Stranger on My Block

I live in a house that's been owned by my family for 8 decades. We've been associated with this house on this street for so long, that it has become another family member. It is a part of us, like we, the family, are a part of this house and this street.

This house, that I now own, is the first house of my memory. My parents lived here when I was born. I can remember when the street wasn't so wide and the retaining wall across the street, wasn't there, and the public bathrooms at the park shelter were always open. I can remember nights without the unending traffic sounds of I-71, because it did not exist.

I can remember when half my neighbors were Jewish, and Rockdale Temple was located at the top of the hill and a little north on Reading, north of Samuel Ach Junior High. There was a drug store on the corner as well as a butcher shop. Forest Avenue was a couple of blocks over. The Forest movie theater was there. My dad had a part time job as bouncer. We saw movies for free on the weekends.

The bottom of Rockdale was quiet, peaceful, neighborly. Mr Harmon lived there a few doors away. Mr Harmon was known to the world as Chuck Harmon, first Black man to play for the Cincinnati Reds. But to me, he was just Mr. Harmon, my grandfather's friend. I knew everybody up and down the block, Mr. Montgomery and both Mrs Montgomerys, Mr and Mrs Keys, Mrs Johnson, and her daughters next door...their house burned down and was never rebuilt. Mr and Mrs Chandler, after the Keys left. Mr and Mrs Pate on the other side. The Bostons, and Mr Jimmy Woods, Cincinnati's most famous Black golfer. Parts of Avon Field Golf Course are named after Mr. Woods.

This house has always been the center of our family's world. We may leave, but we always came back. It was peaceful, familiar, and comfortable. It was home.

My comfort zone was shattered last night. It was a violation of my space even though I wasn't directly involved. I was directly affected. I felt-feel violated, raped almost. Someone killed a man a few doors down last night. Rolled up on him in a car with no lights, as he was standing outside, leaning on another car, and fired five or six shots into him, leaving his body on the sidewalk, dead.

It was a very big gun...Not the “pop, pop, pop” that everyone talks about...These were big, quick explosions of sound...loud and invasive, ripping through the late evening calm, scaring me and startling my dogs into full throated barks of anger and fear.

The quiet night turned into a death vigil as police shut down the street, people came out of their homes to watch, while others arrived in cars, driving up to find out if they knew the victim.

He was a stranger on my block. He did not live where he died. He died just north of the house where lives a very pleasant young man, a dog owner that I talk to frequently, since we have pet interests in common. It wasn't my neighbor. It was somebody else. Some other mother's son whose blood was spilled this night.

The body lay in view for a long time, while police investigators did their work, counting shots, picking up shell casings by flashlight.

A changing guard of young people, men and women, bathed in the glow of their cell phone lights melted in and out of the darkness, forming yet another outer perimeter, outside police lines and yellow tape, reporting back to those who didn't make the trip....”it's Debo” one of them said as he walked past my house.

This was not my first crime scene, personally or professionally. However it was the first one inside my comfort zone...my home.

It continues to jangle me. Today, my comfort zone looks different. It feels different. Nearly 13 hours later and it's still decorated with crime tape left by careless, uncaring police. They reopened the street, but left the tape hanging, wilted in the rain.

I have talked often of leaving it forever, moving south to be nearer one of my sisters.

Today, sadly I think that dream has become a goal.

It is finally time for me to go.

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