Steve acts differently around different people in his neighborhood depending on his age and where he feels he fits in. In the flashback when Steve is twelve years old and walking with Tony, Steve is naive and childish. This is shown when Steve teases Tony about not being able to throw and then yells "Tony! Run!" after he accidentally hits a woman with a rock (Meyers 42). Steve then just stands there while Tony is beaten up by the "tough guy" who is with the woman that was struck by the rock.
Later, Steve begins to hang around other tougher kids in the neighborhood. He tries to act tough in order to impress and fit in with these boys. For example, when Osvaldo, a member of the Diablos gang, calls Steve a faggot and threatens to "burn him up," Steve responds by saying "I can kick your narrow butt any day in the week" (Meyers 81). Steve has learned to speak up and protect himself before being targeted by Osvaldo or other gang members.
Although Steve acts outwardly tough, on the inside, he is still shy and introverted. He learns to put on a tough facade in order to keep himself from being targeted, but deep down, Steve wants to lay low and stay out of trouble. He feels that by acting similarly to the other kids in his neighborhood, he can fit in and stay out of the way of the Diablos but soon learns that this is not the case as Osvaldo testifies against Steve during his trial.