I Jumped a Kid for Cocaine Money

Somewhere in Chinatown

I’ve never done cocaine. Out of fear and lack of interest. I’ve never gotten into a fist fight. Out of fear and a lack of interest. But I have jumped a kid over cocaine money. I say kid, but he was probably 10 years my senior at the time. I was 16 and just kind of fell into a really shitty situation. This is my loss of innocence story:

I wanted to hang with my buddy, let’s call him Pete. I was dropped off at his house by my mom. Well, Pete forgot about our arrangement and he had gone out with his other friends. He suggested I hang out with his neighbor, Bruce. I knew of Bruce, he was a friend of my friends, but I never spoke to him. He always seemed reserved. I was intrigued by him. So he came by Pete’s house and picked me up. He was with an unsavory type, another kid I knew in passing named Greg.

So it’s me, Bruce and Greg. Fast forward 2 hours of driving aimlessly around town, the two kids sitting up front convinced me to lend them 40 bucks for cocaine. Wasn’t so much convincing as it was annoying. They annoyed me into buying them cocaine. Promised to pay me back, a promise that was kept by Bruce only.

So now they’re coked up and the next objective was…getting more coke. Fast forward another hour and there’s two 30-something-year-olds in the car and there’s coke everywhere. The adults bought me a couple of Steelies, some disgusting fucking malt liquor that made the situation a little more bearable.

So I’m drunk, they’re coked up. We drop the 30 year olds off. The night felt like it was nearing an end and I was thinking about laying in bed and how I never want to hang out with these two ever again. But life happens, and it doesn’t owe you anything. Bruce gets a phone call. The town drug dealer, Pillz, was robbed a couple of days back and had arranged some payback. Some drug-dealing justice. We picked up two persons that were gonna help us out. Pillz’s brother Marc and a friend of mine, J.P. I moved to the passenger seat. It was Bruce and I up front. Behind us were Greg and J.P. And hidden in the trunk, one of those open trunks, was Marc. Then we picked up the 20-something year old kid who gave Pillz fake money. We were gonna “sell him stuff.” He sat in the middle of the back seats.

Have you guys ever played Grand Theft Auto? There’s a thematic device they use often. A motif. Whenever you pick up an individual you’re about to kill, he does this thing where he arrogantly narrates the exact reason why you’re about to kill him. Like if Tony Baloney hired you to kill Joey for banging his wife, Joey would be in the passenger seat saying, “Yo, I just banged this broad, some dude’s wife. Can you believe that?” Etc. etc.

Well, this individual did that same thing. “Just the other day I gave this kid some fake money, and he totally fell for it!” Fast forward he’s on the ground in an empty parking lot. He’s bleeding, his shoulder is all fucked up. One of his shoes is off and missing. His wrist is bent in the wrong direction. We took his money and gave it back to Pillz. Mission accomplished. Our reward? Cocaine, obviously. I didn’t partake, I went home.

That was 7 years ago. I’ve written about that day several times, I’ve spoken about it. I get the same responses:

1. “Why didn’t you get out of the car?”

2.”I feel so bad for that kid.”

3.”Do you regret it?”

1) I didn’t get out of the car because I was young, naive, scared. I didn’t know the two kids enough to tell them I wanted to go home. I had a thing where I wanted Bruce to like me. There was also the feeling that the night wasn’t over. Like, there wasn’t a mutual agreement where people decided it was time to call it a night. I still get that anxiety today, where I’ll be out and I want to be home already. But I have more control over my life now.

2) I don’t. I really don’t feel bad for the kid. Remove me from the situation for a moment, since it would have happened regardless of my involvement. Let’s take a step back. He robbed a real drug-dealer, not your local part-time weed dealer. I’m talking hard drugs, cocaine, heroin, pills etc. You rob a drug dealer, you’re lucky if you never see the guy again and hope that robbing him was worth losing your source of drugs. You rob a drug dealer and get your ass kicked? Sounds exactly like what the fuck would happen in that situation. Best case scenario, he learns to not rob people. Worst case, he robs a scarier drug dealer and gets himself killed. Sure, it sucks when people get hurt. But you can never blame a reaction. No one can say, “Wow that’s an overreaction.” No, he wronged someone and felt the consequences of doing so.

3) I’ve stopped regretting things. I think it’s a poor use of energy. Sure, the immediate response to doing something stupid is regret, but I’ll never look back and play the “what if” game. I am who I am today because of what I’ve experienced. I don’t regret the people I met, the investments I’ve made, the people I’ve hurt. Things that suck, things that are awful and difficult, those are the things we learn from. We learn from adversity. The only function of our mind is learning, so who the fuck wants to live happy in ignorance? Can’t do it. It’s not me, I’m too addicted to the pain and the immediate/eventual reward it brings.

I removed a lot from this story, so I’m sorry if I come off as proud of what I did or even indifferent. I removed the part where I was digging my nails into my arm, bleeding and focusing on the steady pain so that I could pass the time without thinking. Removed the part where all I did was punch the kid in the balls a couple of times and then turn away in self-loathing and confusion. Removed the part where I cried that night and couldn’t sleep. I even removed the part where Bruce is my best friend now.

I’m not gonna give you some bullshit lesson I learned. There was no point to this. There’s no point to the fucked things that happen around us. The suffering. No point at all, but it’s a story I have and an experience that threw me into the world. It threw me with no warning or reason, and it didn’t care whether I gained anything meaningful from it. But it’s mine and there it is.




(Quadruple) Haiku VII: Off-Chance

ig: snapshotsteve

almost moved, you know

started a new one – alone,

but i stayed for you


stayed for the off-chance

we’d remember love again,

so i’ll wait for you


patiently waiting

for love for hate for something

will it be worth it?


worth going all-in?

putting my whole life on pause

for the off-chance?



©Steven Cuenca


(Quadruple) Haiku V: The Colors of You

ig: snapshotsteve

i wasn’t born blind

just couldn’t see behind you

it’s hitting me now

the colors of life

reversing the dystrophy

i can see again

is this what you saw?

the blues and greens, the yellows?

was i in the way?

what good are these eyes?

without the colors of you?

i’ll rip them right out

“The Colors of You”

©Steven Cuenca


Know Your Audience

Couple of gay boys, Mateo and Cam, communicating at a bar in Bushwick

We communicate for a lot of reasons. To inform, to extract information, to entertain, to pass the time, to hear ourselves, to criticize, to persuade, to maintain relationships, etc.

If a person wants to communicate effectively and efficiently, she (gonna be using ‘she’ as a generic pronoun for fun) can’t communicate the same way to everyone. A simple example: She wants to inform a young man that his shoes are untied. But they’re in Ecuador and he can only speak Spanish. She has a couple of options-

  1. She keeps trying to tell him in English.
  2. She points at his shoes and plays charades.
  3. She finds a bilingual individual and speaks through her.
  4. Uhh she can also get frustrated and wave him off.

Option #2 is probably the most effective form of communication in this little scenario. Listing shit is so addictive so I’ll do it again. This is why #2 has a high probability of success:

  • She had a purpose, a reason for communicating.
  • She read the situation and understood that English would not have been effective.
  • She abandoned her language and suggested that he’d abandon his. There was compromise. This is a two-party agreement, so if the Ecuadorian man had no interest, the communication would be lost.
  • She found a common language, body language, and communicated her concern.

Unfortunately, you’ll find that a lot of people go for option #1. They aren’t invested in their reason for communicating, they’ve misread the situation, or they weren’t willing to abandon their language and compromise.

Back to the young (and handsome) Ecuadorian man. The scenario would get considerably more complicated if our hero wanted to talk politics. Shoes are physical, and tying shoes is a familiar motion for those who wear them. Ideas, however, are invisible. She could learn Spanish or go for #3 and find a translator. That’s only half the game. Once she becomes fluent or finds that mediator, she needs to read the situation and figure out if he’s even interested in politics! Imagine learning a language for an individual just to figure out he wasn’t interested to begin with.

Once again we find that even with a common language, or a mediator, or whatever, some people just aren’t great at gauging someone’s interest in what they have to talk about. These are poor communicators, as nothing is being accomplished by their word vomit.

I’m not sure there’s an easy solution for being a poor communicator. My advice is to humble yourself, understand that your message is important to you or the other party, and practice talking to people and targeting their interests and passions.

It’s funny because a lot of these shitty communicators come straight out of academia. Their heads get filled up with all this knowledge and invisible brownie points for doing homework and writing pages and pages of bullshit. And then they go to the average person and talk with the academic voice and use complicated words and confuse whatever message they were ‘trying’ to convey. All that bullshit and fluff. And it sounds cute from the outside, but I’m fluent in the academic language and I know that they can send their message SO much quicker if they just dumbed it down. Unless, of course, if they just like to listen to themselves. If that’s the case, just sit in a mirrored room and jerk yourself off.

The trick of the trade, the trade being communication, is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This isn’t easy at all. Especially if we move away from the one-on-one interactions. Imagine needing to gear your language towards the masses? Why do you think presidents talk in that slow, boring, emotionless cadence? It’s because it is the safest, all encompassing form of English that he could adopt. Now imagine if Obama would communicate in Black English? He comes from an academic background so I’m sure he’s more fluent in Standard American English, but just bear with me. If he got up on the podium and started speaking in African American English Vernacular (AAVE, Black English, ‘Ebonics’) then there would be a LARGE group of Americans that would eat that message up. It would be loud and clear, easy to digest, and would promote a sense a familiarity in all those who are fluent in AAVE. But what about the vast majority of Americans who don’t speak the dialect? They would be confused and frustrated. Knowing your audience in this situation means knowing the majority. So presidents will continue speaking in that boring, slow voice, unfortunately.

For my advanced students, the bonus trick of the trade is CODE SWITCHING. We all do it already, just some of us suck at it or are offensive. Code switching is the seamless transition from one effective language, dialect, etc. to another. For example, the way I speak to my mother is not the way I speak to my friends. The way I speak to my friends is not the way I speak to my hypothetical girlfriend. The way I speak to my professor is not the way I speak to my cousin who lives in the projects and barely made it through high school. Code switching is a sign of a great communicator. Now, it is also difficult to gauge someone’s language before speaking to them. I’d say, in this situation just talk naturally and neutrally. Don’t assume AAVE when you talk to a black dude. Don’t speak slow, broken Spanish when you talk to a brown dude. Yet, people still do those things. That’s not code switching, that’s called being an asshole.

That’s all I got, keep communicating.




Haiku IV

Bushwick, Brooklyn: ©Steven Cuenca

still alive today

i don’t think she noticed it

guess i’ll live louder

©Steven Cuenca

Elvin Hill

Have you heard of Elvin Hill?
So tall, every hateful inch
spreads blackness perverse
over cities, strangers, families?

Have you seen Elvin Hill?
Dead inside and out,
a blanket of grey-green misery?

Have you heard the stories?
How dangerous, jagged,
how it killed my father?

Have you?

I have.
I’ve seen him.
Just a lump in the grass,
confused and unexceptional
like the rest of us.

“Elvin Hill”

©Steven Cuenca