One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him. – Socrates
Bare feet slap against ragged tar and potholes. I am running, numb to the sharp edges of broken beer bottles, nails, and rocks that my feet encounter.
My heart is beating fast and my adrenaline is pumping. This is no race, no marathon or competition, because a whole lot more is at stake here—my life. The air is damp and the stench of trash littering the streets attacks my nostrils. I can taste the tang of blood in my mouth.
As I turn each block, I pass by brown, decaying buildings that are not even fit for rats to live in, much less the people who make these their homes. I hear the sound of gunshots not far behind. I feel a sharp pain pierce my leg as a bullet forces its way through my flesh, but I can’t stop running.
My heart cries out, but my voice stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the pain. I still keep on running. I can hear the heavy breathing of my brother, who is running next to me. He lets out a piercing shout and drops heavily to the ground. I know that he is dead.
I can see the bullet that shot through his heart. I look up long enough to see a familiar figure running away. I wish that the bullet had found its way to my heart instead of my brother’s.
Everything around me is at a standstill except my raging heart. I want to scream but I cannot. I want to cry but the tears don’t come. I want this nightmare never to have happened but I can feel no compassion. All I know now is revenge.
I struggle to walk straight as I carry my brother in my arms and he blankly stares at me. I can feel his warm blood ooze down my arms. I release a loud cry shamelessly, for I have just lost a friend and a companion.
As I move along, memories flash into my mind. I see the good. I see the bad. I see everything that we have both been through, realizing that those days of playing ball, drinking, cruising around, chasing girls, and partying could no longer be. All his future goals and inspirations mean nothing now. They died the second he passed away.
People are staring, people are talking, but I am in a world of my own so I don’t stop walking. Upon reaching my doorstep, I hammer impatiently against the door until my frantic pounding is answered. An eye darkens the door hole and then disappears. I hear chains rustling and deadbolts unlocking as somebody struggles to open the door.
In one gentle movement, I lower the lifeless body not more than two inches from the well-kept feet of the woman who shares some of the same memories of my brother. I make a mad dash for my room. I can’t stop to see the horror in her eyes, but I can hear the pain in her cries. It’s shrill, bitter, and excruciating.
Even in my room, the screams pierce the walls but I don’t let it stop me as I grab my piece and disappear into the night. I walk for a long time and then arrive where I want to be. I enter a familiar, shabby, decaying building. Just days before, my brother and I had been here to buy kilos of blow and smack that we hoped would be our last time. It turns out that it was the last time.
And now I want this to be the last time I lay eyes on this building. There are rats, roaches, and every nasty, disgusting parasite crawling about everywhere. The filth sickens me, but I trudge on.
I knock on one of the doors in this building, rhythmically dropping the knocker in unison with the beat of my heart. I can feel the suspense, as my heart grows harder, my face tighter, and my anger fiercer.
Footsteps are approaching and I am ready. The footsteps come to a halt and their rhythmic clicking sounds are exchanged for the sound of the door creaking open. All the power in my body is concentrated on one finger and then…Bang! Bang!
A man falls limp to the ground and then there is silence. I turn around vainglorious, hearing in my mind the echo of a deadly projectile and my rhythmic footsteps. I am satisfied, because I can taste the sweetness of revenge. It is like a dream.
I feel good. I feel like a hero and my heart starts to swell up like a balloon. Then my conscience slowly deflates my heart and reality sets in. If only I didn’t have a conscience.
I don’t have my brother back and I have just taken the life of somebody’s son, brother, husband, or boyfriend. I no longer feel good. I walk home very slowly, carrying this heavy burden with me. I now taste the bitterness of a guilty conscience.
As I turn the corner to my street, I hear my name. I turn around, but I can’t see anybody in the darkness. I notice a silver metallic tube shining against one of the dim street lights, and it is aimed at me.
An angry, bitter voice yells: “This is for killing my brother.”