a lesson I should learn

They called it a, “Suspended sentence,” conditional upon my behavior. This came from a judge in a courtroom, along with a two year order of protection, and a warning that should I attempt to approach, contact, or interfere with the lives of the youths that tried to impose against me and my home, I would be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I was once a longhaired kid with loose shoelaces and a wise ass mouth. I hung around the corners of my neighborhood and found trouble the way sunlight finds the ground. I laughed too loud and screamed too often. I was wild, but yet, I was aware of when to lean in and when to hold back.
I knew when to speak out and when to quiet down because I understood the possibility of violent consequences.
Today’s youth has a similar rebellion but their approach is well protected and their bravery is somewhat alarming.

My last time in handcuffs was years ago. I sat on a wooden bench inside the first precinct. My left wrist was cuffed to a steal bar that ran beneath the bench, and the bones in my ass could not find comfort against the hard wooden seat.
To my right was a loud, feminine black man that drank too much and smelled from his armpits. He complained, “Officer….yo, Officer, these cuffs are too tight on my wrist, yo.” To my left was his friend. He was drunk as well and equally loud.
And I—I was too old to play these games. I was too tired and too angry that I allowed myself to be drawn in. I knew better, but there I was, sitting behind a chain-linked fence and listening to policemen type my information into the data base.

“Kimmel, have you ever been arrested before?”

The man to my left chimed in. “Of course he’s been arrested before…..look at him.”
He laughed, but I did not respond.
“How many tattoos do you have,” Asked the officer.
I answered, “I have them all over my arms, chest, ribs and back.”
The officer asked, “Can you describe them to me? I have to write a detailed description of them.”
I stood up. “Maybe it would be easier if I just do this.”
Then I pulled my shirt over my head and I turned around to expose the artwork.

This time, the man to my right chimed. “See, now that’s what I call  a crazy white boy!”
The officer complained, “I’m not going to have enough room to write this in the description.”
He joked, but I was in no mood to laugh.

Someone broke into my wife’s care weeks before this. Before that, my neighbor’s home was newly sided with vinyl siding. However, young and local hoodlums shot paintballs at their new siding. It was the same hoodlums that broke into my wife’s car.
Blocks away, an elderly man was bullied by some of these hoodlums. He called the police after he witnessed the teenage boys throwing fruit at his car. Except, when the police arrived, the elderly man was too afraid to press charges.
“I’m afraid of what they will do next,” he said.

On the other hand, I was not afraid. Up until this point, none of the neighbors dared to speak out or defend themselves, which I thought was terrible.
Instead of speaking out, they chose to remain silent. They closed their curtains to avoid an altercation, but I was not willing to remain silent or hide behind the curtains in my house.
I knew all about these boys. I knew because I was no different from them, and while true, they felt invincible, I believed I knew how to reach their attention.
So I found out where they lived.

The size of these teenagers was deceiving. They were all around my height and stocky in weight. Most of them had facial hair, and if I were to guess, I would have put them just beneath the age of 19 or 20.
One boy’s name was mentioned more than others. And since he was in need of attention, I decided to start with his house first.
Initially, my plan was to arrive at the youngster’s house, knock on the door, and speak with his parents. Except, his parents were not home.
But the boy was. He was home with his four of his friends and they laughed at me. They laughed, but they laughed from inside the house and behind a locked door.

I invited them to come outside, but they refused. The boy whose home it was did not laugh as much. However, he did smile.
He smiled until I urged him to consider one simple fact.
“Remember something…I know where you live.”
Then I explained to his friends, “I know where you all live.”

I had the right plan with the intention of protecting my neighborhood, only I used the wrong execution, and I overstepped my legal boundaries.
Allowing them to get beneath my skin, I continued to invite them outside. Instead, they chose to stand in front of the window, defiantly smiling with their arms folded, and waving the occasional hand gesture, as if to explain they were not afraid.

My second to last sentence was, “If anything else happens to any of the houses on my block, I am going to come here and see you.”
Then I walked away from the doorstep and towards my car. When I noticed them watching me through the front window, I opened my car door, and I removed a machete from under the back seat.
The machete was a gift, which was given to me as a joke; however, I never removed it from the car, and since I had this as a prop, I decided to use the machete as an exclamation point to my action.
I aimed the machete at the group of teens as they stood grinning in the window.
Then I warned them with my last sentence.

“Stay away from my fucking house!”

This time….their smiles vanished quickly.

The truth is they did break into my wife’s car. They did terrorize the neighborhood, and the police were at this house once, and sometimes even twice each month.
The truth is they deserved to be held responsible for their behavior. They deserved a beating. But the truth is I broke the law, and because I broke the law, my wrongs overshadowed theirs, and I was taken away for menacing.
I was seen as the criminal and they were seen as threatened little boys. Regardless to their previous behavior, I was seen as the aggressor and they were considered to be the victims.

I thought about the course of events while sitting in a cage between two loud drunks that reeked from sweat and booze. I became aware of my own stupidity and the exact nature of my wrongs.
I had not been behind a cage in a long time. It was years since handcuffs were around my wrists, but I remembered them well.
I remembered the clunky tight grasp above my hands. I remembered the feeling of cold steel against my skin, and I remembered the weight and the sound handcuffs make when clasping around my wrists.

As it turned out, those young hoodlums were younger than I thought. They were younger, but not so young that they did not deserve a lesson. They were just young enough to avoid the reach of local law. But their time would come.

Fortunately, my sentence was reduced to harassment in the interest of justice and the case was dismissed on the condition that I stayed away from the boys.
On the night of my arrest, I recall the mother of the boy that lived in that house.
She screamed at me, “Good for you!”
She pointed. “Now you’re going to jail for a very long time!”
Then the mother called me a bum and a loser.

The truth is I was out of the precinct in 45 minutes. Her son was eventually arrested (more than once) and now he is away for armed robbery.

My best friend often tells me, “Who is stupid; the stupid person or the one that argues with them?”

I argue too often.
Arguments tend to grow legs; they take off, and then they do more damage.
And when this happens, I lose my point, even if I’m right.
Sometimes, I need to realize when to stop.
Otherwise, I could get myself into trouble.
I’m too old.
I’m too busy.
And I’m too smart to ruin my time with arguments.



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