Standing next to my brother, I must been only a few feet tall. I can still hear the drug addict as she approached, “Got some blow, got some blow?” He looked around, scanning the street from left to right, as he placed a tiny baggy of white powder in her hand. She gave him the cash in their hand to hand exchange, and then she walked away as quickly as she first approached. I must have watched a few dozen more people run up to him that day, as he scolded each of them, “Hey ya’ll, stand back, you gone get some, stand back.” I always wondered about the substance inside those tiny little baggies that everyone was going to crazy over.
In my childlike mind I envisioned sugar, which they were using to bake some type of meal at home. But I quickly dismissed this theory because why didn’t they just go to the grocery store. The grocery store had way more sugar than my brother was offering. It also was a hell of a lot cheaper than my brother was charging. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why they were spending ten to twenty dollars on something so small. There was one thing for certain, people went crazy for it. People would sometimes seal their purchase and snort the powder standing right there. That’s something that shocked me; they would snort this stuff and even rub the leftover residue across their gums.
By the end of the day, my brother would reach into his pocket and pull out a wad of cash. Watching all this money really sparked my interest. It seemed like he would be counting money for hours. I knew in that moment what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to sell to people whatever it was my brother was selling. You see my father was never around, and my mother was a waitress at a diner. She would come home from work as well with a wad of cash. Only her stack was a lot smaller in size than my brother’s. What was odd, is that when my brother would hear our mother outside, he would gather his belongings in a hurry. He grabbed the baggies, a small scale, a tiny scupper, a credit card, and an even bigger bag of white powder.
“Why would he run,” I thought to myself. Mother would be so grateful if she knew how much money he was making. I mean, she struggled raising the two of us, how could he be so ashamed to let her in on his new found wealth. Something struck me as odd after he would take his belongings into his room. Right before our mother would open the door, he use to put one finger to his lip, “Shhhhh, you didn’t see nothing, ok.” “Keep quiet about what you saw, and I’ll take you for some ice cream.”
That’s all I needed to hear from my big brother was that we were going for some ice cream. I never understood why he didn’t want me to say anything, but who cared. All I could think about once he said that was cookies and cream. There was nothing better than cookies and cream with my brother. Mom would walk into the house, and give a keen stare at my brother. “Have been out looking for a job today?” “Been looking all day, and couldn’t find nothing,” he would reply. I wanted to say so bad, “You do have a job.” “What about all the customers who buy your nose sugar?” Yet something kept me from saying it, maybe it was from the promise of cookies and cream ice cream.
She would walk pass the two of us, as she made her way to the bathroom. My brother would wait until she entered the bathroom and walk into his bedroom. There I would be, sitting alone on the couch, wondering what was going through my mother’s head and in my brother’s bedroom. It’s almost like they would exit the exact same time from the two rooms. My mother would give another keen look as she sat on the couch. These looks she would give him became all too routine; like she could sense the deceit. She would peer pass my brother, looking toward his room door. It’s as if she knew; she just knew he was hiding something. Which was something my mother hated, she hated lies; she hated the deceit, and she hated the betrayal.
My brother was all three rolled into one, only I didn’t see it that way. To me, he was a superhero; like in the movies or a comic strip. In my eyes, standing next to my brother, was like standing next to the President of the United States. There was nothing he could do that would upset me. This was the man who would introduce me into manhood. He is the one who taught me how to fight and how to pick up girls; how to love and how to show loyalty. I mean, who else was going to show me, not my mother. She wasn’t us, and we weren’t her, so how would she know? Who could teach her how to understand us better than my brother and I. So she did what any woman would do raising children on her own; she prayed and asked for the Lord’s guidance.
My mother didn’t know much, but she knew something wasn’t right in her household. I realized something wasn’t right while my mother and I were watching television one evening. There was some news reporter speaking into the camera about some war. He said it was a war that the country was losing and something needed to be done about it. I’m thinking to myself, a war, what country are we attacking this time. Only it wasn’t a foreign country, it was in this country. The television cut from his face to rows of rundown houses and apartment buildings. Something caught my attention as the camera kept panning the neighborhoods on the screen.
I thought to myself, those communities look like the one that I live in. Not only that, but those people walking the street look a lot like my brother’s customers. The reporter was saying how they obtained footage of the war. There were people with those tiny little baggies my brother had in his pocket, as well as the snorting of the powder. Then I became quite irritated to tell you the truth. How could a country be at war with my brother’s business? My brother was supplying these people with a product in which they were paying for out of their own pockets. The customers were a little creepy, but everyone in my neighborhood was strange in some shape or form.
I couldn’t wait until my brother came home so I could tell him about this war. He would enter the house, as normal, and walk into his bedroom. That’s when I would follow after him and knock on his door. With confidence, I approached him and said, “I was watching TV with mom tonight.” “The TV said that there was a war on your business, they can’t shut you down like that.” He never even broke a sweat as he looked me in my eyes and replied, “They always trying to shut me down, but the goal is to keep moving around so they can’t shut you down.” It still was confusing to me even after speaking with my big brother. Well that’s until I overheard a telephone conversation my mother was having.
She would be discussing the issues in the neighborhood; everything from fights in the street to murders on the sidewalks. For some reason she really took issue to the customers my brother was supplying. I’ll never forget what she called them, “junkies and fiends.” She went on to say they were, “strung out and tweaking.” I had never heard her speak of these words before, which carried such fowl connotation. So what did I do, I would sit near her as if I didn’t understand the conversation; soaking it all in. By the end of the conversation there was a clear painting of what she was discussing. The painting was grim, it was scary, it was violent, and it was all that described my brother.
My brother couldn’t be what she described, but my mother was a wise woman. Even though he was my superhero, she was above him in her own regard. So here I was, stuck at a crossroads, not knowing which path to take. Should I honor my loyalty to my brother and ignore her comments, or confront my brother about what our mother had said. So you know what, I approached her; that’s right, for the first time I stepped to my mother. Not like a boy, but like a man. I looked her dead in the eyes and said, “Don’t talk about people like that, they have done nothing wrong.” “If it were wrong, then how come the police have not arrested them yet?” Her anger for me listening to her telephone conversation subsided, once she saw how much it bothered me.
It was a look I would never forget; combination of shock and anguish. She would place her hand on my cheek on tell me how much wrong was in our community. I didn’t want to hear it; it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. If what she was saying was true, then my brother is up to no good. He was one bad man who was charting down a path of destruction. I had heard enough, so told her, “Don’t tell me about how bad these people are, my big brother supply these people.” “He gives them sweet sugar to put in their noses and they always come back for more.” “He divides it up with a credit card and weighs all of it right here, I watch him do it.” “Just so he would give everyone a fair amount.” “Now you sit here and say these things are bad, how mom, how?”
Her shock and anguish turned to tearful emotion and pain. This was new; I had never seen my mother cry before. Something must be wrong? What did I say to make her turn so quickly? She leaped from the couch and scampered into my brother’s room. Next thing you know, she had gotten hold of his big bag of sugar, and tore it open. The room quickly filled with powdery mist as continue her assault on his room. From the other side of the door, I was thinking to myself, “When he gets home, he is going to be heated.” “Mom ripped open his bag, poured out all his sugar.” “Now what is his customers going to do about their nose sugar.” “He is sure to lose them all to some of the other salesmen who stand on the corner in the next block over.
She stormed from the bedroom, almost knocking me to the ground, as she dialed on her cell phone. Her exact words once the person answered, “Hello, 9-1-1, I need the police, right now.” “Don’t ask for the emergency, send them now!” I thought to myself she has done it now, tore up my brother’s room so bad, now she needs medical attention. But I couldn’t understand why she needed medical attention from the police. The police are supposed to come when someone is going to jail. Who was going to jail? I knew she wouldn’t have called on herself. Maybe she was calling on me because I yelled at her.
The fear of going to jail made me run from the room, into my mother’s bedroom. I hid underneath her bed, while I heard the sounds of sirens moments later. They’re here, the sound of their heavy footsteps on the porch made me cringe in fear. As they entered I heard my mother yelling, “I want him gone, take him to jail.” I grew more terrified hearing her say these words. It hit me, she was talking about me, but I wasn’t going to jail. But I had to do something as she called out to me. Then when I wouldn’t reply, she made her way to the bedroom. As they entered, she yelled, “Boy, where in the hell are you!”
I slowly emerged from under the bed, shivering from fear. “Boy what the hell is wrong with you, come here!” She grabbed my arm and forced me from the bedroom. It felt like I was on my way to the gas chamber. Here it goes, just like this, this is how my life will end. As we stood before the police she looked at them, “My son here has been telling me all about his brother’s dope dealing in this house.” “I want him arrested; he is to not step foot in this house selling dope. I paused, looking at her in shock, oh no, not my brother. My brother didn’t sell drugs, drug dealers hurt people. My brother didn’t hurt anybody; he was simply giving people some sugar for their noses.
Hell I don’t know why people needed sugar for their nose, but boy did they love it. Eventually footsteps were heard from outside, as my brother entered the house. He looked in shock, “Momma, what happened?” “Why are the police here?” They walked over to him, “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” My brother was shocked until he took a peek inside his room. Once he saw the all his sugar on the ground, he closed his eyes and dropped his head in shame. I still remember how they took him from the house, my mother not even acknowledging his existence. I had never seen my brother until that day when the police took him away in handcuffs.
Each and every day after my brother left, I would wait on the porch for him. I waited days, then weeks, then months, but the inevitable set in; he wasn’t coming home again. By the time I was on my way out of elementary school into middle school my brother came home. Only this time, he was muscular and had all these tattoos on his body. He asked me if I still loved cookies and cream ice cream. When I replied yes he offered to take me to go get some. On our way to the ice cream shop he was approached by one of his old customers. The man said, “Haven’t seen you around in a long time; still got some blow?” My brother said, “Naw man, I don’t sell blow no more.” The man walked away as my brother and I entered the ice cream shop. I was glad he didn’t sell it anymore because I never wanted to see my brother walk out of my life again.