“B,” his gang name, was about ten years old when he witnessed both his parents murdered in a drug deal gone bad. The person doing the shooting was a police officer. “B” remembers the uniform and badge in his mind's eye as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Having been raised on the street, he was taught not to trust the police, or the “po-po” as he called them and that night he forever kept what he saw to himself.
His grandmother took him in and it wasn't long before he realized that she didn't have the means to support both him and her. He grew up fast and big. He lifted weights on the streets with friends and consumed copious amounts of food. He began selling drugs to procure money which he promptly turned over to his “Nah-ni.” It greatly annoyed him that she gave a large portion of it to the local pastor who began making weekly home visits since she started to come into the money however, “B” kept his mouth shut. He loved Nah-ni and was eternally grateful for all she had done for him so, he resigned to the truth that she could do anything she wanted with the money he gave her. He just wished that she did more for herself than for giving it to others. Her selfless sacrifice and continued need only increased the desire within him to make more money.
“B” quickly realized that going to school was cutting into his business and it wasn't like he was learning anything anyway. Many of his teachers didn't express much interest in the well being of the students and a few of them were even his customers. Ironically, this did not garner much respect for them in his eyes.
“B” eventually moved out of his grandmother's house and joined a gang but kept giving money to his Nah-ni. He refused to talk about the gang or their activities with me but I surmise that he was part of the Bloods. He had been arrested a few times for possession and they were only misdemeanors but an arrest is an arrest. It was now part of his permanent record which he will never be able to atone for in the eyes of our predominantly unforgiving society. “B” eventually did do three or four years in prison for a felony and when he got out, he saw the affect it had on Nah-ni. The greatest good that came out of his long term incarceration, "B" said, was that the leech pastor stopped coming by.
“B” was going to go straight and forsake criminal activity but not because of any punitive measures or the vicissitude of incarceration. Prison was fun for "B," a temporary relief from work, an opportunity to make new criminal contacts and it was somewhat of a badge of honor in the gang community. “B” was proud and respected but he wanted most to make his Nah-ni proud. He was going to get his GED and get a real job. The money would not be as good but it will be honest and that is what Nah-ni wanted all along. Love conquers all.
“B” was a wiz at math. He knew the metric system better than I did. All those years dealing drugs made him quite adept at crunching numbers in his head. While in prison he learned a considerable amount of math from a Chinese man who was in on a sex offense charge. As good as that teacher was, "B" had a problem with comprehension and application. Finding the area, volume or square feet of something didn't make sense to him until I brought in carpet tiles and we calculated how many we needed to carpet our little study room. He soon began to wake up to the possibilities. Calculating travel time and distances all made sense when it was broken down into drug measurements, planning a drop or calculating time off for good behavior. Suddenly, math had practical application in his life. It always did, he just didn't know it.
Now that you know where “B” came from, I can tell my part of the story. I was doing work for a theater company a few blocks from this community action center. While parked in the theater parking lot earlier one day, someone broke into my car and stole my iPod which I foolishly left displayed in all its glory on my back seat. The thieves shot my rear passenger window out from a distance using a slingshot and broken pieces of a spark plug. The plug part was on my seat amidst small shards of glass. I noticed that there were several glistening piles of broken glass peppered throughout the parking lot. I was obviously not the first. I later found out that car break-ins were common at the theater. I called the police THREE TIMES and they finally arrived two and a half hours later.
I was perturbed as I met with “B” later that evening for his lesson. He was concerned and told me that he thought he knew who did it. His fists clenched as a look of anger washed over his face. He asked me if I wanted him to take care of them. I told him no and to leave it alone. He wanted to know all about the theater, when and what I was doing there. We then calculated repair costs for my car and of course, how much coke, meth or weed the repair was equal to.
The next day, I pulled into the theater parking lot and a black Escalade quickly pulled up behind me. The window rolled down and inside were two scary looking guys with gold and silver bling hanging from the rear view mirror, around their huge necks and in their teeth. They ask if I was Kogut. I said yes. They told me that “B” asked them to watch out for me and my car for the next few weeks. I told them that it wasn't necessary but they said “B” asked them so they were going to do it. I said thanks and went inside. Every day that I was at the theater, that black Escalade was parked either in the parking lot or across the street. I had a warm and fuzzy chuckle inside when I overheard the director commenting about the theater's string of luck and how nobody's car had been broken into lately. For sure, our good fortune was not due to the diligent work of the po-po.
“B” failed the GED test twice and ironically it was always the math section that did him in. “B” had a reading comprehension problem and it was the way the questions were worded that always confounded him. If someone could read the questions to him, he would get it. My heart weeps for "B." What was done to him created him. He is an inevitable reaction to an action. His story is not over, he still has Nah-ni.