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NEW YORK AVENUE The night before, someone had been shot on New York Avenue.  John stood by the iron fence, leaning heavily on the railing, nursing the weak leg that had grown decrepit. Once, he ran a traffic light and was taken from his car and beaten by two cops who left him on the curb.  That was in 1982.  He woke up feeling the pain in his legs and back, and the pain had never left, so now, when John walks, he walks with a cane.  And walks very slowly.

The police ribbon stretched between fixtures down the street. We could see strips of it flapping in the wind.

“Do you know if the guy lived?” I asked John.

“Don’t know,” he said slowly, situating his cap by its brim, “Don’t know nothing about it ‘cept it woke me up.”

I imagined a body lying face down on the ground, bleeding al l over the place under the street light.  I wondered if it hurt to get shot.

“I don’t understand why we can’t love one another instead of all this,” John said, gesturing toward the police ribbons, “Don’t they know that God is watching us?”

John was a very religious man.

I remembered a movie, where the effect of a bullet wound to the stomach was illustrated in graphic, visual detail.  The movie described how the intestines immediately filled up with mucus.

“Probably died,” I speculated.

“You never know.  Some people get shot in the head and live.  I heard of one guy got a pole stuck through his head and lived.  Came out his jaw, man.”

“It’s such a pity,” John continued. He had a thick Caribbean accent; “I wonder what God would say.  I don’t think that this is what He had in mind when He made us.”