Season 3 Intro

”I hung around with the thugs, and even though they sold drugs, they showed a young brother love.” 

-T. Shakur

The Ohio Valley. If you’re not from there, you’ve never heard of it.

There’s not a lot of opportunity. There maybe could be, if there was some sense of community – but there isn’t. There’s only competition, spite and vengeance, ego and delusion; crabs in buckets.

My parents made a choice. Raise me in Harlem at the height of the crack epidemic, or the seemingly safer Saint Clairsville.

They chose the latter. These are those stories.

Chapter 21 (Remastered)

When I first got to high school the smart kids took a liking to me. I went to see Titanic with them and partied at their houses. These were my first parties where no one drank or smoke. While atttending one of those parties, some older kids parked down the street. They were smoking and drinking. All the girls dropped what they were doing and ran over to them.

That’s when the devil first seduced me.

Envious, I stood alone, plotting how eventually that would be me with the girls. I realized right away what girls liked, danger. I wasn’t good at sports or school, but danger I could do. Nothing about my life had been safe up to that point. I had no reason to start now.

Someone else took a liking to me too; Seven Sonna, the Pablo Escobar of St. Clairsville.

He had the money and the power. He was one of the leaders of the “Crew”. Everyone feared and respected him. It was no secret he sold drugs. I didn’t even know what drugs were, yet.

He started bringing me around. He cultivated a vibe I knew I could emulate, danger.

I had study hall with my smart friends and Seven Sonna. It was one of those defining moments, a crossroads where I would pick my future.

Whose blueprint would I follow?

My smart friends who would go to college and have respectable day jobs? Or Seven Sonna who’s currently in prison for 10 years?

It wasn’t that simple.

My grades were so bad that me going college might as well have been Atlantis. Girls were the only real goal.

My dad was entirely moved out by this point. He lived in a nearby town called Martins Ferry. I made friends in his neighborhood with another a nerdy black kid my age – Preston. He introduced me to a girl so pretty I still get chills when I think about her.

When I got back home it hit me, Homecoming! Since I wasn’t having any luck with girls in my school, why don’t I ask her to go? I told Preston my plan.

A few days later I get a call.

Preston: AJ, I talked to Theresa. She said she would go to your dance with you. She said you seemed really nice.

Holy shit I thought. I step into the other room so my mom can’t overhear.

Me: Preston are you fucking serious right now?

Preston: (speaking ridiculously casual as if this isn’t the best news anyone’s ever given me.) Yea man – she’s here with me now. Hold on.

Theresa: Hi! AJ?


Theresa: Hello?

Me: Uhhhh hi.

Theresa: Preston told me about your dance and I’m happy to go with you.

Me: Are you serious!? -I mean.. that’s cool.

Theresa: Sure. Here’s my number. Just call me when you have more details and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!

Cloud 9 evaporated quickly when it hit me. How on earth am I going to pay for this?

In study hall later that week, I told Seven my predicament.

“Man don’t even sweat that, my nigga. I got you. I was gonna ask if you wanted put on anyway.”

“What do you mean?”, I asked.

“This dope game” he said. “I can front you some work and you can flip that. You’ll have more than enough money for your little dance.”

That would check off two boxes. Danger? Check. Money? Check. Get the girl? Check. Damn that’s three boxes. He gave me the weekend to think it over.

I had seen the cautionary after-school specials about just saying no and how older kids might try to lure you in. I never thought it would actually happen to me. I was wrong. It was just like the warnings.

Monday back at school, it was first period and I still hadn’t made up my mind. Before I get to study hall where I would see Seven, he found me. He’s motioning for my attention in the hallway while I’m in class. He has his arms up like, what’s it gonna be?

I think about what it would be like taking such a pretty girl to my first Homecoming. It would change my entire perception. Also, I realize if I align myself with Seven, my enemies would be forced to retreat.

I think about how my smart friends wouldn’t like my anymore. I thought about the study groups I wouldn’t get to attend and how my grades would suffer.

After weighing the pros and cons, the decision was easy.

I looked at back at Seven Sonna. The teacher was lecturing on something I wasn’t paying attention to. I silently mouthed two words. No one in the class noticed, but Seven read what I was saying clearly.

Hell yea.

Chapter 22

Surviving meant High School diversifying. I had to immerse myself within various cliques. The preps, the skaters, even the rednecks. If I learned anything in High School, it’s how to get along with different people. That’s the only thing I learned.

Speaking of different people; DJ was my locker mate every year. He couldn’t have been more opposite. Picture an Abercrombie mannequin come to life.

We were walking back from lunch when I felt a push from behind. PTSD from fighting in grade school must’ve kicked in. I turned around with my fists raised.

When I saw who pushed me, I instantly regretted it. It was Craig, the kid who already hated me for my failed attempts with his girlfriend. Apparently he was just messing with me, but when he saw my fists raised, he took it as an immediate affront.

“Oh so you wanna fight now? I was only playing with your bitch ass”.

I was paralyzed. I couldn’t put my hands down but couldn’t swing either.

I had protection provided by Seven, but Craig was entrenched with the “The Crew” too. The Crew was like a high school Mafia. You had to be “Made” to get away with certain things. Seven and Craig were both made, but at this point I was only affiliated. This meant certain protections, but only from those who weren’t made.

The fight with Craig seemed imminent. I looked to DJ. He wasn’t even affiliated yet. There was nothing he could do.

By now a circle of white kids had formed around the two black kids staring each other down. The crowd wanted a Mandingo fight. Craig was happy to oblige them. He hit me twice and I just took it, too afraid to fight back. Craig’s reputation had preceded him as one of the toughest kids in school. I of course was the opposite.

Me and DJ walked to our lockers in awkward silence.

When we got back, DJ finally spoke. “I thought you guys were friends”.

My feud with Craig was threatening my acceptence into the Crew. If the Crew was forced to pick sides, they wouldn’t choose mine.

This Craig thing was a problem. I had to find some way of dealing with him.

Interlude I

If you were to ask an ex girlfriend, she’d tell you we reason broke up is because  I couldn’t stop chasing women.

She’d tell you I was in need of some sort of validation from those women. She’d tell you that even when I had everything, it wouldn’t be enough. She’d tell you the women from my past have “ruined me”. They’d call me detached, that I think I’m better than everyone.

But that’s the defense mechanism you build when the world constantly tries to belittle you. You still need love so you seek attention, but it’s misguided. You mistake sex for affection. And when the sex isn’t fulfilling the void, you keep fucking, hoping the next badder bitch is all that’s missing. But the next badder bitch only makes it worse, because she won’t stay. She can’t stay. No one can. You’ve become so guarded and cynical that you secretly don’t want them to stay. You self sabotage every relationship, healthy or not. Then because your motivations are subconscious, you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing, so you play victim and cry when they leave. But it’s what you were asking for the whole time. As depressed as you get when it happens, you like it that way. Anything to avoid intimacy. Anything to distract from the root cause of the conflict within.

But why?

With my father not living with us anymore and my mom always at work, I was alone. My grandma babysat but the streets raised me. What I needed was love.

The power structure of the world, the media, and psychologists hired by their marketing teams, they understand this need in all of us. And they exploit it. They sell us dreams of love being obtained through the material realm, through possessions and physical desires. But we’re being manipulated, and in turn we we’re becoming manipulative.

These ideas I’m discussing, my parents didn’t have the resources to combat.  They were too busy paying bills to philosophize freedom. But because I spent so much time alone, I had the luxury to question.

Now I have answers.

Chapter 23

I had my own little Squad. They were like me, trying to navigate the treacherous waters of being an underclassmen. Jack, Lou, and Jason. They were all in my grade, and all white boys except for Jason who was Korean.

Me and Jason had been cool for a while. He was the only Korean kid in school, so we bonded because of that. He introduced me to Jack who was the first of us freshman to get his license.

That first freedom from driving without your parents is special. It’s thrilling and dangerous. Driving is unequivocally the most dangerous thing any of us do. Especially because there’s teenagers on those roads. And that was us. Free, smoking, drinking and driving. What could go wrong?

At least we weren’t texting.

We’d drive to football games and to the mall. Sometimes we’d just drive. We got into any trouble we could.

My mom was more strict than most. I wasn’t allowed in cars yet, so I snuck and met my friends up the block. I definitely wasn’t allowed to leave St. Clairsville. After splitting a bottle of Tanqueray Lou stole from his country club job, we went to the football game at Martins Ferry, the next town over. This was my first time being drunk. I loved it. Releasing inhibitions pent up for my entire short lifetime was, well… addictive.

When we walked in the game, my drunkenness didn’t prevent me from seeing my entire family, standing directly in front of me in the ticket line. I had no idea they would be there. I panicked. Without saying I word I take off!

Somehow my parents didn’t see me. But now I had another problem, I was lost. This was way before cellphones. I had to be careful. I couldn’t just stroll back into the game looking for my friends, because my parents were there.

All I can remember is stumbling around outside the stadium.

Lou got arrested, for the first time, for being drunk underage. His parents picked him up from jail and his car was impounded. I remember getting dropped off back in St. Clairsville, but I’m not sure by who.

Give me a break on not remembering the details. It was my first time being drunk, remember? Anyway. I make it through all that, with time to spare before my curfew.

As I’m let out of the mystery car, I notice the lights on in my neighbor’s basement. My neighbor, Sal, had just moved in.

Picture a fat black kid with an afro who’s in and out of juvenile detention. America’s nightmare. He loved to smoke weed, drink 40s, and convince fat girls to give blowjobs. He had no father and was feared in the streets. His mom didn’t care what he did. We’d party in his basement. He had no morals. He’d use anybody for anything. Think Debo from Friday. Fate decided to put this kid next door to me as soon as I started High School.

Before I go home, I stop over to say what’s up. I knew Sal from church in East Wheeling, if you can believe it.

When I stop over, he’s with Craig. I again regret my decision instantly, but it’s too late. I’m drunk so I’m feeling brave. Sal and Craig are drunk too. Craig seems to have already moved on from punching me earlier that week. He’s arguing with Sal about who the hottest girl in school is. Sal is convinced it’s a girl in my grade named Nikki. Craig says it’s either Sarah or Kim, two girls in his grade. I secretly had a crush on Sarah, so I side with Craig.

After another half hour of drinking, it almost seems like Craig doesn’t hate me. I was slowly lowering my enemy’s defenses.

They’re teasing me about my inability to get girls. Craig once had Alexis, the love of my middle school life. There was a lot to learn from him. I actually kind of liked him. I just liked his girlfriend more.

I was forming strategic alliances. It wasn’t that I necessarily liked them. It was that I was tired of having to look over my shoulder.

There is of course an unavoidable downside to becoming friends with your foes. It would be a while before I understood these intricacies. But my education was fast approaching.

Chapter 24

One day I went out with some older kids. One of their parents had a .38 special revolver. We shot it in the woods. The loud shots from the gun awoke something dark in my spirit, like Oppenheimer after the first nuclear explosion.

There was no turning back.

As the last person fired shots into the darkness, I watched from the car with the excitement and nervousness you’d expect from watching a gun blast while you’re high at 16.

The person firing that gun was one of the nicest kids in school. Everyone loved him, a truly good guy. He was handsome but not a player. Tough but not a bully. That would be the last time I’d see him. He graduated high school shortly after. In an eerie coincidence, he was mysteriously gunned down some 12 years later, in what police say was a random unsolved attack.

I think about him sometimes. He was an example of doing everything right. He had his master’s degree and a beautiful wife. He played by the rules, and for what? To be murdered outside of a hotel lobby while he walked his dogs, and found by his wife to die in her arms?

Tomorrow isn’t promised.

That’s why I resent the idea of planning for the future. School loves to sell you tomorrow. The only problem is, they don’t have it to give. All these systems imposed on us love selling us a tomorrow.

Every year in school they kept that carrot on a stick. “Next year you’ll be in first grade, then second, then high school, then college. Your happiness is just around the corner”. But never today.

Needless to say I wasn’t doing well in school. At the time I could only assume it as because I wasn’t smart. The teachers were literally calling me a failure by giving me Fs. But they were failing me. I understood intuitively then what I’m fully aware of now. None of the shit I was “learning” mattered.

Their curriculum was doing us a terrible disservice. No education regarding debt, then they were sending us to take on thousands of debt in college. What they were doing is criminal. Sending students away to be debt slaves and indentured servants for the rest of their lives, just so they can have their summers off. It’s disgusting.

But do they understand this truth themselves? Probably not because they’re a product of the same miseducation.

Is this a conspiracy against us, or an accidental oversight? I’ll let you decide. All I know is that a strong emphasis was being placed on material success and it started in school. The desire for material success is a lower frequency emotion, and school seemed to be bringing out the worst in us.

Never once was I taught vital ideas such as mindfulness. Never once was I taught self-love. Never once was I taught compassion for others.

Those ideas could’ve saved me, but I was taught competition. Be better than your classmates and opposing teams. Beat the next town over! Destroy them!

What if instead of trying to be better than everybody, I would’ve accepted my peers for who they were, in spite of their flaws? But we were told to exploit weaknesses in order to penetrate defenses, risking CTE. What if kids from neighboring towns, instead of trying to give each other concussions, were working together on some community goal?

It’s no wonder there’s no sense of community and everyone is out for only themselves. It’s all we were ever taught.

There was a heavy-set girl who struggled with her weight so bad, I heard she cut open her stomach trying to remove the fat. This perceived weakness was exploited. She was giving everyone head. I still had never had a sexual experience. My neighbor Sal took it upon himself to change that.

He told me that if I didn’t let this girl suck my dick, then I would “come to school with bruises on my face” the next day. The choice was simple.

All three of us were in his basement after school. He told her he’d give her weed if she gave me head.

I took her in his basement bathroom and laid a pillow down for her knees. She asked me if he really had any weed. I told her I don’t know. Then I pulled my dick out. As soon as she saw it she started sucking it. I still had never even kissed a girl. I thought to myself, wow there’s a lot of spit on my dick. I didn’t like that part. Just then I started to cum so I stopped her. I don’t know why I did that. I think I felt so guilty about the whole thing. After she finished with me, she gave Sal head twice. I don’t think he ever gave her any weed.

Afterwards me and Sal walked to the freshman football game. I found myself talking to a cheerleader friend of mine. She spoke to me cheerily as she always did. The guilt made feel like Bobby Baccalieri, holding his baby after his first murder, at the end of that Soprano’s episode. The juxtaposition of innocence and evil meant one thing.

There was no turning back.

Chapter 25

I found myself at Sal’s after school. It was me, Sal, Seven Sonna, and Byron. What’s ominously prophetic is that everyone I was with would either end up dead or in prison. This would be my first time getting high.

I was just meeting Byron but I liked him. He wasn’t like the other older kids. He didn’t seem to have an ego or be competitive. With a lighthearted humorous demeanor, he told me stories of pulling shotguns on people and the horror on their faces. He talked about hooking me up with his super hot younger sister. I thought he was joking but hoped he wasn’t.

My nerdy ass sitting in a basement with 3 of the most dangerous kids in school smoking blunts.

My lungs felt what it must be like dying from smoke inhalation. I coughed so much I didn’t realize I was high. The trio laughed with promise, knowing what was coming next.

By the time I was able to breathe, I was high – as shit. It felt familiar, like I had somehow been this way before. I was scared but intrigued. So this is what high is, I thought. They welcomed me to their world, as they talked about girls and drugs.

We never talked about the future. The idea of one day being adults – married with cubicle jobs didn’t seem realistic. This was either a premonition or self-fulfilling, because some of us wouldn’t make it. If we would’ve aspired for more than getting girls and high, maybe we could’ve avoided our looming fates. But we were high and all of that was only under the surface. I guess that’s where the paranoia comes from.

We left Sal’s basement and walked to the gas station where they’d use pay phones to call back ‘clients’. Walking the streets with them felt like I was finally apart of something. But there was a catch. We were in my neighborhood so I’d have to walk past by my mom’s house.

My little brother was playing outside and decided to pester and follow us. High and not wanting bothered, I yelled and told him to leave me alone. He couldn’t of known I was high, but the look he gave me, he could tell something was wrong. So he fell back. I still feel bad about that.

We made our way to the gas station where I fumbled over my words and laughed at stupid jokes. The cops drove by and noticed the new little black kid hanging with the drug dealers.

“Hit me up, Harlem” Seven said when they drove away.

Everyone called me Harlem, for being been born there and acting like it’s where I grew up. I loved the nickname but truthfully I barely remembered New York. But because I was born in the biggest city in the world, and was raised in such a small one, New York always fascinated me. I still rep it. NY til I die.

Enough time had passed that I didn’t smell like smoke. So when I went home I was clear of suspicion. My dad was there watching TV. I sat in the chair beside him and fell asleep. When I woke up a few hours later still high, I thought to myself, how long does this last?

I successfully pulled off being high around my parents, without them having any idea. If they would’ve caught me, maybe they could’ve saved me from years of self-medicating. But I was too smart for my own good. This was just the beginning.

Chapter 26

Byron was working late, looking forward to being picked up by Stive, another leader of the Crew . The plan was to buy several large cigars, fill them with weed, and smoke themselves stupid. Just another night in St. Clairsville.

Not wanting their apartment to smell like smoke, they took their 5 blunts outside. It was after midnight in the middle of nowhere. The sky was black but the stars shined through like holes poked in the night. Stive zoned out for a moment, staring at the dog line tied between two trees. The glimmer of the metal in the starlight glistened eerily, until the laughter of his friends brought him back.

They had just smoked 5 blunts between six people. That’s a lot of blunts, even for them. They were really high, as we always were. By now it was after 3 so everyone thought it best to disperse while they were still functional. They told each other goodbye, shook hands and made a few final jokes on their way out. Everything seemed fine.

After dropping everyone off, Stive finally made it home. He was so tired he fell asleep soon as he hit the pillow. It was 430.

At 7 his mom knocks on his door. Barely awake and grumpy, he asks what she wants. “Stive, wake up sweetheart. I’ve got to tell you something.” The tone in her voice was so disturbing that he immediately awoke. “Byron died last night.”

“Impossible” Stive snaps back, “I was just with him.”

(They say) Byron hung himself that night. But if you ask Stive, he doesn’t believe it. There’s no good theory I have for what actually happened so I won’t speculate too wildly. I personally couldn’t imagine hurting myself when I’m that high.

It’s hard to imagine being high and hanging yourself. Do you know how paranoid and scared you are of everything when you’re high? I literally won’t drive faster than 25 mph. He was just laughing with his friends. When Stive heard the news, he refused to believe it.

I also understand what people go through, they don’t always discuss. People can be laughing with their friends while dying inside. Check up on your friends. Make sure they’re okay. Forgive people. Forgive yourself.

We’re all hurting. America is home of the brave because you have to be, to survive this cold capitalist frontier we’re all up against, daily. I know it all too well.

Depending on what mind state a person is in, I’m sure drugs can exacerbate suicidal ideations. Thus lies the danger of self medicating.

Stive was having trouble accepting it for one reason. He thought back to that night, and the metal rope that momentarily mystified him. The same one they said Byron hung himself from. That rope was only 5 feet tall. There was no way he could’ve hung himself from it, he thought.

They say anyone who commits suicide regrets it in their final moments. This has been reported by every survivor of every failed attempt. Why wouldn’t Byron have just stood up? He would’ve had to stayed purposely hunched over, while he slowly and painfully lost consciousness.

And where were his roommates through all this? The mystery only grows when you consider why none of them showed up to his funeral.

His funeral was on my first day of school sophomore year. I walked there with Sal. I had only met Byron once or twice and felt weird going because of that. But Sal said, “you know niggas would be going, if it was you”. So I put on my tan and black dress sweater, with my American Eagle dungaree khaki shorts and went.

Standing in the viewing line I felt out-of-place. My heart bled when I saw his sister sobbing and hugging everyone as they walked towards her. I knew she didn’t think I knew her brother, because I barely did. I feared she thought I was only going there with Sal to try to look cool, which wasn’t the case. I liked her brother a lot. I’d always remember him for being with me the first time I got high.

I was nervous. I didn’t know how this would go. Would she yell at me and tell me to get out? Would she scream and say I had no business being there? Would my tagging along and clout chasing come back to haunt me at the worst time?

After hugging Sal who was standing in front me of, she hugged the person standing behind me. Her ignoring me confirmed my suspicion that she didn’t think I belonged there. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was and that I did know her brother and how I would always remember him.

Clearly it wasn’t the time nor place to tell her I did drugs with him.

I walked home thinking about everything I had seen since starting high school and how I had barely even started my second year.

Then I found out what happened to Seven Sonna.

Seven was my guy. He looked out for me when others would’ve rather seen me destroyed. He was exposed to too much too young though, and like it always does, it caught up to him. He started off slow with the weed and money, but the greed took hold. He starting selling coke, getting high on his own supply, never a good combo – especially when you’re 19.

One night after doing a bunch with a friend, they got into an argument over who knows what. The fight escalated and ended with Seven stabbing the kid nearly to death.

That’s all any of us heard. He went to jail and just like that I was on my own again.

Chapter 27

Rustic Arms is a lower income living facility that somehow all my memories of are at night. It’s on the outskirts of St. Clairsville, like it’s hidden from the richer people in city limits. We spent a lot of time there.

One night me Sal and Craig picked up some alcohol from Sal’s Aunt who lived there. It was getting late. I was the only one who ever had a curfew. It was 11:30 then, and went up a half hour every year until my senior year, when I finally didn’t have one.

I stood in the background while Sal paid his of-age aunt for the 40s we so frequently drank. King Cobra, Old English, and occasionally St. Ides. There seemed to be tension throughout the exchange. There was a random white dude sitting on the couch. I didn’t know why he was there, but something about his energy made us uncomfortable. I was relieved when we left.

We stood in the parking lot and drank our 40s smoking blunts, talking about whatever teenagers talk about in 1998.

I zone out and glance into the dark woods surrounding the projects for just a moment. When I come back to our conversation, all I see is Sal’s Timberlands hanging out the window. He dove in head first after he saw what was going on inside.

Apparently the white dude was paying to eat his Aunt out, if you can believe it. As soon as we left, he went down. Her nephew was not having it. Me and Craig rush in through the front door, but when we get inside it’s too late.

Sal is busting ashtrays and 40 bottles against the guy’s head. Blood is everywhere. The bloody white dude makes eye contact with me, as if sensing I’m the compassionate one, but there’s nothing I can do. I was in shock.

Craig just stood there, continuing to smoke the blunt, watching the violence. I should’ve known then he was a sociopath.

We hop in Craig’s car and hightail it out of there. As we’re leaving, ambulances and police cars speed to the crime scene, passing us on the other side of the road. I thought for sure we were going to jail.

Craig drops me off just before my curfew, gives me his pager number, and tells me to hit him up. This traumatic experience would be the catalyst for our ‘friendship’.

As for what happened to the dude with the busted skull, I never found out. Maybe he’s reading this right now. Too late for him though. The statue of limitations on an assault in Ohio is seven years, plus we were minors. That’s if he didn’t die. In which case, I take this whole story back and it’s entirely fiction. I promise.


Writing this in 2019, and having things now that I could’ve only dreamed of in High School, I’m reminded of the power of manifestation.

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I want more, most of the time, if I’m being honest. These wants are dreams those around me consider absurd. They might be right. But they told me back then, I wouldn’t have anything now. Yet here I am. Therefore I can’t take them serious, and I shouldn’t have then. But I didn’t know my dreams would come true. I also didn’t know that by the time they did, I’d be too preoccupied with other bigger dreams.

But are these dreams I’ve been chasing really mine? Or have I fallen victim to manipulation and propaganda.

I was blinded by the music, movies, and television “programming”. I wanted the popularity and power. You would’ve thought I learned from seeing what happened to Tupac. Be careful what you wish for.

I can’t explain the alchemical process of turning thoughts into things. It can only be understood intuitively, but it makes more sense assessing situations retroactively. That’s why I tell these stories. Through the process of reverse engineering, I’m able to see how I got to where I’m at. The plan now, is to take it where I want to go.

Chapter 28

I had several friends that were girls. These friendships gave me critical insights into the inner workings of an unexplained enigma; a woman’s mind. I realized early the importance of understanding the mystery of feminine energy.

One of my best friends was Janet. We didn’t hangout outside of class, but we’d talk on the phone after school.

I was talking to her one day when Craig pulled up outside. He couldn’t believe I was talking to a girl.

He rushed down and took the phone from me. It wasn’t long before they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

I lost my friend.

He wouldn’t let her talk to me, or anyone else. He was controlling and abusive, physically and emotionally.

Was it my fault for bringing them together?

She would call me crying, asking if I knew Craig was cheating. I always lied.

Whoever I’m better friends with, I’m siding with.

But if I’m friends with you both, I gotta side with the dude.

Did I feel bad for lying to Janet? Not really. We were forced to turn on each other. She was on her own.

Yes Craig is the worst person I’ve ever met and I hope I never have to see him again. But that’s only part of the story. Granted that part is about 75%. The other 25 was him being really cool.

It’s too bad his narcissism took over his better attributes. His erratic behavior and temper would lead to his destruction and seclusion from his friends -and family, which was every black person in town besides me.

They were all cousins. That’s a little creepy when you consider how small the gene pool is there, but makes sense when you take into account the sociopathic genetic mutation ramifications of incest.

They say narcissists are often popular as children but inept as adults. That’s Craig. Everyone seemed to love him. His manipulation bred within an adolescent mind a misplaced feeling of adoration. In other words he was an asshole who had all the girls. Everybody knows girls love assholes.

As terrible as he was, and we’ll get to it all, there’s much to be learned from every tragic figure.

A Craig story that comes to mind is when he robbed a classmate at gunpoint.

Craig and his friend George would sit beside me in study hall and plot their heist.

I knew their victim and truthfully I liked him, but for some reason they hated him. I was like Biggie the night of Tupac’s Quad Studio shooting, I knew he’d get robbed but couldn’t stop it. Their prey was a charismatic young man by the name of Aubrey. He was a couple years older than me and played varsity golf. He’d always scream my name “Arthurrr” in the hallways. I thought he was cool, but the Crew saw him as a sucker.

Aubrey, like everyone else, sold weed. He sold pounds while the rest of us sold 8th’s. George and Craig’s plan was simple. Ask for a pound, then put a gun in his face.

They picked him up in George’s red S-10 and drove to a vacant cul-de-sac. The gun was just out of sight.

George was nervous. Craig on the other hand was getting impatient. In true sociopathic fashion, he grabbed the gun, cocked it and pointed at Aubrey.

”Give up the shit right now, bitch!”

Shortly after they successfully steal the weed, I hear a car stereo outside my house. It was Craig and George. They’re laughing hysterically about what just happened. I was laughing too. Just 3 teenagers driving around small town St. Clairsville with a pound of weed and a shotgun. No big deal.

That’s how it was back then. That’s how dumb we were. That’s how unconscious and unaware we were. We didn’t think there were repercussions to our actions. But there were.

Aubrey had a sit down with some older members of the Crew. He wanted payback, but there was nothing he could do. He was only affiliated. Craig and George were made, thus untouchable.

It seemed like things were about to get worst for Aubrey. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. At lunch where fights happen frequent, Craig confronted Aubrey with a haymaker punch to the skull.

Craig’s hand bone shattered and he was rushed to the hospital.

He was in a cast for months. To this day his hand is still scarred and doesn’t open entirely.

That would be the least of Craig’s Karma.

Chapter 29

Girls were slowly starting to notice me. Alexis’s older sister saw me hanging with the Crew and said: “What happened to him? He used to be a nerd!” Everyone laughed but I took it as a compliment. I knew I was evolving.

It was crazy. The only black kid who, wasn’t good at sports or academia, wasn’t liked and always in trouble, never got the girl and couldn’t fight. Yet somehow I was becoming popular. All I had to do was sell my soul.

It was right around then I got over of my childhood crush on Alexis. There were too many other girls in high school. One in particular had my attention, Sarah.

I have a theory. When a dude really likes a girl, she likes him too. Now granted, it may be like a 90/10 split sometimes, but still. There’s something about really wanting something, like really wanting it, that opens a path for you to get it; manifestation. I don’t only mean romantically.

Napoleon Hill’s mind-blowing classic, Think and Grow Rich devotes an entire chapter to the transmutation of sexual energy. This basically explains why dudes get super creative all of a sudden when they’re trying to get laid. That same energy can be directed into anything. But love is where it starts, it’s where we first become aware of it.

Sarah was grade older than me. I never said a word to her. I’d see her in the hallways but didn’t know her name. There was no reason she would’ve known who I was. But somehow, from the few moments I’d steal eye contact, I had this suspicion she liked me back. I didn’t know if it was intuition, wishful thinking, or if there’s a difference – but I felt it.

Maybe she didn’t like me. Maybe I was so radiant and energized by how she made me feel that I was emitting light particles biochemically only she could detect. Maybe the rhythmic nature of the universe was able to sync through these frequencies which compelled her to drift into my orbit. I don’t know how she made it into this story but here she is…

Though I was gaining notoriety, there was a hierarchy among the notorious, and I was at the bottom. At the top of that hierarchy was Rick, Sarah’s boyfriend.

Except for being black, Rick was everything I wasn’t; good at sports, popular with girls, admired by dudes – even I looked up to him. But him dating Sarah put them nail in the coffin of my hopes of dating her. So I thought.

Chapter 30

My cousin was getting married. I had one concern. I hoped his wife was pretty. He was my role model, he had different girlfriends all the time. I still feared I never would.

He was my only hope. I thought that if he couldn’t get a pretty girl, there was no way I ever would.

I had no idea what she looked like, had never seen one picture. I prayed she was pretty. It was my only hope.

I don’t know why I put so much stock into what someone else’s wife looked like, completely avoiding if whether or not she was a good person. But I was young and that’s how my dumb mind worked. I was a child of America and that’s how materialistic the culture shaped me.

Then came the moment. I walked up to their house. My mom dad and brother were in front of me waiting to enter. One by one they go in. I heard her voice. Still no visual. Each of them saw her before me. When I finally get in, I can’t believe my eyes.

It’s even worse than I imagined. I panic. I’m in denial. I say to myself, maybe that’s not her. All of us only assumed it was his wife. But maybe it was a friend or sister. Seeing her was making my dream of a beautiful girlfriend evaporate.

These thoughts I kept to myself of course. No one had any idea I was thinking such things. My cousin asked me what was wrong. He told me to cheer up and that the world was mine. I wasn’t so sure.

I walked back to the car with my dad to unpack the trunk, he looked over at me jokingly and said, “Geez I hope that’s not his wife”.

But it was.

I was finished. I thought there was no hope for me.

On the ride home something inside of me shifted. I wasn’t discouraged. My ambition became even more invigorated. I realized I could only count on myself to get what I want. It didn’t matter what anyone else had or didn’t have. I would claim my destiny regardless of fate. I would defy God himself if I had to.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way for it to manifest.

Chapter 31

Being with the Crew had its perks. I got to party with the hottest girls in school. Girls I only gazed at from afar before, were now getting drunk with me. They were flirting with me. They liked me. It was surreal. They should have never let me get that first taste. The thrill from having a beautiful girl within reach, it changes you. I already had the desire deep-rooted, but now I was almost getting affirmation.

The operative word being almost. They may have been partying with me but I was still a long way from having a girlfriend. I still hadn’t even kissed a girl. Weirdly enough I did get that blowjob a year prior. Weird sequencing I know. But in any event, I felt like I had arrived.

I told Craig I liked Sarah. He said he knew. I’ve always been terrible at hiding how I feel, especially when I like someone. He reminded me who her boyfriend was and that I didn’t have a chance. He didn’t think I had a chance even if she was single.

“AJ, you can’t go from having no girls ever to baddest bitch in school. Start small. Date a random young girl first. Even if somehow you got Sarah, you wouldn’t know what to do with her. She’s too advanced for you.”

His logic made sense but how applicable is logic to a 16-year-old in love?

Sarah was the hottest girl, so of course, girls thought her boyfriend was the hottest guy. That’s tough competition when you’re at the bottom of that scale. At least I felt like I was.

There’s an interesting thing that happens to a dude who peeks young though. It’s often the worst thing, because it gives him a false sense of entitlement. He’ll think because things have always gone his way, they always will. Overconfidence is ironically a weakness. The tortoise and the hare.

Conversely when you start at the bottom, you never expect anything. You work twice as hard. You’re more appreciative for everything you get.

It was 9/9/99. The MTV Video Music Awards were on that night. Chris Rock was hosting.

Biggie and Tupac’s mothers presented an award together,

and Diana Ross played with Lil’ Kim’s tiddy.

The show just went off when I got a call from Craig. He said he had news that would change my life. He asked me if I was sitting down. I stood. I had a feeling what he was about to tell me. Sarah told him a secret.

She had a crush on me.

He gave me advice that’s still resonates, “just take it for what it is”. In Rick’s overconfidence he got caught cheating. She said she wasn’t looking for anything serious since she just got out of a relationship. That crucial piece of information went in one ear and out.

Before he hung up he gave me one last piece of advice. Perhaps it was more of a warning. Perhaps he saw writing on the wall. Right before we got off the phone, he said… “don’t fuck it up”.

Chapter 32

Knowing Sarah liked me felt like my coronation. It felt clandestine. Deep down I wasn’t surprised. I felt like I deserved it, like I was right where I should be. After the initial thrill wore off a bigger concern crashed down. What do I do now? This was the first time I learned, but far from the last, that getting the girl isn’t where the stress ends. It’s where it starts.

I was completely ill-equipped to handle the situation. Being high all the time didn’t help. The pressure I put on myself didn’t help. My friends waiting for me to fail didn’t help. It was funny to them but heartbreaking to me.

I missed every prior step I needed to experience before I got here. Before you get the Princess, first you have to get the coins, then you have to kill Bowser. I skipped way too many levels.

Craig was right. I was nowhere near advanced enough for a casual relationship with someone like her. I wanted a girlfriend but I was too immature to know what that meant.

She told me these rings on her necklace were for me. What I didn’t know was the three other rings were for three other boys. She saw that I was upset over it, and at a football game pulled me aside.

She said, “Harlem, they were before I met you. I really do like you. Things are complicated right now. I still love Rick. But there’s something about you…”

Just then we were interrupted by someone in the Crew who couldn’t believe he saw me with her. He heard she liked me but had to see it with his own eyes. He was congratulatory though and gave me props.

The disruption put an end to Sarah and I’s conversation. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and flashed me a look that still gives me feels when I think about her eyes. Then she was gone. She disappeared into the crowd and out of my life.

A few weeks later I saw her again, but she was with Rick. It was devastating. Everyone seemed to have forgotten we were even a thing. Because we basically weren’t. I had my chance but because of my inexperience I blew it. My friends made fun of that whenever they could. Rick was being super nice to me at that party, which made me sick to my stomach.

I vowed I would never blow it like that again.

A month later and I’m at a party at Sal’s. We’re having a great time. Some older girls are there. Sal has the ingenious idea to turn the heat up. His plan is brilliant. The girls start taking their clothes off. Everything is lovely.

The party couldn’t have been going any better, then it did.

Sarah and Kim, the other hottest girl in school walk in. I’m not nervous this time. I’d been drinking and I just saw tits. I’m feeling invincible.

An hour later and me and Sarah find each other in the kitchen. She’s staring at me. I’m staring at her. I’m still lost in her eyes. Neither of us are saying a word. We’re just smiling. She’s getting closer. I still don’t pull the trigger.

Kim’s standing behind her. For some benevolent reason she dares Sarah to kiss me. She does.

Time stops.

I know that as soon as her lips leave mine she’ll be gone again, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t say I blew it anymore. I got my first kiss, with my crush, the prettiest girl in school.

I knew I could do it.

Pyramid Interlude

What’s interesting about the story of Jesus is that he’s mysteriously absent from the bible between the ages of 13-30. You hear about him as a child carpenter, then he pops back up 17 years later with Christ consciousness.

Where was he?

Some say he went to Egypt and studied with the ascended masters in the mystery schools. Some say the Great Pyramid was used as a ceremonial initiation chamber–amongst other things. The theory suggests an initiate such as Jesus would meditate in the King’s Chamber until enlightenment is achieved. Many historical figures like Napoleon have laid there and reported having mystical experiences.

It’s not as crazy as you might think. The Bible even says Jesus spent time in Egypt. Not only that but I just googled it and it’s like 8 hours from Bethlehem.

As a kid learning about the Bible in church and Egypt in school, I always wondered why there’s no mention of the Great Pyramid in the Bible. There’s no debate, it existed then. There’s also no debate, some of those stories take place in Egypt. Still no mention of the tallest building on Earth at the time. It’s literally in the exact geographical center of the planet. They must’ve seen it. Still no mention. Why?

Maybe it is mentioned in those Vatican secret archives. Maybe they even discuss how they were built. Maybe the energy source the pyramid builders used would jeopardize the oil monopoly stranglehold on the world. Maybe that’s why the information is hidden…

Wait. I’m on a tangent again. My bad. My friends know I’m obsessed with the Great Pyramid. I’ve been looking for a way to sneak it in my book, and that’s what I came up with. But back to Jesus, or, back to me rather.

My time between the ages of 13-30 was also transcendent!

Where was I?

And why are you seeing me now in my thirties acting like I’m all enlightened?

Well. I maybe wasn’t meditating in the Great Pyramid. However. I was spending a lot of time on back roads, in my own thoughts, for hours at a time, on psychoactive substances having hallucinogenic experiences.

It really was a meditative process. Imagine the insights I was having, reflecting on life and going inward. It was very transformative.

But being high makes you over think. I became way too self aware for my own good. I was like Adam and Eve, and the weed was the serpent. I left the garden of innocence and was now in this new adult world.

Weed was like a plague sweeping though the school. Not only did everyone smoke it, everyone sold it.

I learned what it meant to buy wholesale and sell retail, with great margins. If they would’ve legalized weed back then, we would’ve gotten a deal on Shark Tank. But because it wasn’t, the feds would indict us.

We were kids doing grown up things. Not everyone was built for it. I spent so much time in Middle School getting in trouble, that by the time we were committing actual crimes, I was adept in the art of getting away with things.

Some of my friends wouldn’t be so lucky.

Chapter 33

They had me sitting bitch in George’s S-10 per usual. That was better than being in the back. One time I was in the back and they raced a car on the interstate. It didn’t seem that crazy then, but looking back, their lack of concern for my life was chilling. Maybe I shouldn’t take it too personally. They were essentially unconscious human beings.

And so was I.

Luckily George had gotten rid of the shotgun he’d used to rob Aubrey, because the cops were following us. Apparently they’d gotten a call about a red truck driving reckless.

George’s plan was to simply drive to his house. I don’t know why he thought that would protect him. It didn’t. They flashed their lights and pulled us over.

There were two blunt roaches in his ashtray. Craig and I both ate one and washed it down with a swig of a warm Powerade left in the cup holder. Nasty, but it saved George from getting a DUI.

Swallowing those roaches weren’t enough to keep Craig or George completely out of trouble. The cops smelled weed and immediately searched the car, They found some on George. Me and Craig watched it all unfold, nervous as hell. This was before cops killed black people online everyday, so we weren’t that nervous, but still.

They handcuffed George then looked over at us. We told them we lived close enough to walk home. There was one problem. It was past the city’s curfew for juveniles, so they couldn’t let us walk the streets. They had take us to the station. But first they had to frisk us, “for their own safety.”

I had on nike pull-away pants that didn’t have pockets, so they just shook my pants and were done with me. They didn’t even check my socks. I could’ve stashed the roaches there instead of eating them!

I looked over at Craig. For some reason this guy didn’t think to stash the weed from is pocket, if he would’ve, he could’ve gotten away. He shot me a hopeless glance the moment they found it. I felt terrible. It was at that moment I understood, at least subconsciously, that Craig was destined for much worse than me.

They took us all to the station but since I had nothing on me, there were no charges. My fate was perhaps worse. I had to have my mom pick me up from the station.

I sat there high and waited for what felt like forever for her to drive a mile to get me. When I saw her she looked concerned but calm.

The policeman walked my mom and I outside. He told me he wanted to hear it from me, that weed was actually smoked in the car. Because the roaches were inside our stomachs, that was the only thing he couldn’t prove. But he was dumb. Why would I tell on my friends when he didn’t even have a case against me?

I told him he was crazy. I told him marijuana is medicine and he should try it instead of trying to ruin children’s lives because of it. And nope, we weren’t even smoking. Never touch the stuff. Then I walked away. My mom was more mad at me for getting smart with the cop than anything.

A couple days later I was walking through town and ran into Craig. He said said he figured I’d be grounded. But I wasn’t because technically I didn’t do anything. Craig and George both had their license suspended and had court mandated counseling called Drug Court. The program wouldn’t help and the police had been following us for a lot longer than before we got pulled over. We just didn’t know it yet.

Chapter 34

Think of a snitch. It’s usually some petty drug dealer giving up his boss to avoid prosecution. Movies, even common sense, would have you believe that’s how it’s done. Not in this story.

This story is from the top down. That’s how corrupt the cops were in my hometown. Not even corrupt. Corrupt would insinuate there’s some sort of financial gain involved. These cops weren’t that savvy. They destroyed children’s lives for headlines, for ego gratification.

And why? Maybe they were bored. Not much happens in St. Clairsville. Maybe they were just as unconscious as us. We were children. What was their excuse?

Klouds, a friend of mine — a friend of ours, was arguably the most prolific dealer at the time. Most of the weed came from him. Like so many others in this story, he was in too deep. And like I said, this story is from the top down.

Money and respect. We do strange things for it. The town Klouds was from was so small, it made St. Clairsville look like New York. It’s hard to get away with stuff in a place like that. Even harder to orchestrate a robbery. That didn’t stop him from trying.

Drugs aren’t inherently violent. It’s the illegal business surrounding them that breeds violence. The draconian drug war has created more problems than it’s solved. In some countries drug use is a mental health issue–not criminal. But because these substances are illegal here, robberies are frequent. Why wouldn’t they be, when you can’t report stolen drugs to police? This was Klouds logic, and while it may have seemed sound, it was flawed.

He organized the robbery of a large amount of weed. The problem was who he got to do it; two stick up kids with a calling card. Every time they robbed someone, they left their trademark insignia. Think Home Alone when the Wet Bandits left water running. And just like Marv and Harry, it would lead to their destruction.

These assailants, hired by Klouds, for some reason, liked to burn the asses of their victims with hot spoons. Don’t ask me why. This in the eyes of Ohio Law constitutes sexual assault. The victims, fearing for their safety, didn’t want to press charges. But given the nature of the crime, the State Department took it on anyway.

This would be the beginning of the end for the St. Clairsville drug empire.

It wasn’t long before they found out Klouds was responsible. After a short investigation he was apprehended. When he was caught, they found a pound of weed and a gun.

With so many charges against him, he felt he had no choice but to snitch. The cops were elated when Klouds agreed work undercover. There was one problem.

He knew better than to give up any heavy hitters. Instead of giving up his suppliers, he planned to rat out the people he was selling to. The police  never should’ve made that deal. They were letting violent criminals stay free. They would instead be indicting juveniles who were selling dime bags to their friends.

Klouds wore a wire. Some of the kids he incriminated were forced to then wear wires themselves.

This went on behind the scenes for months. So not only were we smoking and selling, we were being watched and listened to by police.

Months later and I was in study hall with George Craig and Janet. Every indication made it seem like it was a normal rainy day. We noticed a crowd forming by the windows and looked to see why.

Not even a year after Columbine, and we see a heavily armed SWAT team rushing into our school. We hadn’t heard any gun shots. Were we about to? Was some horrible crime being committed that would require such fire power in a school zone? We could only assume there must be.

No one was being permitted to leave or enter the school. Parents drove by noticing the police presence and feared the worst. The building housed 5th — 12th grade. Small children saw the men with masks and weapons in the halls, and were so scared some peed themselves.

By the time we made it back to our seats, the SWAT team in full combat gear was inside. They asked our Teacher for Craig and George. I watched in disbelief as they handcuffed them both and paraded them through the school at gunpoint.

Me and Janet chased after them but they were gone.

The principal, in disbelief himself, looked on in shock. I screamed at him. What the fuck is going on!?” He said he didn’t know. I told him ”fuck that shit yes you do!” I was blacked out irate. My two best friends had just been taken from me.

A few minutes later at my locker, Sal saw me being hysterical and asked why. My eyes were blurry and my voice was cracking. The hallways were frantic. Everyone stared at my furious tirade, as I tried to explain what I just saw.

I didn’t know it yet but dozens of people had also just been arrested. I also didn’t know that Sal was one of the people who snitched. All of that partying in his mom’s basement caught up. The cops were threatening to take his mom’s house and leave the family homeless, if he didn’t cooperate. We thought of them as snitches, but those kids were victims, collateral damage in an imperialist drug war perpetuated by small-minded small town cops.

That entire exhibition was a farce, conducted only to make it look like they were hot-shot detectives. Articles were written about the excessive force used to apprehend teenage potheads. It was embarrassing for the sheriff’s department, and it still is.

Some of the kids arrested were back in school after the long weekend, which made the bust all the more ridiculous.

They even arrested an entirely wrong person because he had the same name. This poor kid had a SWAT team take him from his house and was placed in jail, all due to mistaken identity. How in-depth can your investigation really be if you don’t realize the person in your custody isn’t the person you’ve been spying on for six months?

Craig and George went to jail a few months later and were on probation for years. The cops claimed they wanted to derail drug use but it didn’t work. The war on drugs continues to be proven ineffective. All it did was make us more paranoid and untrusting. We didn’t know if there’d be another bust, or if our friends were working undercover.

It made me smarter though. Sometime it’s good to be paranoid. I never got in any real trouble in High School. I distanced myself from the dope game, though not entirely. Craig was basically finished. The rest of the Crew would graduate soon as well.

It was time to move on from the Crew. It was time for my Squad to reign supreme and take control of the school. If I could get through that summer, our senior year would be dynastic.

Chapter 35

Every once in a while the stars align and a beautiful girl is also promiscuous. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you capitalize. At least that’s how our value system was set up.

Every grade had two or three. If you were lucky, you were able to get a couple under your belt while the window was open. That’s the thing about the beautiful and promiscuous, they don’t stay that way forever. Dudes are desperately dying to save them from themselves, and eventually one will. You have to have to act fast.

Brandy was much older than me. She was so far out of my league that I didn’t even fantasize about her. I didn’t see the point. My fantasies have always been realistic. They’re more vivid that way.

I don’t know what happened in this girls life to make her suddenly want to have sex with everybody, but something must have, because she did.

Imagine one of the hottest girls in your high school wakes up one day and randomly decides to fuck everyone. That’s literally what happened. Actually, she was so much older that she already graduated before I was even a senior. That summer before he went to jail, she was in love with Craig. So in love that she would do whatever he said, including pay for his abortions.

She would even have sex with his friends. She had a thing for virgins. Would my first sexual experience qualify as rape because she was 19 and I was 16? Not in the state of Ohio, I think. But I still wouldn’t suggest any teenagers replicate this experience. Even though at the time, I thought it was awesome.

A group of us had been out drinking on the road we called “The Spot”. Craig said he would set it up. He told me she was down. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t even gotten my first kiss six months ago, now all of a sudden this beautiful older woman was going to let me inside of her.

The whole way back to the house, I thought for sure something would go wrong, like a car crash or she would change her mind. Then our car drunkenly swerved and hit a mailbox. I thought that was it. But the driver laughed and kept going. I was almost there.

Brandy was down. She was going to have sex with us all, one by one. I got to go first.

I found myself sitting alone with her on a couch. We started kissing. I didn’t waste any time. I took her clothes off. I got on top then she did. I had no clue what I was doing. Our friends watched and laughed from outside the window. I didn’t know that at the time.

When I was done I waited outside while two more of them took their turn.

Did my best friends fucking the girl I lost my virginity to-immediately after me-instill some sort of deep rooted detachment, trust issues, and contempt for women that I still struggle with subconsciously today?

Nah, I’m good… I think.

Later that summer I fucked her one more time. We were at the Spot again. She was upset over something Craig said. We were all tripping on acid. Brandy stormed off into the woods. Craig told me to go check on her, assuming she would fuck me. He was right.

I fucked her on the ground in a field, in the middle of the night, tripping on acid. I was 17.

Last I heard Brandy had a stroke at age 35. Was this karma? Is there such a thing as karma? Should her karma even be bad? Wasn’t she just showing love to a young man who otherwise wouldn’t have been shown any? Or was I taken advantage of?

There was a part of me that cared for her. There was a part of me that was attached. She was beautiful and my first. But being who she was I learned early; just because a girl has sex with you–that doesn’t make her yours.

It was the first time I learned that lesson, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Chapter 36

As underclassmen we were too busy trying to be seen with the older kids. We thought we needed them but should have been more loyal to each other.

Those older kids were like Mob captains we had give a percentage to. Everything we had, they took a piece. But with their graduation came liberation from that oppression. It was at that ceremony were I first decided to make a change.

Freshman, freshman, sophomore, senior. That was the trajectory of my High School career. I was held back after the first year and didn’t catch up until the last. Before my senior year, the idea of me graduating didn’t seem realistic.

But sitting there watching them graduate, I knew I had to be there next year.

They didn’t have online courses back then, so that summer I took several by mail. I also did community service, which I was given school credit for.

Well okay, I cheated on my community service. The owner of the community center was family friend who lied for me. She said I worked way more hours than I did. I went sometimes but when I did, I just made out in the backroom with other girls who worked there.

I did some actual work but not much community service. I would do my courses by mail there. I completed a whole course in one day. That’s when my suspicions were confirmed. School is bullshit and they were wasting my time. When left to my own device, I was finishing entire classes in a day and acing them.

Since that drug bust happened weed temporarily evaporated. Therefore that summer was very productive. I caught up and when school started I was actually a senior. I’d eventually go on to graduate… miraculously.

I also finally got my driver’s license, something I was a year behind on getting. Plus I wasn’t a virgin anymore.

It was a new me. My Squad was a new squad. The school was ours now.

It started small. Me and this dude we called JarHead would drive around in his 89’ Accord smoking weed listening to Jay Z’s Dynasty album. Between the two of us, we knew everyone, so we went everywhere.

Before we knew it we amassed a following. It spread like religion. We called ourselves the Dynasty, modeled after the Jay album. We had several of the most influential kids in our clique; even the girls, even the hot ones, even the smart ones. We wore our jerseys backwards and our coats half off to signify allegiance. We formed our hands in the shapes of diamonds to throw up our sign. We even had the host of the announcements throwing it up on-air during morning broadcasts.

Of course competing factions arose as well. The ‘Franchise’ for example tried to create their own thing, but they were RC Cola to our Pepsi. We were on top.

Girls would take their clothes off to be in the Dynasty, as part of their initiation. Everything was lovely. Parties were every weekend. Somebody’s parents would always be somewhere, and that’s where we went.

The cops were still up our ass. You’d think they were in love with us. Everywhere we went, they’d follow. It seemed like every weekend one of us was getting an underage consumption or DUI.

We didn’t let that stop us though.

Chapter 37

There was this huge party so deep in the woods I couldn’t find it now if I tried. We had no idea how to get home, it didn’t matter. We were too preoccupied with living in the moment. There was no social media, no pictures to post. This chapter is the only evidence it ever happened.

The party was in honor of the kids who got arrested in that bust. They were currently in jail.

I had just started to get really drunk and really flirty with some girl when the cops came and everyone took off. I didn’t ask any questions. I just ran.

Eventually the rest of us who weren’t apprehended congregated and plotted on how to get home. We were miles away in the middle of nowhere with no vehicle, no cellphones, and police were looking for us.

Dozens of us running up a mountain with only moonlight. I saw a girl completely submerged in a pond. She gasped for air then just kept running.

We miraculously found a friend with a truck. He’d already gotten a citation for being there and was leaving. We hopped in the back and he drove us home.

The next day I sat at the kitchen table with my mom who read the paper. She was reading an article about the police raid I just escaped from.

“Did you know all those kids got in trouble last night, Arthur?”

”How bout that. That’s crazy” I replied.

“It sure is…why are your arms scratched up like that?”

She knew but she didn’t. It didn’t matter. My alibi was airtight. There was no way I was snitching on myself. Well, I guess I just did though huh? Sorry Mom, it’s too late to ground me now.

Chapter 38

I’ve never told anybody this, but…

When George was on house arrest he asked me to take his girlfriend to Sadie Hawkins. He thought I was safe.

Was I safe because we were friends, or was I safe because he knew girls didn’t really like me? I can’t be sure. Maybe it was both.

Was my motivation to prove him wrong, or was it because I was wanted his girl? I can’t be sure. Maybe it was both.

But at that dance, I was running all types of game on her. It’s worth noting that George and this girl were in an open relationship, if you can believe it. They were progressive and way head of their time, right? Her other boyfriend back then, is actually her husband now, but I digress.

When she dropped me off, I gave her this line about her body being so nice I wanted to keep it in captivity. It somehow worked because she kissed me. That was like my third kiss ever, again with an older woman. Maybe that’s why I have thing for them. I can’t be sure.

Eventually George found out, at least that I was running game, because he clowned me over that captivity line. I’m not sure if he knew she kissed me. I’ve since learned that women tend to leave out incriminating portions of stories.

I’ve seen that girl a few times in adult life. She always gives me the look, like we’re still sharing an inside joke. Impressions are fascinating. It’s funny how a pivotal moment can forever shape how you feel about something, or someone.


Eventually those older kids who already graduated caught wind of what we were doing. They didn’t understand that the Dynasty was satire. To be fair, they probably still don’t know what satire means. They were secretly but obviously jealous. They made fun of it and tried to sabotage our events. Why they cared when they weren’t even in high school anymore was beyond me. But that was a testament to the power of our movement. Some people loved it and others hated it. We forced you to feel something. That’s always the goal, even now with these chapters. And say what you will about the Dynasty, but everyone around then still remembers it, and I bet they always will. As silly as it was, it’s immortalized.

And you know something? Those were the only friends I ever had.

One of the most memorable parties would come to be known as the Dynasty Party. This was peek Dynasty. Girls would take me in rooms and lift their shirts up to be in the Dynasty. It was everything I’d been waiting for.

It was my moment. I went from being unnoticed to making out with the hottest girls. It’s juvenile maybe, but it’s how I know I can accomplish anything. No one would’ve ever believed I could’ve pulled that off. But there I was, with their tits in my hands.

I wasn’t in complete control of this newfound power though. I was of course, still a sucker for love. I inevitably fell again, for one of the girls who showed me her tits. We’ll call her Maddie.

It’s tough being friends with a beautiful girl, then having a glimpse of what it might be like being more. I wasn’t equipped to blur those lines. I fell deep. I still wasn’t experienced enough. And although I was admired throughout the school, I still wasn’t considered a serious contender for a boyfriend.

Because Maddie was my friend, she told me who she did have a crush on. It was a friend of mine. I was devastated. I wanted to die. I felt so alone in that moment.

I wrote a suicide note and had rat poison in my back pocket. I called Craig and burst into tears.

He told me:

”Nigga stop giving a fuck about these bitches who don’t give a fuck about you. That’s why they don’t give a fuck about you, because you give a fuck about them. As soon as you stop caring, watch them come back around.”

Sound advice, I must admit. Even now.

Me liking a girl has been proven to be the biggest deterrent from finding love. Me in love is seemingly the most unattractive characteristic I possess. Women are not into the AJ who likes them.

Now the AJ that doesn’t give a fuck about them, they love that AJ. That’s their favorite AJ. As self-defeating as that may seem, I can’t argue with the results.

Since I’m a student of the game, I learned to play it. Who am I to disagree?

I wonder if it’s just me, or is the whole world is like this? Does every husband not truly like their wife because they can’t? Did those wives pass on who really loved them because his vulnerability turned them off?

I said I played the game, I never said I made the rules. I just report them.

That’s actually why I write. Because 1, I get to speak my mind and you can’t talk back. And 2, I feel there’s something coming I need to express.

It’s not that Paul Revere thought he was special. He just saw something important and wanted to let people know. His way was screaming on a horse in the middle of the night. My way is writing a book.

In Season 4, you might say, the redcoats are coming…