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    It was another day for Alexander Hurtado, an eighth of sweet maryjane to stop his chest from collapsing, a swig from 40 ounces of Corona to rid the cottonmouth and a quick bite to eat before heading off to work. Now he felt like a king.


    Alexander peddled to the rhythm of his heart beating against his rib cage while music blasted through headphones, zig-zagging through the sidewalks of Whittier, getting closer to the Carl's Jr. where he served burgers. With five minutes left until he had to clock in, he sped up to cross the street. From the side, he saw a car approach but told himself that he could outrace it. His bike leapt off the sidewalk only to be struck by the hood of the car and the brute force threw him into the air. Stunned, he approached the ground with one final thought, "F*ck, I'm going to die."


    Even before the accident, growing up was never easy for Hurtado. He witnessed and went through things that he would never forget. His mother rarely had a stable job; she worked as a bartender for a short time but never made enough to pay rent. At 13, he was helping his mother wash the windows of local shops that lined the downtown streets of Whittier. He gave her what little money he scraped together. His mother, in return, would invite stranger after stranger into their home to live off of his hard work.


    They were her boyfriends until they gave her nothing but scars and bruises. Repeatedly, Hurtado would plead with his mother to stay away from the intoxicated men, but she would brush his worries off. At times, he blamed the constant bottles of booze she dove into and the occasional drugs for her reckless disregard.


    There was one boyfriend that stood out from the rest. A bald, tattooed man named Armando. His mother would come home with black eyes and once even a broken foot. Day after day he would watch Armando come in and act as if he was king of their home. Having him in the house made Hurtado furious.


    He worked out to make himself stronger. One night Armando threw a punch at Hurtado's mother's face. Hurtado grabbed Armando from behind, packing a solid punch to his face and quickly ran back into the house to call the police before the man could get a hold of him. The police had been to their home several times for other accounts of assault. Hurtado filed a restraining order that night.


    "Finally had enough huh, Kid?" A female officer approached Hurtado and his mother before leaving.


    "Ma'am, I should really be arresting you for not taking better care of your son."


    Hurtado paid rent for his mother while she used whatever money she made for booze and drugs. He soon realized he was young and had certain wants of his own, and he started to spend extravagantly on himself. The spending eventually had its repercussions, and Hurtado and his selfish mother soon found themselves evicted from their home.


    His mother constantly tried to get him to stay with strangers she had labeled as "uncles," men he had never met. They would come to pick him up from friends' houses, shouting to get his attention.


    At this point, Hurtado was carefree, spending hours smoking weed, drinking alcohol and caring more about skateboarding than anything. At 16, on the way to the bank to cash a check, he got into an argument with his mother. She had promised that he could keep the money but shoved the check into her purse.


    He ripped her purse out of her hand throwing it into the middle of traffic. He threatened to kill her, and she pulled out her phone and began to call the police. He ran for hours through the streets of Whittier, across lawns and over fences.




    He heard sirens of police cars off in the stance and headed to a house nearby where a friend lived. They smoked for a whole hour; he needed to get as high as he could get to forget about what had happened. After a few hours had passed, Hurtado headed out the door only to be greeted by two police vehicles. His friend approached him slowly, and placed his hand on Hurtado's shoulder and told him that it would be best if he just listened and went with them.


    He spent a week in a cell and around people his age that had problems much worse than his. He knew he wasn't crazy and did not belong in what seemed to be a mental institution. In group sessions, he would keep quiet and answer questions carefully to shorten his time at the correctional facility.


    Once he was released, everything seemed to go back to how it used to be. One day while visiting his aunt, he became overwhelmed and walked to the top of her apartment building where he threatened to commit suicide. After this, his aunt called the police, and he was thrown into foster care. He spent four months with several different families, but Hurtado never felt like he could fit in. Eventually, his grandfather took him in. He moved from Whitter to El Sereno but brought with him old habits. Going to school Hurtado, would carry marijuana to sell but found himself smoking more than half of his own supply during breaks.


    Hurtado was unexpectedly presented with a drug test by his grandfather. He failed and was thrown out without hesitation and placed in the care of his mother's sister who lived in the neighboring town of Eagle Rock.


    Here, Hurtado would run into a new and different set of problems. Although he had a home to live in with family that didn't surround itself with strangers and drugs, he would be judged and bombarded with negativity. While he was finishing high school, he would even be arrested for crimes he had and hadn't done.


"At only eighteen Alexander Hurtado had thought his life had come to an end."

    Eventually his aunt couldn't deal with him, kicking him out of her home. Hurtado moved back to Whittier, again reuniting with his mother. At only 18, Hurtado had thought his life had come to an end. Years of a carefree youth skateboarding, substance binging and taunting authority figures seemed to dwindle as he lay on the asphalt. Hurtado went from flying through mid-air to waking up in a hospital bed.


    The sound of family members chatting with doctors and an electrocardiogram monitor with its steady beep beep beep were in the background. He felt as if something had changed. The doctor told him that he had hit his head pretty hard, and that he might have memory problems. Aside from that, he had nothing but a few cuts, bruises and a broken nose. It was clear he didn't die, but it dawned on him, that he could have left a life behind without anything to show.


    A year after the accident, Hurtado moved back to Eagle Rock with his aunt for a clean start. He enrolled into Pasadena City College with hopes of transferring to a university and pursuing a degree in business. While there, he works two jobs to pay for rent and aid for his mother. Hurtado's mother like her son, is also trying to better herself by attending school to become a nurse.


    Hurtado now wakes up to the ringing of an alarm clock that was once his anxiety, but is now his call to action. It has been a year since he has touched drugs or alcohol and he plans to continue that trend. His past and constant negativity of his aunt were his motivation to succeed and make something of himself. As he looks back on a life that was awful, Hurtado zig-zags through the streets of Eagle Rock with high hopes, excited that his prospects have now changed from how they once were.


 
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