Nature of the Scar By ERIC JOHN PRIESTLEY “We do not come to write better,” wrote Virginia Woolf once, “It is — quite simply — because we do not come to read better.” This is what I thought. Although, the relevance of my reasoning escaped me, as I left for the Downtown library, I understood long ago that there was no honor in my solitude. The sleepless night before this, I read Charles Berryman’s essay on Kurt Vonnegut. I was thinking how I had no wish, as Vonnegut did in Breakfast of Champions, to become a character in my own fiction — a parody of my own creation in this essay. How I had no wish to have the Raw Dog — my own novel — attack me and bite me in the ass at the end of the book. I thought about it, as I tucked a copy of Derek Walcott’s Omeros under my arm. I didn’t have to wait until the end of my essay for it to happen. I said the first line of Omeros out loud. 84 “This is how one sunrise we cut down them canoes,” as I stepped from the platform and onto the Blue Line Train headed for downtown Los Angeles, as the doors opened on the Kenneth Hahn Platform at 103rd Street (Charcoal Alley) in Watts. Suddenly, I sensed movement behind me — felt a breath on my neck, caught a chill, said, “A goose walked over my grave.” I turned to see a black youngster — no more than sixteen years of age. There he was, right there on my heels, as I step onto the train. I look down, and he’s got his hand on a gun butt that is sticking out of the front of the traditional severely drooping pants. Now, he didn’t pull the “Burner” yet; he’s just got his hand on the gun-butt. I tried to get my bearings, since the door had just come open. I turn toward the passengers on the train and see two Mexican women with toddlers in strollers. There is another black youngster already on the train; he’s walking with a will towards me now. He is eyeballing the guy’s buddies who are on the platform. These two guys have got their hands on pistols too, and I’m not looking at any of them as youngsters anymore because of the guns: these are men, and I plan to treat them as such. This kid on the train is decked out in a black do-rag and a huge silver cross hanging on a silver chain around his neck, and a pant leg rolled up, Hip-Hop style. He looks to be the same age as the kid behind me, inside the train now and standing in the door jam so the doors can’t shut. I’m caught up there in a human sandwich between the two youngsters. I look out on the platform and see two more black teens. But nobody has skinned his smoke wagon yet, and my heart skipped a beat — a couple of beats — as I stand my ground and steel myself for the next moment. “I’m from Insane Crip — Long Beach, fool,” the youngster on the train says to guy with his hand on the gun who is standing on the train platform blocking the doors now. “What’s up?” “Get your ass off the train, fool,” the gunslinger on the platform shouts to the guy claiming he is from Long Beach, “You’ll see what’s up!” By this time the two babies in the strollers have sensed all the tension in the voices gone up a few decibels. Both kids are crying out loud. Neither of the Mexican women could speak English, but they have both seen the guns, and they’re shaken up.