I was in a dollar cab this weekend. Yes, a dollar cab. For those of you not familiar, dollar cabs are vans that travel along major thorofares in Brooklyn, picking up and dropping off passenger for $2 a pop. It is an inexpensive way to hop around the borough, if you don’t mind reckless West Indian drivers, and a crowded passenger pool that spans from young killers to old ladies (I happen to fit somewhere in between). So, i’m in the dollar cab headed to Flatbush when this young guy gets in at Empire Blvd. Nothing noticeable about the cat, I might not have even noticed him if it wasn’t for the phone conversation he was on when he got in. He sat directly behind me, and I know he was speaking to a guy named Gussy because he kept saying his name (Shout out to Gussy). I’m a ear hustler. I’ll admit it, it’s part of what makes me such an efficient writer - my ability to archive conversations I hear on the street or in passing. So, this young guy is talking to Gussy as our driver is swerving reckless down Flatbush Avenue, stopping short enough to jostle us everytime he sees someone waiting for a pickup. The kid says to Gussy, “Gussy. Yeah Gussy, you remember that chick that Snoop bought through? Yeah, the one she say her name is Sparkle. Yeah, well the bitch owed me some money so I ran down on her. Yeah, I ran down on the bitch Gussy. I got her coat, her rings and her phone. Nah Gussy, I’m keeping her shit until I get my money.”
Listen, I’m in a dollar cab speeding down Flatbush Avenue at like 11 at night on a Friday, so this conversation he’s having isn’t much of a surprise to me. I mean, this IS Brooklyn you know. There are all types of animals in this borough -snakes, birds, lambs, and wolves. You grow up in Brooklyn learning which animals are harmless, and which ones are poisonous. Obviously the kid thought that this Sparkle chick needed to be taught a lesson, and by all accounts Gussy agreed too.
If that had been the extent of the conversation, I wouldn’t be wasting my Sunday night jotting my thoughts onto this blog. It’s what happened next that made this story a must-tell. After the kid gets off the phone with Gussy, a phone starts to ring. It isn’t the phone in his hand though, it’s the phone in his pocket. He reaches into his jean jacket (BTW jean jackets are back in style. Pick yourself up one) and pulls the phone out. He answers it, and then there is silence on his end for the better part of a minute. When he finally talks, he says something like this;
“Miss first of all I don’t know any Tiffany. The bitch I took the phone from is named Sparkle. Ok, but in the streets we call her Sparkle. Now if Sparkle is your daughter that’s all well and good but she owes me $40 so I took her shit. It isn’t about the money miss, it’s the principal. Your daughter used my name to get $40 worth of credit for some shit, and I want my money. Huh? Yes miss I had to take her shit because she didn’t have my money. I didn’t hit your daughter, all I did was choke her up. You should teach your daughter not to get credit on other niggas name then.”
At this point a couple of things are crystal clear. The first is that this robbery/assault happened recently, like in the last few minutes because the kid still has this Sparkle girl’s stuff on him. The second thing is that he is on the phone with her mother, explaining to her why he just jacked her daughter. Now this is the kind of shit I ear hustle for daily!! I’m ignoring the driver and his recklessness at this point, unaware of where we are or even if I’ve missed my stop. The only thing I want to do is hear how this conversation ends. He goes back and forth with the lady for a minute or so, and finally says,
“Okay, if you’re gonna send Sparkle out with my $40 then I’ll give her her shit back. Yeah, she knows where to find me. I won’t hurt her as long as she has my $40. Tell ya daughter stop playing these street games if she ain’t ready. Keep her in the house then. Okay, thank you miss. Peace.”
And that was it. No threats to call the Police, no cursing out, in fact he never even sounded like he was defending himself. Just another night in the County of Kings. A young man assaults and robs a young girl for her coat her jewelry and her phone over $40, and when the mother calls the kid coerces her into getting the money for him. I wasn’t sure who I should feel ashamed of. Maybe I should be embarrassed and ashamed of this young man who is from the same part of the planet as me, but is lost in this role he feels he should be playing without realizing that this role ends in jail or death, every time. Or maybe I should be ashamed of and embarrassed at the mother, the alleged adult in the situation, who rather than call the Police on this wolf who preyed on her daughter, preferred to cough up the $40 and send her child back into the streets to see this man again. Shit, maybe I should be mad at Sparkle. Like the kid said, she shouldn’t be playing these street games if she ain’t ready. I did find myself feeling ashamed though, without knowing at whom or why. I got to Ditmas Ave, paid my $2 and hopped out of the van. Just then it hit me. I’m ashamed of myself and every one of us in this community that giggles or laughs when we see ignorance, that turns a blind eye when we see young blacks hurt other young blacks. I’m ashamed that I watch the Worldstar videos, ashamed that I actually enjoyed the Bloody Loco video. If we don’t express our disgust at this sort of mentality, this way of thinking that seems to hover over every inner city in the nation, then who will?
I sure hope Sparkle came up with that bread…