The Last Time I Walked The Eastside Of Buffalo After Dark

“It was my first time learning that trouble can come find you, even when you haven’t done anything to stir it.”

This short story on Big Words Authors comes from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. It involves something that most everyone who has grown up in the inner city has experienced. Sometimes situations in life come find you, even when you are not looking for them.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadows of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4

The last time I walked on the eastside of Buffalo after dark was in the late 1990s. It was definitely after high school and it was before I started graduate school. I was an undergraduate in my late teens and early twenties. Like Detroit, my hometown of Buffalo, NY had started developing its own reputation for violence and deviant behavior, a hallmark of many of the deindustrialized cities in the United States. If you’re curious about such things, a good book to read would be “The Code of The Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City” by Dr. Elijah Anderson who describes this phenomenon in Philadelphia.

Hanging Out on Chuck’s Street

It was a summer night like so many I’d experienced growing up in my beloved hometown. I was on my friend Chuck’s street, Martha, which was near the Suffolk Street intersection and the 33 (Kensington) Expressway. It was the summertime, the sun had set and the streetlights came on after 8 pm. I was no longer a child so I could technically hang out as long as I wanted to with no recourse from my mother. We’d started doing that in high school anyway. I was home on summer break, and was living unsupervised most of the year now already because I was attending school down south.

Chuck was one of many ‘class clowns’ at Hutchinson Central Technical High School (Hutch-Tech) while I was there. He just happened to be one from my graduating class. We befriended one another in our freshman year and were tight ever since, along with another friend by the name of Hestin. Our friendships lasted long after we received our diplomas in the mid-1990s. Starting in high school, it was nothing for me to wander over to Chuck’s house from my own and come back after dark as it was only a 10–15-minute walk.

While at Chuck’s house we’d hang out on his porch, shooting the breeze with the other kids on his street. We would indulge in ‘ribbing’ on each other and talk about all kinds of things in the sports and hip-hop worlds, people we knew around town, girls we wanted to get with – everything. There were always lots and lots of laughs and jokes, some of which Chuck authored and some at his expense. It was always a good time.

A Buffalo Summer Night Unlike Any Other

One night after dark I left Chuck’s porch, I headed for home but this time with a different outcome than previous nights. It was a night I would never forget. That particular night I turned up Millicent Avenue and planned to walk down Orleans Street back to my mother’s street. As I strolled carefree up the street, not far from the corner a car pulled up alongside me, starting events that would forever change my life.

“WERE YOU TRYING TO BREAK INTO MY CAR, MAN?” The driver of the car was a menacing-looking black man who could have been in his twenties. If my memory serves me correctly, he wore a short afro and was brown skinned. He might have been wearing all black and maybe not. At nighttime, most dark colors look the same. It was one of those instances which triggers your “Fight or Flight Response” because you know there is imminent danger. It all happened so fast that I didn’t ponder trying to run. Had I tried, he had a clear advantage. By default, I chose trying to reason with him.

“WERE YOU TRYING TO BREAK INTO MY CAR MAN?” He stopped his car and got out, crossed the street, and approached me. I felt my chest pounding and my breath shortening in anticipation of whatever was going to happen next.

“NO, I WASN’T. IT WASN’T ME,” I said holding my hands up in surrender hoping that he would recognize that I was the last person who would try to do such a thing to his car.

“WERE YOU TRYING TO BREAK INTO MY CAR MAN?” I felt something hard collide with the side of my head, knocking me back. Is this really happening to me? My mind raced is the situation continued unfolding.

“WERE YOU TRYING TO BREAK INTO MY CAR MAN?” Something else collided with the side of my head further disorienting me. I looked around for help on the street, but this was the one night no one seemed to be out on their porches. Even if they were out, would someone have helped? To the casual onlooker, me and my assailant could have been a drug dealer and junkie, a bookie and someone who owed him money, or a man seeking revenge on someone who sought to break into his car. We could have been any one of the now ubiquitous statistics involving violence and young black men in the United States’ inner cities.

I turned and ran at first out into the street hoping that someone would see us. A car speeding down the street slammed on its breaks and honked, and then kept going. Again, this could have been an altercation taking place for any number of reasons and why would someone else look to get involved?

My assailant caught me, and I waited for him to present a weapon in that early Buffalo twilight. Something else slammed into the side of my head, this time dropping me to the ground. I waited for what I thought was certain death. I laid still on the ground as the world went silent, waiting for my fate which I just knew was going to involve a gun. After moments of silence, I looked up slowly, and my assailant was gone. I got myself together and then hurried back home.

As I scurried up Millicent to Orleans and then my mother’s street, I turned and looked around every corner. My hands burned slightly from some scrapes on my skin. I probably got them when I fell on the ground. My mind continued racing. Is he still out here? Is he going to come back for me? Why is this happening?

As I entered the house, Mom was in her bedroom praying, just getting up from her bedside if my memory is accurate. In those stages of our lives, she had progressed on her spiritual journey. She told me that she was praying around the time that I described my altercation. It was the second time, she experienced one of her sons coming home after a near life and death experience. The first was my brother’s second or third year of high school when he and some buddies went to a party on the westside of Buffalo where they didn’t know anyone. I remember that night vividly as well.

Getting Closure

In the aftermath of it all, I was a bit shaken up mentally. It was my first time learning that trouble can come find you, even when you haven’t done anything to stir it. All you have to do is look like someone else. This is what’s called a crime of mistaken identity, and I recall my Dad telling me a similar story from his youth in the New York City subway system. I suddenly didn’t feel safe in my neighborhood or my city. What if I ran into this guy again?

One of Mom’s approaches to help me get past the incident was to physically walk with me down Millicent Avenue so that I could mentally confront the incident and get closure on it. I recall feeling a sense of resentment and not wanting to go back there. She was right and it was for the best, to at least get past the fear that was dominating my soul.

“I’ve been walking these streets for years and nothing ever happened to me,” Chucky said afterwards when I told him what happened. I didn’t hear any compassion or sympathy in his voice. I didn’t know if he was just saying that to be a smartass or just making an observation. In hindsight it could have been either, but it sounded like because he’d never experienced it, what happened to me was somehow invalid.

“Well Bro, it’s no secret that some folks in the family question your toughness.” In what was one of many such declarations throughout our lives, my brother put his gift of delivery and counsel on display. It was my first ever visit to see him in “Sin City” (Las Vegas), a lively visit in which our best friend left within one night over some silly spat with my brother.

We ended up in a spat too, and in my case, I resented my brother for a while after he made his judgement on me and the remainder of that trip was ruined. I remember getting on my flight and making eye contact with him as I walked into the jetway with everyone else. I felt bad about being angry with him. He looked back at me wondering what he’d said wrong. My visit to the desert shouldn’t have finished that way. We were brothers and we were all we had as Mom often said then and years later. Over time I got passed it.

Walking The Eastside of Buffalo After Dark

“I walk the streets of Buffalo at night and have been doing so for a while,” my then stepfather said. “I see some streets and when I look down them, they might look dangerous and I don’t go down them. If some trouble comes towards me, I feel confident that I can get out of it or handle it, but I’ve never been discouraged from walking the eastside at nighttime.” He was an older man and a Vietnam veteran, so I imagine he’d seen much worse than the eastside of Buffalo after dark.

In any case, that was the last time I walked the eastside of Buffalo after dark. Would I do it if I absolutely had to today? Sure. But like so many inner cities described in the above-mentioned book by Dr. Elijah Anderson, I won’t do it if unnecessary. If I do, I’ll follow my father’s sage wisdom. A child of upper Manhattan, at some point he started telling us to, “Keep your eyes moving at all times!”

If I had to walk the eastside of Buffalo after dark today, I most certainly would. I’d walk it knowing that trouble may come to find me, even I’m not looking for it. I would know that there’s the threat of violence, and potentially death for me or someone else.

Post Story Reflections/Thoughts

Some experiences permanently become a part of us. This experience is one that I will never forget. We may gain closure and heal from the negative experiences in our lives, but some things you never forget. Furthermore, in the United States’ inner cities, for everyone there is the threat of violence. Dr. Elijah Anderson covered this in his book “Code of The Street”. Finally, to this day when I visit Buffalo, my mother reminds me every time I go out to, “Be careful out there!” I likewise try to get in and out of the city without anything bad happening whenever I visit.

Fearless By Poetess Tamara Coleman

“I kept telling myself, ‘I am safe! I am in God’s hands! Just have faith, and you won’t have anything to fear.'”

The first ever poem published on Big Words Authors comes from the very creative Tamara Coleman. It involves the importance of God and prayer. It is one of her many creations. Tamara’s bio and contact information are listed immediately after her poem.

As I was walking, I felt as though I was being followed, but every time I turned around to look behind me the man would turn his head so I could not see his face.

This happened several times, so at this point in time, all I could do is pray.

It was late and he was dressed in dark clothing not to mention my phone was completely dead.

The closer I got to my destination I kept telling myself, “I am safe! I am in God’s hands! Just have faith, and you won’t have anything to fear,” but I was really scared because he kept getting closer, and closer and I was walking faster than ever.

When I got to the corner it so happened the police was sitting at a red light.

I smiled and said to myself, “When do the police ever stop for a red light?” But when I turned around that time, the man was nowhere in sight.

It was like he vanished in thin air. I then heard GOD whisper in my ear, “You have nothing to fear! I am here!”

Author’s Post Poem Reflections/Thoughts

The meaning behind Fearless was me testing my level of faith. Knowing and trusting in God through a fearful moment/experience. I thought it was something someone could relate to. It was the scenario of someone being followed but you can use it in any situation. Just from knowing who God is, we know that he protects us at all times – just having that level of faith.

About the Author

I am CREATIVELY CREATING CREATIVE DESIGNS, and am POETICALLY thinking. I am POETICALLY speaking, and am a POETIC being. I don’t CREATE to impress, I CREATE to express! Tamara Coleman is a talented poet and graphics designer from Buffalo, NY. To see more of Tamara’s poetry, go to Poetess Tamara Coleman on Facebook. Tamara can be contacted at Tammy-cole@hotmail.com.

Destiny Love Jones Vol. 1- Book Excerpt

“You would get the impression they were sisters by blood, but then the three would chuckle and tell you, no, they were closer—their souls were one.”

The first ever book excerpt published on Big Words Authors comes from Canadian author Nicole White. It is from her new book entitled, “Destiny Love Jones Vol. 1”. Below the excerpt, there is also the press release for Nicole’s book (including the purchase information), and her bio.

Folks in the rustic, coastal town of Cliff Harbour would say Pearl, Augustine, and Holly were thick as thieves. You would get the impression they were sisters by blood, but then the three would chuckle and tell you, no, they were closer—their souls were one. Holly was the self-proclaimed sophisticated one, Pearl was the rowdy, spitfire one, and Augustine was dubbed the church girl. The three teenagers became fully acquainted back in the third grade. They bonded by their time and place in history and circumstances beyond what their young, carefree minds could fully comprehend. The three personalities just naturally aligned.

Times in the late ’40s and early ’50s in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, had numerous challenges, as did the world. World War II had ended, the civil rights revolution was still being fought, and the local politics of race and class was an uphill fight for many black Nova Scotians. Nevertheless, through everything, the three girlfriends felt fortunate to have each other. Their friendship allowed them to escape the real world and form their own exclusive reality.

Holly was considered luckier than the other two because her family was wealthier than most in the mid-sized farming and fishing community. She was the daughter of the renowned Bradley Bennett of the Henry Bennett Tool Company. A descendant of escaped slaves and freed blacks from the United States, Mr. Bennett carried on his long-held family business of manufacturing metal tools for not only coal mining but also for farming and building construction. Life didn’t get considerably easier for his ancestors living in Canada, but his family fought, struggled, and was determined to live a quality life; now Mr. Bradley Bennett was one of the few successful black businessmen in the area. He made sure to teach his own family that business independence was the only way for blacks to be truly free. His lighter skin colour (given a combination of white and black running through his family’s bloodline) also gave him the advantage of doing business with some whites as well. But the Bennetts despised being labeled by their own people as “privileged” due to their outward appearance. They claimed to have fought and suffered like any other blacks during these times; however, they were able to persevere. Regardless of Mr. Bennett’s stance on their true success, he and his equally complexioned wife embraced both of their families’ mixed heritage and were determined to prosper and secure wealth for generations to come.

Pearl’s father, Walter Spencer, became a fond acquaintance of Mr. Bennett through their businesses. Mr. Spencer, a son from a line of proud farmers, was a local farmer who owned his own produce farm, and business was thriving. His ancestors dated even further back, as they were amongst the first slaves from Africa brought to the province via the West Indies. He purchased and leased his farming equipment from Mr. Bennett, thus maintaining a magnificent personal and professional relationship. For this reason, their families, especially their daughters Pearl and Holly, were close.

Augustine’s father, Brother Richard Bowes, was an elder at the local church. Years ago, he had served in the Canadian military until a landmine in Europe ended his battle career. Severely injured and having lost most of his hearing and his lower right leg, he was honourably discharged. But it wasn’t the physical injuries that truly impacted this former veteran—it was the emotional toils of war. It was the sight and smell of bloody, mangled, burnt bodies of deceased soldiers and civilians around him. It was witnessing comrades being obliterated before him. It was the ear-piercing blast of shells and the haunting screeches of fighter jets falling from the skies. It was the disheartening fact that he could no longer carry on the honour of serving in the military like his father.

Indeed, Brother Richard was no longer the man he used to be before the war. He became reclusive, overprotective, and resentful. His wife, Gloria, and four children were all he had left, and his mission was to safeguard them at any cost. To uplift his spirit, Gloria encouraged him to attend church with her and the children. That was when Brother Richard regained purpose—a life devoted to God, who spared his life from a war that ended countless of his comrades’ lives. North St. Church of Higher Praise became his life. He and his family never missed a service, and on days where there was no service, there was Brother Richard—devoting himself to a calling larger than himself and helping his elderly pastor bring souls to the Lord by being the pastor’s righthand man and assisting him in any way possible.

Augustine sang in the choir and was Brother Richard’s eldest daughter. She also aided in the church’s administrative office and dreamt of becoming a secretary one day. Brother Richard and Gloria wanted Augustine to be a role model for her younger siblings, Thomas, Andrew, and Eve, as well as all the young people in the community, by exemplifying what a sanctified Christian girl should be. They preferred that Augustine not have unsaved friends like Pearl and Holly; they would much rather she stay at home or only associate with other like-minded youths in the church. But not even her parents or their prayers could stop Augustine from being with her gal pals. Augustine was forced to hide who her true friends were to her parents, and sometimes she would sneak out of the house to be with them.

Regardless of being young, being told what to do, and being born into a time where peace, justice, and equality were still being fought for, like many others, the girls tried to make the best of life as they grew up in the bustling town. They had school and their studies, they had their families, and they had their families’ legacies and reputations to uphold. They also spent some days roller skating at the segregated rink, snacking on ice cream from the local ice cream parlor, and socialising with other peers. On picturesque summer days, the girls would ride their bicycles everywhere, go hiking in the countryside, explore the endless seashore, or go swimming in the lake. Sometimes the trio would merely spend time at Holly’s house, playing board games or dancing to the latest songs, like Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie”.

Certainly, the threesome were inseparable friends—more like sisters forged from gold, they would correct others—and it appeared that nothing would ever come between them: not family, not the times of war and racial division, and not even their diverse personalities, until the most inconspicuous entity happened—boys.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Canadian Author, N. R. White, Brings You a Compelling, Coming-Of-Age Novel Focusing on the Issues of Race, Class, Gender, Love, Trauma, and Romance Through the Lens of Black Sisterhood

DESTINY LOVE JONES VOL. 1
“sisters and the plight with boys”

Three stories spanning three generations of women, the tale of Destiny Love Jones “sisters and the plight with boys” will take readers on an intricate journey where blissful fantasy collides with unfortunate reality. Uniquely Canadian, this profound coming-of-age narrative begins in the 1940s and ’50s in the rural, coastal town of Cliff Harbour, Nova Scotia. Pearl, Augustine, and Holly are black teens forced to live in the reality of war, segregation, classism, and patriarchy; however, their faith in sisterhood and bond of friendship strengthens and unites them. Subsequently, their friendship is tested to the cusp of utter devastation. With an impish twist of irony, forward forty years later in the late ’90s, and as fate had once aligned Pearl, Augustine, and Holly’s sisterly bond, so it does with Destiny and her friends Olivia and Tiffany. Although society has progressed since the ’50s, being a black teen girl in modern times continues to present its unique challenges. Will their sisterly bond be fortified among adversity, or will they be pulled apart like the women of two generations before them?

“This book is to entertain but to also shine some light on the intersectionality and unexplored lives of black women and girls, with hopes that every reader, from all walks of life, can understand, appreciate, empathize, and more so relate to the universal element that connects us all – being human.”

Destiny Love Jones VOL. 1 “sisters and the plight with boys” is now available to purchase in paperback and eBook versions on Amazon. Visit www.nrwhitebooks.com or email nrwhitebooks@gmail.com for more information.

~ N. R. White

About the Author:

Nicole R. White is a Canadian author who expresses her passion for writing in various forms. Her zeal for books and the art of storytelling emerged at an early age, and she was swept away in the infinite world of imagination and creativity in storybooks. In her adult life, she has written various plays and directed and produced several theatrical productions. Destiny Love Jones: Vol 1. “sisters and the plight with boys” is part one of a seven volume series of novels.

The Happy Couple Who Commuted On The Metro

“Once they made eye contact, he jumped on the metro car and they happily sat next to one another for the ride back to Huntington.”

My first short story on Big Words Authors reflects on the pre-Covid-19 world. It involves the importance of human-to-human interaction. It focuses on people and a specific couple I used to see on the metro, among others.

In the Washington, DC metropolitan region, thousands of federal employees, military service people, contractors and other workers commute daily. They use the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains and buses to travel to their places of business. Likewise the metro system is arguably the lifeblood of the region upon which everything runs. Depending on what time you start your commute, you can see familiar faces. Adjust your time just a little bit, and you’ll see a whole new set of faces. You’ll in fact see the same commuters at the same time daily unless there’s a change of some kind. It could be a doctor’s appointment, a meeting, an emergency – anything in that person’s life that day.

The Twice A Day Eight Car Mixing Bowl

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a couple I saw regularly on the Yellow Line train. I normally commuted to and from Crystal City, VA when I saw them. I actually saw a lot of people on the trains in the mornings and evenings. Many got on the train at specific hours. Whenever I went into the office earlier or later than my usual time, I saw different commuters on my route.

As a single man, obviously the women stood out to me the most. I saw many that I wanted to talk to of varying races and ethnicities. The metro however wasn’t always the optimal place to ‘cold approach’ them. In terms of learning ‘game’ for which there are courses now, cold approaching is simply striking up a conversation with a woman you don’t know who has sparked your interest.

Sometimes, you can wait because you’ll probably see the woman again, but in a city like Washington, DC where people are constantly coming and going, you might have to make your move when the opportunity is there because the woman may be visiting from out of town, or she may only be on your side of town for a meeting that particular day. In short, you may never see her again if you don’t make a move. Whatever move you make, you must be confident and classy to get the best results, especially with other commuters around, sometimes in earshot of your conversation.

Many people are into their morning rituals, getting ready for the daily battle ahead at their respective government agencies. In the evening people are looking to just go home and relax after a day of battle. Like at the gym, seeing a woman with earbuds on is a bit of a deterrent from going over and saying hello. Some openly converse on their phones and disturbing them would be awkward or rude. The fear of looking foolish in those moving enclosed spaces was also a bit of a deterrent. As a single man this is the reality and you have to decide as the clock ticks, like a quarterback looking for his target as the pass rush closes in.

The Happy Couple on the Metro

In any case, there was one couple I randomly thought about late one Pandemic night when driving to Herndon, VA to watch a Buffalo Bills game. On the 37-minute drive, I decided to not listen to any YouTube podcasts, livestreams, or playbacks, but instead to the rainy-day piano jazz station. As my phone’s GPS guided me to my destination, I listened to the music and my mind drifted off into my creative space and the couple popped into my mind. They were two of hundreds and maybe thousands of people I hadn’t seen since COVID-19 swept around the globe and inflicted lockdowns on our country. It made those of us who were fortunate to do so, work remotely from home 100% of the time.

Some mornings, or evenings, or both, I would see the couple. I lived near the Huntington Metro stop, the southern terminal of the Yellow Line. The couple would arrive at the station together in the morning, sit next to one another and make their morning commute. They were a middle-aged black couple. I can tell you that he wore glasses and I think she did too. Both were always dressed professionally. He might have worn a mustache and he had a studious look about him. She was an attractive woman.

As I waited for the train to take me home one evening at Crystal City, I saw her seated on the Yellow line as it pulled into the station. She caught my observant single man’s eye. I noticed she was looking for someone on the platform. It was him. He too was looking for her from the platform.

Once they made eye contact, he jumped on the metro car and they happily sat next to one another for the ride back to Huntington. They coordinated their evening commutes so that they could ride home together, a sign that these two people were genuinely in love with one another. One of my ex-girlfriends and I had something similar before our relationship turned for the worse, but that’s a story for a different day.

Appearance vs. Reality

This is what made me think about this couple. They looked so happy as they made those commutes together. I don’t know if they had children. I don’t know if this was their first, second or third marriage. Perhaps they figured it out on the first try, unlike so many other people in these modern technological times where families are different, both genders are educated and the gender roles have been blurred. I don’t know. What I can tell you is that they genuinely looked both happy and peaceful as they rode from stop to stop.

They could have gone home and fought like cats and dogs. When they got into their car, she might have started giving him the business and talking his ear off about her day. They may have gone home and partitioned themselves into different rooms for the remainder of the night. They may not have been the couple portrayed as dutifully riding together in the morning and the evening. After all, from experience, I’ve learned that you never know what’s happening with a couple behind closed doors, no matter the outward appearance.

I did sense, however, that they were genuinely happy based upon the energy they gave off and what my spirit discerned. They had figured out something that had been forgotten for a significant number of the rest of the population in the generation before and after mine. They were happy, or at least looked so on the outside for all of us to see.

The Author’s Post Story Reflections/Thoughts

There are several significances to this story. First. While our morning and evening commutes were burdensome and tiring on some days, they were a way of life. Furthermore there was value to seeing faces you both did and did not recognize. In the Washington, DC area, I especially disliked the commutes in the mid-summer humidity which lurked even at nighttime. Again though, there was value to those commutes.

Second. During our work days, there’s a lot going on. Whether its commuting, going to lunch or going for coffee at Starbucks, you never know who is watching you. I’m certain the couple in this story on the metro, had no idea I noticed them. I did however notice the harmony and love for each other they displayed outwardly. They were rare in today’s world. They probably never would have thought that I would remember them on that random Saturday night. If I see them again, perhaps I will share this with them.