It was a cold afternoon in December of 2010. I was getting out of college and meeting with a young guy who comes to our youth group. His brother, Marcos*, was shot a few weeks ago.
He was in the hospital, recuperating from a bullet wound on his back. He was barely able to walk with the help of crutches. He can't move one of his feet.
After meeting with Marcos' brother at mission street, where most of the gang activity in the city occurs, we hopped on the bus and headed over to the hospital where Marcos is. This would be the first time that I would meet Marcos.
Marcos' charisma was still shining through his smiles and his perennial jesting, treating everyone around him with great hospitality and warmth. After an hour, Marcos' brother and I leave the hospital and decide to go to his house.
"I don't think I would go to heaven when I die" Marcos' brother told me while we walked in the hospital's hallway. "Why not?". "Because of all the things I've done".
We got home, and his girlfriend was in the house with their little child. I was hungry and in need of burritos. "Let's go out and eat, I'll invite you". Marcos' brother was resting in his bed, not too excited with the idea. His girlfriend was, and convinced him to go.
"What does it feel like to have a normal life?" he asked me while eating. I am surprised by the question and remained silent for a few seconds. I looked at his girlfriend and their toddler, who was struggling to eat some chips with her feeble, stubby little fingers. If this is not "normal" than I don't know what else is.
"What do you mean, you do have a normal life". "No" he quickly answered. "I can't go wherever I want, you can", reminding me of how careful he has to be in order to not be noticed by a rival gang member. He can't be careless now, with a family to raise. He is not longer gang-banging and has an honest job where he is doing great. He's been recently promoted.
At one occasion during dinner, he raised his fist and offered me to punch it. I did. "You know what that means?" he asked me. "What does it mean?". "It means that we're friends now".
*Name has been changed to protect privacy. To see other posts about Marcos click here.
Photo Credit: Mike McCaffrey.