Getting locked up in juvenile hall didn’t change my heart, it only forced a break in my criminal activities. The first thing I did upon my release was smoke a joint with the homies to celebrate my time in jail. Recognition from peers was more important than any type of consequences drummed up by the system. I wasn’t even trying to change because I had never known any other way to live.
While I was away one of the homeboys had gotten his hands on a new gun, a .22 caliber pistol. Small, lightweight, easy to conceal and perfect for young Asian American teens desperately seeking respect. Late that night we tested the gun in an empty school parking lot by trying to shoot the chain off a gate. Unlike my friends who were scared of ricochets and tried to shoot from a distance I got up close and fired four shots directly onto the chain. Pop, pop, pop, pop. Sparks flew and the chain dropped. With a gun in my hand I felt like I could do anything.
A week later, instead of being in school, I was walking around in the snow with a friend talking about our need to smoke some weed. From a distance we saw the house of a known drug dealer. The dealer was a local white dude, which makes a world of difference when choosing someone to rob – you don’t want to start a war with Blacks or Mexicans. Since we could see that no one was home my friend had the wonderful idea to burglarize the place but he himself wasn’t willing to go in.
“I’ll just wait here.” he said.
I was willing to do anything to earn a little respect, “Aight then, I got this.” I responded.
Buried in the snow was an empty 40 ounce beer bottle. I picked it up and approached the house on my own. I used the bottle to smash the side window and crawled into the master bedroom. I ransacked the drawers and found what I was looking for, weed. Just enough to roll a couple joints. But I wasn’t finished yet. I walked up to the closet and yanked the door open. At that moment a whole bunch of stuff came tumbling out with a large crash. A dog, located somewhere in the house, began to bark. I could hear my heart beating. I had to look twice at the objects at my feet. Guns, lots and lots of guns.
The risk I took paid off in a big way. I couldn’t decide which gun to take. There were large ones and small ones. Many rifles and some in cases. I could only take one that would fit under my black Oakland Raiders winter jacket and grabbed what looked like a small shotgun. After checking out the rest of the house (the barking dog turned out to be a small puppy) I crawled back out the broken window. I looked down at a large piece of broken glass and saw a shoe print left by my chucks (Nike Cortez). I was too excited to do anything about it and returned to my friend with more than just a little weed. What I found that day was recognition, respect and power.
Now that I had a gun in my possession I really did think I could do anything. Having a gun as a teenager on the streets makes you feel invincible. I was walking on clouds. But it was only a matter of time before I would fall and the consequences of that day would forever alter the course of my life. I would soon realize the truth that I was pursuing a lie and that my concept of respect and power was very, very broken.