I spent Jr. High school in four different states. We practically lived in a U-Haul (moving truck). I wasn’t bothered by the moving though. It was the new schools that made me nervous. First impressions are everything. As a little Asian gang-banger I categorized people instantly as friends or enemies.
My brother and I always gravitated toward the other Southeast Asian ghetto kids. Even in a place like Des Moines, Iowa we found trouble. We never hung around people who did homework. We never played organized sports. We never read any books. School never lasted long. We spent the majority of our time on the streets with our temporary homies. We lived life together in the very basic sense; running from the police, playing arcade games, defending one another, stealing, joy-riding and smoking.
One day I sat in a circle with 6 other Asian guys in this dinky little apartment complex. A joint laced with crystal-meth was being passed around. It was my first time. I mimicked the other guys. Puff. Inhale deeply. Hold it in. Release gently a steady stream of white smoke. The buzz came right away. They gave me a handclasp and gangsta pat on the back to show their approval. This is what defined friendship.
On a different day I sat in a chair in front of a white guy with a tie who sat behind a large wooden desk. The Vice Principal had spotted me from his second story window that morning before school started. Now I sat in his office.
He pulled out a file and threw it on his desk. “Here’s your attendance record Tobias. You’ve only been here for less than three months and you have a total of 46 unexcused absences. I’ve never seen anything like this. What do you have to say?” asked the principal.
“I don’t know. I’m here now.” I replied.
He knew this was going nowhere. Frustrated he asked, “What’s in your pockets? Empty them. I saw that rag hanging from your pants earlier.”
The principal confiscated the blue bandana that hung from my back right pocket. He also, after careful examination, took my Visine bottle which I use to clear my bloodshot eyes after smoking weed. He returned my chewing gum and said, “Go to class.”
In the following days my mom got several phone calls from him. I’m sure he provided mom with some “helpful” suggestions. My brother and I spent the next several weeks living in a group home downtown. We didn’t make much progress there either. It was a prison outside prison.
White guys with ties. Officers with badges. God on a throne. Any type of authority figure. This is what defined enemies.