I grew up in Old Metairie, an upper/middle class suburb outside New Orleans. It was a charming neighborhood so clearly meant for families. Kids ruled that place. We played kickball in the middle of the street and rode our bikes in lazy wide circles. Cars drove around us. If you didn’t have a pool, you had a trampoline. Everyone knew each others names. When you crossed paths with someone, you stopped and actually talked to them. The kids greeted the grown ups with a Mr. or a Mrs. No one locked their doors. In fact, the neighborhood itself felt like a giant family. No wonder why my mother chose to buy a house in that neighborhood after she had gotten carjacked and was forced to watch her parents get brutally stabbed to death. Yeah, Old Metairie seemed picture perfect, and picture perfect was what my mother sought after.
Our family, of course, was far from perfect. Not only did we arrive with the darkness and sorrow of my grandparents’ brutal murders, a year or two in, my mother also got mysteriously murdered. What are the chances? Do you feel sorry for a family like that or just stay away?
It took the picture perfect neighborhood 15 years to recoil from us. The families that once seemed like my family (thousands of sleep overs, vacations, and Kids on The Block concerts) was now refusing to see me. No hand waves. No head nods. Not even an eye glance. I became a ghost child within my own neighborhood what seemed like overnight. They all ignored me… my best friends and their parents.
What had happened?
My dad told me that my friends didn’t care about me, and I was better off without them.
“Look, they’re not even saying hi. If they cared, they would say hi. Right?”
“Yeah…” I didn't want to agree, but he was right. I knew there was more to the story than them not liking me anymore. He told me a couple of them broke into our house and stole things but that was because they stopped wanting to be friends with me.
“They’re hanging out with a different crowd, an older crowd, and probably lost interest in you. They're awful people, and you don’t want to be friends with them anymore. Trust me.”
Growing up, I’m not sure what was worse…the unbearable weather of the humid heat or the unbearable thickness of unanswered questions.