Dumb, Young, And Ain’t Gonna Make It: The Things You Find In Malls

OK, the kid was sitting on a concrete bench or something in the shopping center as Officers Rick Rodriguez and Sean Carrig pulled into the shopping center in Arlington. (For fairly good reasons, some of this is going to be vague.) The kid’s head was down and he was crying. The cops got out to investigate. Asian kid, very early teens. Face bruised in various places. Name was Robert.

Rodriguez and Carrig asked, What’s your name, where do you live, what are you doing here? This was not a happy kid. He was wearing a blue bandanna.

I’m not going to get his story exactly right because I couldn’t hear a lot of it. It doesn’t matter, because he didn’t get it right either. Everything he said was a lie. He was 17. He wasn’t 17. He was staying one place, but it was actually another, and waiting for friends, though he didn’t know their names. His voice was very soft.

He was a terrible liar. It showed in his face, his hesitation, his body language. The cops patted him down. He had a yellow bandanna in his pocket. How did he get beaten up? Well, it was these guys. They robbed him. Actually it was a black guy. Why did the black guy beat him up? Well, see, the black guy had a Hispanic girlfriend, and she was hitting on Robert.

The only thing more unlikely than a black guy having a Hispanic girlfriend was that she’d be hitting on a barely pubescent Asian.

Lying to cops is hard. They’ve heard it all a dozen times this week alone. Well, OK, yes, Robert admitted. He was a runaway. From Laurel. His sister was on the way to get him right now. Robert didn’t look anybody in the eye. Robert was a terrible liar.

“What gang you with?” asked Rodriguez. No gang. You could hardly hear Robert speak. He didn’t do gangs.

As it happens, cops do gangs. They noticed that Robert had real bruises on his face, but not on his chest or back. In a fight, you get hit all over. Robert didn’t have bruises on his forearms. In a fight, you get defensive wounds by trying to shield yourself. Robert didn’t have a mark on his knuckles. In a fight….

As it happens, Robert had been jumped in to a gang. In Chicago, when you join a gang, the other members beat you to a pulp as an initiation. Here, in wussy Arlington, they just punch you in the face and you sit there and take it. Robert insisted he knew nothing of gangs. Despite having two gang bandannas. His new friends had also stolen his wallet and money.

The sister showed up from Laurel with her boyfriend. The boyfriend was a good-looking Caucasian GI, and the sister a pretty Asian who spoke perfect English. Both were rational, courteous, helpful. The cops talked to them out of range of hearing of Robert. What do you know. Robert had told even less of the truth than was obvious. He was about to cry again.

The sheer appalling stupidity of the situation depressed me. Cops, sister, brother-in-law kept trying to get Robert to cut the twaddle, tried to tell him that playing with gangs was going to bite him. A prison full of career urban criminals is not a good place for a pretty little Asian. Robert was not tough. He looked to be a born follower, a victim in training. But he wasn’t going to cooperate.

“You do drugs, Robert?” No, Robert didn’t do that. Never? No. Who do you think you’re kidding, Robert? Well, ok, a long time ago he tried marijuana. Well, Robert, if we took you to the clinic down the road for a pee test, would you pass? “Well, I should.” Rodriguez couldn’t help smiling. Robert didn’t have lying down very well.

Bit by bit he conceded everything. I don’t think he designed a lot of rockets. Not a bad kid. Just dumber than rocks.

The sister was concerned and seemed near tears. The cops tried to get through. Robert wasn’t having any. He was basically a malleable nobody who would keep running with the gangs until someone put a gun in his hand and told him who to kill, or something equally stupid. Then he’d go to the slam and be somebody big’s girlfriend for ten years. That’s my guess anyway.

The cops sent him home with his sister. For her sake I hope things worked out. She was a nice lady.

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