South Jersey. For most, it's not much more than a wasteland covered in pine, parkway, and plazas. There honestly isn't much here, save for ridiculous gas prices and the enormous redneck trucks that pay for them. There are no shopping malls, no concert venues, or no video arcades. All that's here are the few who are striving to make this place just a little more livable, and the others who are trying to burn it to the ground. And me? Well, I'm not sure what category I'm in yet. It's hard to find your niche here, because you have to be cautious on who you choose to associate with. Choose the right group, and you're set for life. Choose the wrong group, and you might as well dig your own grave. Here, where the weak are practically killed and eaten.

...But for me, it's nothing but home.

I've been one of the lucky ones, if you can call it that. I'm South Jersey born, and I know this place inside and out. Some kids that move here never quite adapt, and end up being that kid in the back of the room that no one ever talks to. But I am king of this place. Everyone knows my name and everyone treats me like gold. ...Well, everyone who matters, anyway. Guess it's just that natural Jersey charm, eh?

Truth be told, though, I'm no different than those kids in the back of the room. Most people refuse to make eye contact with me, shuffling along with their heads down. Teachers hate me, and kids are afraid of me. The police know me by first name. I'm a nobody, a streetrat. I'm going nowhere and I'm not going to stop.

I sigh, knowing it's the truth. Here I am, sitting in my room, lying on the bed with eyes closed just like every other day. Sixteen, and I'm already going through a midlife crisis. I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling, cherry red with a poster of The Exploited attached. Wattie stares back at me, tall red mohawk, mouth open and screaming at me through a microphone. I want to scream back at him, yell 'til my throat bleeds and my problems go away. But I never will. I'll never do anything, so long as I'm still sitting here, two minutes until I catch the bus and knowing that school is pointless. For me, there is no future, and in truth I don't even want there to be! I don't want to go to college to learn how to be some corporate wackjob. I just want to be myself.

Suddenly I hear a knck at my door, but the person doesn't wait for me to tell them to go away before they just barge in. It figures — it's Rich, my foster father.

"Bus is almost here," he grumbles, "are you going to school or not?"

"I'm going, I'm going." I huff, rolling out of bed.

All Rich has to say to that is, "Come straight home," and shuts my door. I laugh. This is early-morning Rich, pre-caffeine rush Rich. The one that comes home at 6:00 every night is even worse. Sure, it's nice to have someone care about me, but Rich is the kind of guy that will interrogate me until I feel like I'm at a bleeping psychologist! He says he doesn't want me getting in any trouble or breaking down, but part of the reason that happens to me is because of his nosiness. Well, he is a paid therapist, of course, but ni need to take it out on me. I guess there's a reason they put the "psycho" in front of psychologist.

I am already dressed, and before heading out the door I wake one last look at my homely self. I run a hand through my messy spiked hair, cut short as per Rich's request. I smile; some of the pink dye that made him absolutely soil his pants a few months ago is still in my roots. My face is tired, pale, and my body looks like that of a skeleton under my leather jacket. My jeans, sewn straight-legged and tight, at ripped after being through too many chases and hopping too many fences. Oh, what a stereotype I am.

There is only one feature of myself I actually like — my eyes. They are green as seaglass, deep and powerful. ...They are my mother's.

For a second I stand there, a scene flashing before my eyes. I am four years old, with a major case of Toddler Munchies, and there's a fresh box of Cheerios on the table. Tere is no milk nearby, but a tall glass of orange juice is next to the cereal. I climb onto the table and pour the Cheerios in: ALL the Cheerios. I take a big gulp, but out of the wrong side of the glass. The concoction spills all over my outfit (I wore outfits back then?!) just as my mother walks in, but she is all smiles. I look up at her, and I want her eyes, her beautiful green eyes.

God, I miss her.