate, he saw Jagz, James’s right hand man. Jagz was what they called British beef, he was 17, white, former boxer, about 5’9 in height but stocky. Jagz had a boy from another area pinned to the wall, as he robbed him; he started punching the boy in his face, repeatedly without remorse. ‘Hey!’ shouted Peter as he walked up to Jagz ‘what the heck do you think you are doing?’ he asked with his voice cracking with anger ‘none of your fucking business, now keep it moving’ Jagz replied with an arrogant tone. Jagz was robbing the boy because he was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, he also felt like he could and no one could do anything to stop him. Peter demanded that Jagz give the things back to the boy, ‘give him back his things’ Peter asked politely, Jagz looked at his face and started laughing, ‘you fucking having a bubble, get the fuck out of here, listen I don’t know who you think you are, but out of respect for Big J an gonna let that slide’. Jagz walked off with the boy’s belongings laughing his head off, the young lad walked off shaking his head, and he had fire in his eyes.
Peter made his way to the job centre, looking lost, he asked the security guard ‘I need help finding a job, I was wondering if you can point to the right direction,’ security guard replied with a deep African accent ‘to find work, you must use the machines to search for jobs, only if you are signing on can you see an assistant.’ ‘Ok thanks,’ Peter replied. As he was using the machine, a soft voice from behind him asked him ‘are you alright there? Peter was just about to say fine thanks, but then he looked up and saw her face, she was beautiful, young, dark chocolate brown. Peter was instantly attracted to her. ‘Am not too sure if I am using it right’ he replied with a gentle voice, more gentle than usual. She smiled at him and showed him how to do a local job search and a job search for other areas as well. After the job search the two spent some time talking to each other, nothing but smiles and flirting, from a distance anyone looking would think that they were together. Peter remembering what James had told him that weekend, he thought he might try his luck, ‘can I take you out for a drink sometime? Actually maybe not a drink, even though I would like to but as you can see I am looking for work at the moment’. After hesitating to get his words out she finally stopped him and said ‘it doesn’t matter what we do, take my number and give me a call. I need to get back to work before I join you in unemployment.’ Peter laughed, with a sigh of relief ‘oh ok you got jokes, I didn’t get your name?’ Michelle! She shouted as she walked away. Peter walking out with a big smile on his face, the security looked at him and said ‘I see you did not get a job, but what you got instead is not bad either,’ Peter winked at him and walked out.
Back in the estates, Peter was approaching James and Jagz. James walked up to him, he looked angry, asked Peter to join him for a walk. ‘What the hell happened today, Jagz told me that you were getting involved in our business.’ James said this with real anger in his voice, Peter replied, calm saying ‘look he was robbing a boy no older than 13, in the estate, listen we said that we would not do any dirt in our back yard, I saw it and didn’t like it so I tried to stop it’ James clenching his fist shouted ‘you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it! I thought we agreed to stay out of each other business; I didn’t like the fact that you stopped jamming with your boys and wen on some righteous path, but we let you do you. So don’t get involved again, your choice to get out the game so stay out’ Peter replied ‘fine’. The friendship between the two has never been the same ever since they both went their own ways, but the both still had mad love for each other. After all the shouting and insults, Peter told him about the girl from the Jobcentre.
As they were walking back towards where Jagz and the rest were standing, they heard screaming, loud screaming. Jagz came running around the corner, shouting ‘MOVE OFF, HIS GOT A STRAP’ without hesitation, both turned around, and all they could hear were rounds letting off. The shooter was on foot; he had a motorcycle helmet on and just kept shooting. Eventually the shooting stopped, Jagz was long gone, but Peter and James were both on the floor, there was blood everywhere. Peter looked at himself to make sure it wasn’t him; he saw that James was not moving. James had been shot in the back and on his leg. Frantic cries of help, were being shouted by those who witnesses the shooting, Peter, full of James’s blood, sweating, he could barely talk. James was drifting in and out of consciousness. ‘Someone please help me’ he shouted………….
To be continued………….
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