A few weeks ago, my cousin and I were on our way to another cousin’s house in a town forty minutes outside our own. Any town outside this town, further out past the closest neighboring towns, is like another country; a foreign country. Guys like us, from this town, don’t need tickets to Bora Bora or Morocco in order to experience different languages, cultures, smells and sounds. And although I fancy myself somewhat of a worldly bloke, I often find myself anxious when outside of my element.
My “little country”, or town, has many unspoken rules. This town of mine, and the hundreds like it across the country, follow the same set of rules much like the unspoken, yet universal, rules found in prison life. For example: Rule Number One: Don’t smile, nikka!
It’s not allowed for anyone in this kind of town to express any kind of happiness, or even a temporary feeling of content. It’s just not allowed. To show happiness, to smile, is to show a major weakness, and if you show any kind of weakness to The Street, She’ll eat your ass alive without a moment’s hesitation. In my native tongue, “Don’t fuck with The Street.” It’s just not allowed.
So my cousin and I, on our way to another cousin’s house, drove down a street we know, but from which we were not born and bred. Two young men in their twenties, perhaps late teens, were playing catch with a football in the street, and they seemed to be having a great time, a lot of fun.
There are different types of fun allowed by The Street. One is anything involving athleticism; the other involves a young man explaining to his comrades, in a rather colorful manner, how he, quite insensitively, “butchered” the most sensitive area(s) of the female anatomy. This hypothetical, young man will use words such as, but not limited to “tapped”, “smashed”, “knocked down”, “taxed”, “split”, “skinned”, and “broke”. Only then, in one of the aforementioned examples, is it allowed to smile, and even then the smile should be crooked, or on a slant, more of a sneer than a smile.
As my car came within view of the “happy kids” in the street, two things happened, almost instantaneously. One, when my car wasn’t recognized by the kid who was facing us, his stance tightened. Two, when we weren’t recognized, quickly transformed his happy expression into that of an indifferent, yet menacing, scowl. This whole scene, which took place within a matter of seconds, was so ridiculous, my cousin and I had more than enough to laugh about for the remainder of our forty-minute drive.
What was even more ridiculous was the fact that two thirty-something year old men could easily make note of how inexperienced in The Street the “happy kid” was. He “slipped” three times:
First, he was caught off-guard and smiling. Secondly, he was caught stiffening his stance. Thirdly and most costly, he forgot all about Rule Number One: Don’t smile, nikka!”