I heard a speech a long time ago. I heard, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but I sometimes wonder where the village is or do they even care.
I see them like this.
They’re just kids or more like babies. They’re just guppies in a little pond that will grow bigger in deeper and more dangerous too.
But while they’re young, the kids hide behind their protection. They’re safe because they’re at least somewhat protected by laws and parents or the revelation that the world is an unkind place and becomes more unkindly if we feed the wrong systems.
They’re too young to be taken in by the cops. They’re too small to do what they do, but yet, the people they play with are too big to play childish games. It’s a powder keg for sure. But that’s the game. That’s the thrill; and the fact that the entire world could detonate at anytime is the rush makes sense of our crazy, young, teenage angst.
I see them sometimes, laughing, because they think this is a joke. They laugh because they still have a few angles to can play. They have the youthful offender angle and the first time offender card that gets them out of jail. Eventually, they find themselves clinked up with a little scare and a ride downtown to sit in a holding cell. But the fear of this is temporary and only lasts until the handcuffs are removed.
Years ago, I sat on a wooden bench in a small cage behind a chain-linked fence. My left wrist was handcuffed to a bar that ran beneath the bench. Across from my was a uniformed officer, filling out his report and detailing the different tattoos on my body for identification purposes.
Next to me on either side were two, very loud and extremely feminine men, drunk and disorderly, complaining about the handcuffs being too tight, and arguing back and forth, loudly asking for a phone call or for a trip to the bathroom. Meanwhile, I sat between them trying not to be disturbed by the banter. I didn’t want to react. Eventually, I gave in though. I clinked the handcuff around my wrist to the tightest linkage and growled, “Just shut up and take the pain.”
This worked for a short period of time but the two went back to their loud conversation. There was a man to my far left. He remarked to me in Spanish, which I was able to understand and respond in a way that he could understand as well. He smiled.
This man was the first to be escorted out from behind the cage and taken off to his next stop on his journey. And me, I was looking at a desk appearance ticket. I knew my charge was a problem. I knew that I overreacted but I also knew what I was up against.
I knew the kids around the block from my home would not stop bullying or terrorizing my neighborhood. I knew this because I was them once.
They shot paintballs from paintball guns at the houses to stain the siding. They threatened a girl down the street with a knife just to scare her. There was other things that went this way but the list is less important than the lesson. However, I reached out to the neighbors on my street and no one wanted to say anything.
“They’re just kids,” I was told. They were breaking into homes to scare people.
“But what can we do,” said some of the neighbors.
“They’re just kids.”
But when those kids decided to break in one of my cars, I decided to find where they lived and introduce myself. Unfortunately, I overstated introduction. I had the right plan but I chose the wrong execution. And now it was me instead of them. It was me that was locked up. Not them.
When approached by one of the teen’s fathers, He understood the kids were in the wrong. “But now you are going to jail,” he told me. “You could have talked to us and things could have been different.”
In my anger, I defied this man by explaining, “To be honest, I had every intention of going to jail for this. “I told him, “My wife can’t cook. I eat better in jail. But i’ll tell you this much . . . I bet your kids stay away from my house now!”
I watched my threat take the wind out from this man. He understood clearly. So did the teens that bullied the people and homes on my street.
I thought about this while cuffed to the bench behind the cage. I thought about my transaction and of course, I regretted my response.
After a while, I was alone and waited to be processed. However, just before my release, the uniforms brought in a 16 year-old.
He was a 16 year-old punk.
Know what it means when you’re arrested at 16? This means you’re a keeper. This means you’re not going with the juveniles to be slapped on the wrist and sent home with your parents.
No, this kid was a keeper. He was loud and screaming—calling the cops “Pigs,” and shouting, “It smells like bacon in here with coffee and donuts.”
He kicked the cage a few times, which was enough for me to lose my mind. I had lost it long before this.
I lost my mind when I overstated my concerns to the youngsters around the block from my house.
I lost my mind when I overstated my opinion. I lost it when I mentioned my intentions if I see any of them near my home again.
Perhaps, of all things, I lost it when I overstated myself and pointed a machete at all of them and threatened “I found where you all live and I will be back if anything happens to any of the homes on my street” Then I growled, “And stay away from my fuckin house!”
Like I said, I had a plan. I just the wrong execution.
By the way, I do not express this boastfully or proudly. Instead, I say this with regret. I was younger then but still old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. I was angry at the time. I was sure the kids wouldn’t stop terrorizing the neighborhood —so, I decided to motivate them to stay away from me by using a different approach, which it worked.
But still, did the ends justify the means? Look where I was—back in the saddle with a cuffed wrist. I was arrested again as a grown man. I was in a position I swore I would never find myself in again, but yet, there I was—sitting next to a kid that believed he was tough.
He kicked the cage again.
I explained he should stop that. I explained that he and I might be taking a ride together and promised I would punish him if there were anymore disturbances.
“So pretty please,” I told him. “With sugar on top. Stop kicking the fuckin cage!” He listened . . .
I have made changes in my life since then. Big changes. I am far from the same person. However, the problems with kids and bullies still exist. I’m not angry anymore though. Instead, i’m more heartbroken because the game will not stop.
I see them all the time. Crazy kids . . .
I watch them run wild and see them do the same things as me, only, things are a little different now. The names of things have changed. The fashion is different. Technology is a different world now.
So is music.
The drugs have changed a little but the symptoms are the same. And I get it. They’re all tough. They all know what they’re doing.
Sure they do.
Every kid is tough until they hear the sound of a shotgun being racked and then pointed at them. Moreover, every kid is tough until a caged door slams shut and they’re led to a holding cell.
Sometimes, I have parents ask me to interview their children. I recall the last teenage interview. He was young and small but trying to be tough and big. He was like all kids that behave this way. He thought he knew what he was doing.
Said he could beat the game. Then again, he never knew about the price of admission. Said he was too smart and that none of the tragic warnings he heard would ever happen to him.
It goes this way with kids like this. You dare the edge because of the rush. Each time you take the dare, the edge graduates to another level. Eventually, each transaction is bigger than previous.
But you’re cool now.
You’re a part of something. You start to think you’re a tough guy, untouchable, undeniable, and worse, unthinkably immortal. You’re a main character in a story, which you assume will always end in close calls, but no one ever falls. No one ever dies.
“That may happen to other people but that will never happen to me,” are the most common and famous last words.
Besides, it’s fun. Am I right? You dare the edge. You break the law. You defy the people that tell you what to do. It’s a ball . . .
I met a kid that laughed about his first trip in the backseat of a cop car. He was underage. He was a throw-back, which meant he was a juvenile. This meant he took a slap on the wrist and laughed about the frustration of law enforcement when his parents came to pick him up. He thought he was so cool
“Wait until they keep you,” I said
“Wait until Mommy and Daddy can’t bail you out and then you get to stay,” I told him.
I started t smile at him.
“Wait until you’re caged up with a real animal and there is nowhere to hide and no amount of Mommy or Daddy’s money will save your ass. Let’s see you laugh then.”
Simply put, the teenager’s smile disappeared.
And I get it. As kids, we have t defy the world. I get it. We create our rebellions to mirror the way we feel and see us against the world.
I get it.
D.T.A. (Don’t Trust Anyone) and F.T.W (Fuck The World.)
There is a strange thing about the trust factor by the way.
When I was a kid, I went to this place that was designed to help me. But I wouldn’t trust them. They offered to help me with the way I felt and told me they could fix my education to help me create a new life. But I didn’t trust them.
“Who do you trust,” they asked.
“No one,” I told them.
Meanwhile, I trusted someone to sell me poison to infect my bloodstream and get me high. I trusted the kids that turned on me in the precinct, which led to a separate conviction.
I trusted the lies I told myself and trusted systematic downfall of my life. But yet, I wouldn’t trust anyone looking to save me from myself. I wouldn’t trust anyone looking to help remove me from my blindness.
I get it though.
So did the kid I interviewed.
Turns out I never had an issue with trust. I just put mine in the wrong places to feed the excuse machine so I could maintain my behavior and feed my sickness.
It was written that demons avoided the light because the light exposed the darkness of their deeds. I avoided the light because the light contradicted and exposed the pathology of my thinking and behavior.
This is the rut that comes with depressive and self-destructive thinking. When I was a kid, I remember feeling like I was always in the middle of something I couldn’t get away from. I never trusted the hand that tried to help me . . .
I see these kids often in their rebellion and I shake my head. I shake my fist sometimes because I know it doesn’t have to be this way. But same as I wouldn’t listen, most times, they won’t listen either.
Sometimes they listen to me though.
They listen, and yet, it’s as though they didn’t hear a word.
But like I said—
I get it
I don’t judge.
I just wait in the background in case someone chooses a different direction.
It takes a village . . .