The Alma Mater chronicles: Trevor

She called Trevor and Humberto the last bastion. They were the last stronghold of that gang’s place of power at Alma Mater. Like two sentinels, they stood across the street in front of the liquor store, one tall and light, the other short and dark, scowling in the sunlight at the petite woman at the streetlight near campus. Sometimes, red devil tails would dangle from beneath their white T’s or heavy flannel shirts. With surliness, Trevor would puff himself up, knowing she was watching him.

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Trevor Benitez, half Portagee, half Mexican, 100% f*** the world. Once he had been a rocker, all wallet chain and girlfriend in Avril LaVigne wife beater and necktie. The next, he was claiming the set down the street, wearing the color, picking the fights. In time, Trevor became the third man, next in line after the main players. His large green eyes, which had always been of anger and arrogance, grew shiny with mercilessness.

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Suspended again. Over some bullshit. I didn’t even touch that nigga. I should’ve taken his ass out right then and there. He knows he broke that window. Or one of his boys did and he’s taking the blame. I don’t care. Not about him or this stupid school. That stupid little bitch, she always takes their side. Everybody knows she’s down with them scraps. She’s practically one of them. Speaks their language. Family like theirs probably. Look at her over there every day, just laughing with them, never saying anything when they wear their colors, pretends she doesn’t hear them talking their smack. I heard she’s got family on that side, some OG’s. That don’t scare me. She don’t know though. She’s nothing. She don’t know what I could do to her. If my boy Z wasn’t down for her, I’d do something to her. Slash her tires, key up that piece of shit she drives. Something to let her know she can’t keep punking me. She better watch her back. Let’s see where her little friends are at when I catch her on the street.

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El Scooby claims they knocked him unconscious, stole his chain. He names the two leaders but can’t remember if Trevor was there. Ms. Galindo presses him. In her mixed up heart, she hopes Trevor was involved. She has started to hate him and it scares her, but not enough.

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The tardy bell rings. Trevor crosses past her, feels her little Asian-looking eyes fixed on him. He glares right back, hopes she’ll say something. She looks through him like he’s glass but then looks at his belt.
“I’ve warned you at least three times to not wear that on campus.”
“Let me put it away.”
“No, you’ve done this too many times.”
“So it’s not hurting anybody.”
“Watch your tone.”
“Man, you always got something to say to me.”
“Because you are defiant, Mr. Benitez. Come with me to the office.”
“I ain’t got to go anywhere.”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me. You always got to mess with me and my patnas. How come you don’t say nothing to your folks by the tree? Yeah, you think no one was gonna say nothing. I’m sick of it.” “Mr. Benitez, come to my office. You’re being suspended.”
“I know. And I don’t care.”
“You don’t. Good.”
They stalk into the building, past the stares of all the kids on the front porch. Trevor’s breath comes quickly. He is dizzy with hatred.
Once they are in her tiny office, they sit across the desk from each other in silence. Then her glare softens and she speaks, her voice no longer strident and hard, now calm and soft.
“Trevor, we can’t go on like this. We have to be able to talk this out.”
“Nothing to talk about. You’re gonna suspend me. Do what you gotta do.”
“Trevor, some of the things you said didn’t sit well with me. I think we do have to talk. I think you’ve misunderstood me.”
He looks at her quizzically. A voice in his head tells him she’s being real but he is unsure.
“I want to do a good job here. My job is to protect the campus and all the students. You seem like you don’t believe that.”
“I don’t.”
“You don’t think I’m here for all of you?”
“No. I think you’re only here for some people.”
“So how do we change that? How do I make things right? I want to be here for you and your friends. I know you don’t believe that. Now you have a chance to tell me what’s what so we can squash this.”
“You wanna squash this?”
“Yes.”
“And you’re not gonna suspend me?”
“Well, you yelled at a vice principal. That has to have some consequence.”
“And what I say in here won’t be on my suspension?”
“No, what we say in here is just part of our conversation.”
Trevor decides to take a chance and begin to trust her.

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You taught me something that afternoon. So I gave you my word. I will protect and support you if you keep your street nonsense off my campus. I will make sure you walk that stage and make it, so you won’t end up like your boys.

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Ms. Galindo and Trevor made peace. As she promised, she learned to stand at the wall with the other gang. She talked to him about his little brother, his mom, and his grades. They laughed at other students as they walked by during passing period. She helped him with class schedule changes, walked him to class, checked in with his teachers. She made him feel like he mattered to her. That made him want to prove her right.

*Please keep my student, Daniel, in your prayers and thoughts. May he survive tomorrow’s surgery and his current struggle to live.

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