“Jack, Jack, he’s a Lego maniac…. Jack, Jack, he’s a Lego maniac…”
Miguel constantly sang this song and it was annoying as all hell. Papi called out for Miguel as we sat down in the loveseat.
“Miguel, estamos aqui.”
“In the kitchen, ya voy.” Miguel yells back and then continues his Lego song. Within seconds, Miguel walked through a colorful beaded curtain that separated the kitchen from the living room. In both hands, he held the mother of all calderos filled with both nickel and dime bags. Now, Miguel was an extremely thin light-skinned Puerto Rican with an extremely large afro. Which made the caldero look even bigger in his hands.
“Bueno, here it is. I’ve been up all night getting this ready for you.” Said Miguel as he walked towards us from the kitchen.
“Since when do you bag your own shit, Miguel?” Papi said shaking his leg like he always did when he was high as a kite. You see, Papi started getting high a while back and we all knew it. But what Papi doesn’t want us to know is that he started on the harder shit. We know he’s using dope but, ain’t nobody going to disrespect Papi and bring it to his attention and since Mami is half crazy, we can’t rely on her to say anything. My sister, Xiomara, constantly cried about it. But no one her paid any attention to her or us for that matter. I mean no one really gave a fuck about another bunch of Puerto Rican kids from the island. That’s why Xiomara ran away from home at least four different times and each time she came back home kicking and screaming.
“I started bagging my own since my bullshit ass primo got caught selling to a cop. You ain’t gotta be scared little man. My snake is in his tank in my room.” Miguel said as I immediately got up and moved across the room. You see, Miguel would let his pet garter snake sliver through his hair most times and it would always freak me out because when the snake moved, his hair would move around as if his skull was caving in. One time, his snake poked his head out of Miguel’s hair and almost touched my ear. I panicked and everyone laughed at me.
“Papi, I have to pee. Can I go back home?” I asked my father as an excuse to go back home and not come back.
“Little man, you can use the baño here. It’s right there in the hallway.” Miguel said to me as he rolled up a joint for him and my father. Defeated, I got up and walked down the hall and opened the second door on the right. When I opened that door, I smelled the most heavenly smell I could have even imagined. Every inch of the room was covered with plant life. The room was completely dark except for a few green lights scattered all around the room. The room could have been an extension of the Botanical Gardens, there were so much greenery there. The smell was so strong in that room that after five seconds of having the door open, the aroma snuck into the sala where Papi and Miguel sat. They immediately knew that I had walked into the wrong room.
“Little man, not that room. Close that door!” Miguel said as he got up and walked in my direction. I slammed the door and went into the bathroom. I couldn’t believe what I saw, and I couldn’t get that smell out of my head.
Later that evening, when my younger brothers Edwin and Mike got home, I told them what I saw.
“We have to take some of Papi’s stash. You won’t believe the smell that came out of that room.” I told Edwin and Mike.
“Tu ta loco? Do you know what kind of trouble we can get into?” Mike said as he changed into his PJs.
“You’re such a pussy, Mike. Come on José, you I will get some and take it to school tomorrow.” Edwin was always down to do some crazy shit with me.
“Bet, when Papi and Moms go to sleep, I’ll go into the closet and get a few bags and put it in your bookbag.” Edwin and I shook on it and went about the night.
The next day, Edwin and I couldn’t even wait to get to school. We skipped breakfast and ran down the stairs.
“Show it to me.” Edwin said.
“Not here, loco. Let’s wait until we get to school at least.” As soon as I said this, Mike comes over with a fucking pancake in one hand and a boiled huevo in another.
“I’m not saying shit to ya’ll. When ya’ll stupid asses get caught, don’t say shit.”
“Shut the fuck up, you fat bastard.” Edwin yelled as he walked away from him.”
“It’s alright, Mike. We’ll be fine.” I said as I put my arm around Mike and made our way to school.
After school, Edwin and I met up in the school yard and found a place that we felt was discreet. We decided that behind the bleachers in the field would be a perfect place to light up some grass. I immediately open my bag and pulled out two joints.
“When did you roll it up?” Miguel asked.
“During lunch time. Pedro came out with me and showed me how he does it. I gave him one and left two for us.” I said.
“Shit, I don’t have a lighter.” Miguel blurted.
“Don’t worry, I got that covered too.” I shouted with all the pride in Puerto Rico. I let Edwin take his first pull. He immediately started coughing and I could not stop laughing.
“Oh, you think you could do better?” He said in between coughs.
“Fuck yeah, I can.” I handed him the lighter and put my joint to my mouth. He flicks his thumb and brings the flame towards my face. As soon as I’m about to take my pull, we hear
“Hey, what are you two doing?” We immediately drop the joints and lighter and begin to run as fast as we can. But the minute we got to the end of the bleacher, we were met with Mr. Abreu and Mr. Torres.
“What were you guys doing?” said Mr. Abreu as he grabbed Edwin.
“Were you two smoking grass?” Said Mr. Torres. We both said no in unison. But, they didn’t believe us. Both Mr. Torres and Mr. Abreu grabbed me and Edwin and dragged us back down the direction we came from. The joints were still there laying on the floor.
An hour later, we were sitting in Mr. Torres’ office with Mike who was pissed at the both of us. We weren’t saying a word to each other as we waited for either Papi or Moms to pick us up. Mr. Torres got up from his desk and walked out of the room.
“You two are complete idiots.” Mike screeched.
“Oh, shut up.” Edwin and I said.
“Shut up? Ya’ll got me in here with you. Papi is going to think that I was involved in all this. I told ya’ll to leave Papi’s stash alone but no, you gotta go and take his shit and try and smoke it at school!!!” As soon as he says this, Mr. Torres walked into the room. At first, he stood there just staring at us. We didn’t utter a single word.
“Mike, where did your brothers get the grass from?”
“Shut up, Mike.” Edwin yelled.
“I didn’t ask you to speak, Edwin.” Said Mr. Torres. “Where did your brothers get the grass from?” Mr. Torres said again with a sterner voice. Edwin stared Mike down as if he was about to kill him with his eyes.
“He didn’t do nothing, Mr.” I said softly to Mr. Torres.
“Mike, come with me please.” Edwin and I both look at each other and then at Mike. Mike looked like he was about to cry as he got out of his seat and walked out of the room.
The next week, we were all sitting in the living room eating dinner when we hear a sudden knock on the door.
“Quien es?” Yelled Papi from the dining room table.
“Police, open up.” Papi jumped up out of his seat and ran to the room. The knocking got louder.
“Open up the door, now. We have a warrant.” We could hear Papi moving shit around in the room as the door swung open and the cops came running inside the house. Xiomara immediately started crying and screaming while Mami just sat there knitting a scarf. We started to scream as a cop grabbed each of us. The next thing I remembered is Papi being dragged out of the apartment in handcuffs being read his rights while a social worker sat with us and told us that we would be placed in a group home for kids and that Xiomara was going to be sent to a girls home, while my brothers and I will be sent to an all boy home. We all held one another until the social worker grabbed Xiomara and ripped her from our arms. I watched as they took her in complete disbelief. That was the last time we saw her, until Papi got out of jail, years later.
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