The noise wakes up the entire building. It's louder than loud, like a firecracker.
Before I know what I'm doing, I'm out of bed. My parents are already in the dark living room.
None of our neighbors dare go out into the hallway. Instead, they stay behind their doors asking questions through the cracks.
“What's going on out there?" Mr. Brown, from apartment 2C, asks. His voice sounds croaky with sleep.
"Everything okay?" That sounds like Mrs. Lawrence. She's really old and lives by herself in 2F. I imagine her hunched over by the door with her hand on the doorknob, listening for an answer.
A woman is screaming and there's some loud crying. It starts and stops like a car trying to jump to life. My best friend, Kayla, lives upstairs near the roof door, so I hope whatever is happening isn't coming from there.
When my father grabs his baseball bat, I know he's also worried. "It's June, too early for firecrackers," he says. "That was a gunshot."
"Oh, no," my mother says. There have been shootings in other buildings around here, but this is the first time it's happened where I live.
My teeth start to chatter. I can't make them stop, not even when I clench them.
"Daddy, please move away from the door. They might shoot again." It comes out funny and I have to say it a second time. But instead of moving, he looks through the peephole. Every apartment in the projects has one. My mother tells me never to open the door without looking through it first.
"Tenga cuidado," my mother says.
"Don't worry. I'll be careful." Dad presses his ear against our door. "Maybe someone needs help. I'll go see if there's anything I can do."
"But I don't hear any noise now. Do you?" I whisper, watching for his thick eyebrows to answer me first. "Do you? Maybe whatever it was is over now. It could be, right? Let's just go back to bed." He doesn't move. "Please!"
My mother shushes me and leads me to the couch.
I bring my knees to my chin and stretch my nightgown over my legs. My mother sits next to me and holds my hand.
"I have to go see if everything is okay, Dellie," my father says, unlocking the door.
"No, you might get hurt! You don't know who's out there."
"She's right, it's not a good idea," my mother says, tightening her grasp on my hand. "I need you to stay where I know you're safe."
"I'll be okay," he says, opening the door and letting the hallway light flood the room. The veins in his hands bulge as he grips the bat.
"Dad, no! That can't stop a bullet." Panic pushes its way into my head and causes a quiet terror inside me. The air has been sucked out of the room and I can't catch my breath no matter how hard I try. My eyes go blurry and I can't see. I don't want to do this again. Please, make it stop.
“I'll be fine. Lock the door after I leave. I won't be long," my father says, stepping into the hallway.
The room feels darker now that my father is on the other side of the door.