When I first moved there and people started telling me that, I refused to believe them. What did these people know about ghettos? Yeah, I’d say, It’s urban, but it’s not a bad area really. It’s kinda poor, but not dangerous or anything.”
My first sign was really the lady with the shopping cart who comes and
takes the aluminum out of our trashcans early on Saturday mornings. You don't really get that in the nicer parts of town. I was willing to accept her since my friend Andrea has the same homeless woman steal her aluminum cans and she lives in a completely respectable area. One morning I gave her an extra hash brown from McDonald’s and after that I felt a sort of connection with her. She was no longer a potential sign of my neighborhood being “bad”. She was the nice lady I ate breakfast with that one day who loves to recycle.
One night I went to Speedway to get myself a pack of smokes and a map. When I walked into the store, some man was wandering around mumbling to himself. That isn’t that uncommon in any little store. I was looking at the maps, trying to decide which would best serve me on my journey through seven mid-western states that weekend.
Then the man went up to the counter and started screaming about money. I really though I was going to get shot. Suddenly, it was becoming clearer that maybe this wasn’t such a “nice” place.
It turned out that the man was just some friend of the cashier and he
didn't realize I was in the corner looking at the maps. He apologized
Gas stations are robbed all the time though. It was so easy to rationalize myself out of the moment when I thought I might die and suddenly maybe it wasn’t a safe place to be.
Later, I was telling a friend where I live. I explained that it's between the train tracks and the drive through liquor store. The liquor sign flashes on my bedroom floor. I told him about the band that lives and practices upstairs. He called it "that apartment". You know, the one you read about/see in a movie that epitomizes living in the ghetto. I saw his point.
Still, though, I refused to believe that the area was really that bad. My coworker tried to tell me there were prostitutes and drug dealers out on the street just a few blocks away. I told him he didn't know what he was talking about. I drive there all the time, and I hadn't ever seen one.
Then my car died. Suddenly I was riding the bus every day. I was walking around within my neighborhood. I saw more of it than the nearest gas station, the liquor store and my parking lot.
A police officer even stopped me one day to let me know it wasn’t safe for me to be out walking where I was. I would guess I was less than five blocks from my home. The bus drivers always seem surprised when I get off where I do. I have even been asked by my neighbors what I was doing out in “this part of town”.
I have lived in and around Lexington KY for almost six years now. I kept telling myself there was no way I could have been here that long and not known that this area was the ghetto.
I remembered when I was looking at colleges. I crossed Transylvania University off of my list, because it’s “in the ghetto”. My neighbors (the band) are Transy students. I also remembered my mother telling me it wasn’t a dangerous area, it just looked bad. I decided I now agreed with my mother.
All of this rationalizing ended suddenly one night. I was waiting for the bus. Standing on the corner. It was about 11 PM on a Saturday. The drive through at the liquor store was hopping. Right when I arrived, a car came and stopped by where I was standing. The driver rolled down his window.
“Hey, baby, do you need a ride?”
“No thanks. I’m waiting for my bus. It’ll be here any minute.”
“Oh. You’re real pretty. You waiting for someone special?”
“I’m waiting for the bus.”
“Are you sure you don’t want a ride. I can drop you off wherever.”
This happened two more times while I was waiting. I was only standing there for about ten minutes and I didn’t actually feel unsafe. There were so many people waiting for the liquor store drive through that I knew if I screamed I would be noticed.
The third guy said something about “picky bitches” and “overpriced”. Alarms went off in my head. They thought I was a prostitute! I was wearing gym shoes and jeans and an old corduroy coat. I didn’t even really have on any make-up.
Obviously those men thought that any girl standing on that street must be an easy target. Either the place is crawling with Johns or I would be a particularly desirable prostitute.
Either way, I have now come to terms with it. I live in the ghetto.