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Sian Cullen and her daughter Aine. Cullen was a teenager in Dublin, Ireland when Aine was born. They now live in Seattle.The Seattle Story Project: First-person reflections published at These are essays, stories told on stage, photos and zines.To submit a story – or note one you've seen that deserves more notice – contact Isolde Raftery at or 206.616.2035.

He met his first love in Seattle's south end. He lost her there, too

Khalil Equiano told his story to Zia Mohajerjasbi, director and producer of The Charcoal Sky story series.
Photo by Zia Mohajerjasbi
Khalil Equiano told his story to Zia Mohajerjasbi, director and producer of The Charcoal Sky story series.

In the south end of Seattle, there was this little hoop court I used to kick it at a lot. One day this super tomboy girl comes down and is like, “Yo, I want to play with you guys.”

I was like, “No, you can’t play, because you got these big-ass earrings on. You’re clearly here more to be cute than you’re here to play ball.” You know what I’m saying? She was wearing jeans.

Her response to this was to throw the ball and hit me dead in my face, knock my glasses off in front of all my friends. It was a perfect, quiet moment and then OHHHHHHHHHHH!

I’m still hearing about that. I’ll probably hear about that for the rest of my life.

But yeah.

This story was told to Zia Mohajerjasbi, director and producer of The Charcoal Sky story series on YouTube. It contains some profanity. The transcript from this interview was lightly edited for clarity.

When I first met her, I was like, “Fuck her.” I don’t like this girl. I don’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to see her ever again.

Fast forward a little bit, and it was summer. We'd go kick it, the homies and homegirls, on this jogging trail. It was my regular crew, including this girl I knew since the fourth grade, and her friends — one of whom was friends with Homegirl.

So Homegirl came.

I tried to ignore her. At this jogging trail there were these big weeping willow trees, and we would weave them together and make swings. 

And there she was, sitting in a swing, which I didn't make, which I wish I had now. And there was me, standing around looking goofy, not pushing anybody.

She said, “Yo, come push me.”

I was like word. 

And I decided to do this to show that I was over what happened at the basketball court. I cupped her knees and I pushed her. I pushed a little bit too hard. And maybe it was touching her for the first time, or maybe because it was that I pushed too hard and the wind flew in my face, and it had her scent on it. But I remember she started moving in slow motion and when she swung back to me, I was in love.

We kicked it that whole night.

Like, it was all of us together, but I was kicking it with her. And when everyone decided to go home, she didn't want to go. Her dad was so heavy on drugs, and her brother was on his stupid shit.

There was nobody there for her, really. And so I was like, “Well, you don't have to go home. I will stay out with you all night.”

Watch Khalil Equiano tell his story:

[asset-audio[{"description": "Ross Reynolds speaks with filmmaker Zia Mohajerjasbi about how he made this video and the original question that started the story. ", "fid": "139622", "uri": "npraudio://201710/NEWS_20171002_Zia.mp3"}]]And I did. We stayed out until the sun came up. I dropped her off, and I try to sneak into my house and I caught hell.

I spent that whole summer getting in hella trouble, sneaking around, trying to hang out with this girl. She was like my best friend and my first girlfriend wrapped into one.

It was dope. But her brother and I never got along. Not even a little bit. Part of it was personality, part of it was neighborhood shit. Most of it was, I think, his drug habits.

He didn’t treat women well, and I think he assumed that was the way all men treat women.

The idea that I was with his sister pissed him off. He thought she was the kind of girl who doesn't have sex until she's married. And that, as close as we were, I must have been having sex with her.

Mind you, we were young, we weren't doing any of that shit. We made out a little bit here and there, but we didn't have sex. We were scared of that. I was terrified. My mom had basically put it in my head that if I looked at a girl wrong, she would get pregnant, and then I'd be poor for the rest of my life.

Plus these were real feelings. We figured we were going to be together in our 20s or 30s or 40s or 50s — for our rest of our lives. There was no reason for us to hurry.

She told me that her brother is pissed and he wanted to come see me. I’m like, “I could convince him that we’re not doing what he says we’re doing.”

And part of it too was like, fuck this dude. I'm tired of his shit.

I said, “I want to go see him.” And she said, “No, no, don’t. Stay home, stay home, don't do this.”

But I said, “I'm going to see him.”

We walked up the street, her saying, ‘Just stay home. Just go back home.”

I saw a car with him and his homies. I didn’t even know whose car it was, but they were always in it, always smashing around the hood in that little car.

When I saw him, I hit him up. “’Sup!” I said.

And he opened up. He started shooting at us from the back window. Well, he started shooting at me from the back window.

I heard the car smash off and when I got up, there was all this blood on me and I thought, “Oh shit. I’m shot. I’m fucking shot.”

I tried not to look at myself. I wasn’t feeling any pain, but there was all this blood on the ground.

And then I go over to her. I roll her over. And there’s blood everywhere.

She's gone. 

I literally just heard her voice. The last thing she heard was me not listening to her. 

More stories from The Charcoal Sky:

The Seattle Story Project: First-person reflections published at To submit a story or note one you've seen that deserves more notice, contact Isolde Raftery at or 206.616.2035.