(Part One) My Name is Riley

My name is Riley Hendricks. Born in 1982, I grew up just outside Boston, a city steeped in rich history, thick with patriotism and cultural pride. Founded in 1630, Boston is one of America’s original cities and if you aren’t from here, locals make damn sure you know just how amazing and important their city is. Slipped in between the Charles River and the Atlantic Ocean, Boston is compact, populated with distinctive neighborhoods that still retain marked remnants of their European ancestors – colonial architecture and housing dominate Beacon Hill, while small boutiques and cafes can be found on every corner in the Italian North End and Back Bay shopping areas.

And if someone wanted to really step foot into American history, they wouldn’t have to look too hard. Cambridge and its surrounding enclaves aren’t too hard to miss. Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, and USS Constitution – we’ve got it all! Street hustlers and roving carts, covered in small plastic American flags, tiny toy Union soldiers, and t-shirts and sweaters tastelessly covered in everything from Paul Revere riding a tank to George Washington battling the British with an uzi are bought and paid for with dollar bills pulled from bright pink fannypacks and oversized cargo short pockets.

Used to the busy streets and overcrowded shops, I would glide easily in and out among the tourists and locals. Moving swiftly and with sure feet, I could make it from point A to Point B with my eyes closed. Boston was my town, my home. When I was little I never pictured myself living anywhere else.

Sure it can get below freezing and the wind that comes in off the Atlantic is like an icy slap in the face, but there is really no place like it. Even when it turns warm in the summer and every square foot gets crammed with tourists, I would still love to go into the city and walk the streets as a young boy.

As a teenager, my adrenaline was a relentless twenty-four hour high and the city beckoned to me, promising adventure and a chance to truly live. When walking the streets, I would marvel at the buildings around me. The sweet, intoxicating smell of flowers mixed with a woman’s perfume lifted me off of my toes and I would find myself dancing along the sidewalk, unaware of the crowds surrounding me.

At each stoplight, a fresh wave of people in every size, shape, and color imaginable would descend upon me. Never locking eyes, I would take a sly glance at one’s blouse and another’s skirt. For a horny, venturesome kid, Boston is the perfect city. A wonderland of women, rush of energy, and unending flow of pizza and pastries.

If they happen to catch me glancing their way, most women just smile and shake their head disapprovingly. A few even ruffle my hair. “See somethig you like young man?” I was innocent, not a threat. The only thing they saw was a horny little kid.

Most times I kept to myself, unnoticed by most or looked on as harmless and uninteresting. If I got tired of walking around, I would find a corner café and sit in the farthest corner, deep within the shadows and away from prying eyes. If my eyes weren’t glued to a page in my book, they were taking in every sound and taste of the people around me. People fascinated me. I could spend hours dissecting every move, every sentence, trying to figure out their inner most kept secrets and desires.

It was a game to me. I never thought my talent for observation and subversion would end up being the one thing that ended up being the difference between life and death.