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May 20, 2024

Hamtramck Walk 02

By Amy Probst

Nice, that these houses look so happy and smiling. Because the people who live in them sure don't. I'm fourteen, and I live in the one on the right, the house looking so golden with its big shit-eating grin. But look closely, and you'll see the cheap For Sale sign taped to the porch. My dad stuck it there five years ago, and he's still waiting for the "right price." My dad's a cheap bastard, and he'll know the "right price" when he's pretty sure the other guy is getting ripped off. We've been here since I was a little girl, and we'll be here until I'm out and married. Guaranteed.

Next door, that house is a rental; upper and lower flats. The same Muslim people have been in the lower for a few years. They have a bunch of kids, but they're hardly ever outside, or even on the porch playing. And the blinds are always closed. Sometimes I hear them laughing in there, but some nights you can also hear screams. The moms in that family wear burkas, long black ones that have to be a real bitch in the summer. I like to think they're nice under there, that they like their kids, but it's hard to tell from just their eyes.

The upper flat of that house had a black family living there last summer. They were a really nice couple. The kids were funny, too. A little girl who liked to come over and stare at me and my friends when we were hanging out on the porch, and an older boy who read all the time. But they're gone now. I think more burkas moved in upstairs.

My parents only speak Bosnian, so we really only know the other Bosnians on our street. That's how it goes here; you could draw lines like corset strings connecting the houses that know each other. The Bosnians, like us. The Albanians, with their rowdy, graffiti-painting boys ("Alboz 4-Ever"). The old Polish people, crescent-shaped ladies in babooshkas and shriveled little men in hats, all sad and proud at the same time --- the whole street, the whole city, used to be Polish back in their day. Still they walk to church, but you can see how freaked out they are passing clumps of burka women; they don't understand; they only know how to see the world Catholic. And the Bangladeshis, with their beautiful skin and flowing clothes. You should smell our street when everyone's cooking dinner on a Sunday.

All these adults, they keep to their own kind, to the familiar. Usually, because theirs is the only language they speak; many of our families are first generation Americans. But the kids, they share a world, float down a river of English that their parents can only watch from the shore. On our street, the little kids are one colorful rush of play, while parents watch from porches. But at my age, starting around junior high, the boys from each group start clumping up, like their parents. And girls like me, we start dating the outside the box.
Article © Amy Probst. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-04-10
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