|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||15 - 18 Years|
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Once a King, Always a King
The Unmaking of a Latin King
By Reymundo Sanchez
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2003 Reymundo Sanchez
All rights reserved.
Once a King, Always a King
It was prophetic that, on the day I freed myself from being a menace to the Latino community in Chicago by leaving the Latin King nation, I would walk away drenched in the blood of an innocent person.
To leave the Latin King nation I endured a brutal three-minute beating called a violation. This alone should have made me want to get as far away as I could and not turn back, but I was unknowingly still shackled to the lifestyle and to the Latin Kings. A hatred for those who called themselves King killers still burned within me. Even knowing that the main source of danger to the Latin Kings was the Kings themselves, the only evidence I looked at to fuel that fire was the event that had occurred just moments ago.
After my violation I was walking through the park on my way toward the bus stop. I didn't have to take this route, but I wanted to see how it felt to walk through the park in the Humboldt Park neighborhood with the knowledge that I was no longer a Latin King. I saw my old friend and ex- lover Loca, with her kids in tow, dealing cocaine. Also present was King Spanky, who, in a wheelchair after being shot by the Latin Kings, was dealing cocaine for the Nation. Spanky called out "once a King, always a King" as I walked past. Seconds later, shots rang out. I couldn't tell which direction they were coming from or headed. The drive-by shooter hit one of Loca's two kids. I ran to him and cradled him in my arms, but he was already dead. The cops arrived and questioned me. Then I headed for the bus.
I sat on the bus and stared out the window at Humboldt Park. The place I once thought was heaven had become a hell for many who lived in its surroundings. My clothes were drenched in blood, yet nobody seemed to notice. I cried rivers of tears, but nobody cared. Not one person on that bus looked my way, sympathetically or otherwise. No one bothered to ask about the blood on my clothes, but I did hear comments on how I should just shut up and stop crying already.
The loss of an innocent life had become too common an occurrence for anyone to react emotionally unless they were somehow tied to the victim. The death of a young Latino was seen as one less criminal to worry about instead of a horrifying reality. From my viewpoint there was nothing I could say about that careless attitude because I felt the same way.
As the bus passed by an area where Cobras and Disciples, rival gangs of the Latin Kings, hung out, I began to feel nervous and afraid. It was then that I understood what Spanky meant when he said "once a King, always a King," as I was walking away from the park. But I was determined to make my life different, to grow outside of the 'hood.
I was leaving a life filled with violence at home and on the streets. I had endured rapes, abandonment, being shot, and beatings that left me gasping for my own life. I had witnessed and/or been a part of more criminal activities in my still-short life than most people hear or read about in a lifetime.
From the time I had moved to Chicago at the age of five, the life I knew consisted of survival in gang-infested neighborhoods. The only example of life I had seen that didn't include drug use, violence, and extreme child abuse was from television. As far as I knew, everyone wore certain color clothing to represent one gang or another. I was certain that everyone used drugs.
These experiences and memories had made me the person I was. But as much as these experiences had scared me, they also forced me to try hard to survive in a peaceful world. I was trying to integrate myself into a world of hard workers, students, and peaches and cream. So much in my life had begun to change that I accepted the invitation of a gay coworker and friend to be his roommate. For a person who grew up in a gang- centered family, this was the ultimate sin. It was hard for me to accept this invitation, but as I'd made many decisions before, I accepted it as a matter of survival. I did wonder what others would think about me and the possibility that my friend might eventually want more than just friendship, but I decided to cross that bridge when I came to it. I took this as an opportunity to have shelter away from the 'hood.
My friend's name was Phillip. He was a white boy slightly taller than I was, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes. Phillip had been disowned by his middle-class parents because of his sexuality, and had only recently been accepted back into their lives and home. Phillip was a college graduate who was openly gay. He kept to himself and had obvious feminine traits. He was a sharp dresser and had a tendency to be flamboyant.
Even with the mixed feelings I had, I continued to live with Phillip. I felt comfortable with him. Living there offered me a chance to stay out of trouble as those who lived nearby assumed I was gay, too. I continued to grow into a hardworking member of society, working as a data entry clerk at the University of Chicago while attending classes. Suddenly everyone in my circle of friends was a coworker or university student. I was slowly but surely making myself a distant memory to those involved in gangs. I still, however, had nightmares, which were so horrible and vivid that I became afraid to fall asleep. All the bloodshed I had witnessed or caused awaited me every night for days and sometimes weeks at a time. I began having moments of terror during the day, too. I would drift away into a daydream and see the bloody souls of my past and begin to sweat, shake, or both. At these times many people asked what was wrong, but I couldn't answer. I didn't think anyone in my new circle would understand if they found out that I was having flashbacks of bullets entering and exiting bodies.
Phillip became a constant comfort when I awoke screaming in the middle of the night. He'd come from his room to my bedside and shake me gently until I awoke if I hadn't already. Often Phillip would bring me a glass of water. He was always compassionate about my ordeal and never seemed bothered that I woke him in the middle of the night. I'd share the details of my nightmares and he'd listen, which would allow me to fall asleep peacefully, at least momentarily.
I knew he was gay and I also knew that he was very aware of my heterosexuality. The respect that we had for each other's way of life allowed us to function well in spite of social taboos. Eventually, however, he started to interpret the emotions created by my nightmares as weakness, as an indication of desire for him. He crossed the line. One night as Phillip held me to comfort me and assure me that everything would be OK, he attempted to kiss me. When I rejected him, he left the room angrily. The next day he told me that we would no longer be able to be roommates. I could have tried to talk it out — a move that could have saved our friendship — but my manhood seemed more important to me at that moment. Instead of trying to talk about the misunderstanding, I told him that I would kill him if I ever saw him again. I was on my way to being homeless yet again. With nowhere else to go, I returned to Humboldt Park.
There's something about that park, that neighborhood, that tugged on me and never completely let me get away — something there that made those I tried to get away from, those I needed to get away from, the only ones I felt I could could really count on. I showed up at Humboldt Park on a Wednesday afternoon five months after Loca's son was killed. There I found Spanky, still selling cocaine as if the tragedy had never taken place.
Spanky had become one of the main dealers in the area. He no longer made the exchanges of drugs for money with customers himself; many others did that for him. He couldn't, however, get over his desire to be present in the middle of Humboldt Park's gang society. It was by all accounts one of the hardest habits to break. Thirteen- and fourteen-year- old kids who lived on the streets were among Spanky's dealers. I looked at them and saw another lost generation of kids just like me. I didn't agree with him using the kids in this way, but I learned to live with it. Spanky offered me a new place to live. Speaking up against his juvenile workforce would certainly ruin that.
I moved into the basement apartment of Spanky's house that weekend. The house was located on the corner of Cortez Street and Kedzie Avenue, across from the westernmost edge of Humboldt Park. In essence, I was back home.
I continued to work at the university, but I started to shy away from the friends I had made there. I lived in constant fear of anyone I met at the university finding out about my past and, even worse, about my present. Eventually, I thought, someone would offer me a ride home or want to come by and visit. I didn't want to risk my new friends being robbed or shot because of their friendship with me. I don't know what they thought about me once I began to distance myself, but it was obvious that they got the message.
Living at Spanky's made old problems resurface. Every so often, rival gangs of the Latin Kings would chase me as I got off the bus at North Avenue and Kedzie. I hadn't been away from the 'hood very long, and I was still recognized. Of course, the Kings would come out of the park and out of the side street along Kedzie Avenue and retaliate by throwing bricks, bottles, and any other objects they could get their hands on. And there would always be someone with a gun.
Although I was no longer officially a Latin King, and I was no longer called Lil Loco (my old nickname), I was still targeted by the Cobras, Disciples, and Gangsters. Once a King, always a King.
The feeling of sanctuary that going to work had once offered me started to disappear. On several occasions, carloads of Cobras would wait at the exit of the Damen and North Avenue station, knowing I would be getting off the train there. I again began to fear leaving the area where the Latin Kings protected me. I felt safest when secluded in the eight or so square blocks that made up the Humboldt Park section of the Latin Kings' territory. Four months after I moved into Spanky's basement, I quit my job at the University of Chicago and once again became a regular in Humboldt Park gang society. Becoming an elite member, however, was not so easy the second time around.
My integration back into the 'hood happened practically overnight. I hated it there, but at least I felt equal to everyone around me. My past was known, my intentions — good or bad — expected and accepted. It was the one place in the world where I didn't feel inferior due to my limited vocabulary and education. Gang society required absolute ignorance, a violent nature, and ruthlessness. I was known to have all of these qualities.CHAPTER 2
My basement apartment at Spanky's became a Latin King hangout. The only part of that apartment that remained truly mine was the bedroom. The Kings often held their meetings there, which meant that I had to vacate the apartment since I was no longer a Latin King. The new generation of Latin Kings knew me as Rey Rey. I became close to Spanky's new wife, Imelda. She was a small, fragile twenty-five-year-old Puerto Rican woman with no education at all. She seemed like everyone else in the neighborhood — very street smart but with no skills to survive outside Humboldt Park.
Imelda introduced me to her sister Josefina; we called her Josie. Josie looked like a carbon copy of Imelda, but she was three years younger and a member of the Latin Queens. Josie had a reputation for being a party animal with an itchy trigger finger. Most of the Kings thought I was crazy when I started dating her. She had shot her last boyfriend one day when he tried to stop her from drinking more than she had already consumed.
My relationship with Josie started four days after I met her. She showed up at the apartment high as a kite, drunk, and reeking of stale cigarette smoke. She flirted with me, then got physical, and finally insisted that we have sex. She was beautiful, and I had not had sex for a while, but I wanted her to take a shower first. Josie was persistent. She said she was horny and wanted to have sex first and shower later. I tried to lead her toward the bathroom and she began stripping her clothes off as I did so. Once she was naked I forgot all about the shower and her bad smell.
The next day and from there after, Josie called herself my girlfriend. She practically lived with me. Josie did all her drugging and drinking at my apartment with the Latin Kings, and — just like that — I went back to my party animal ways.
I began helping Spanky with his cocaine business. I'd cut, weigh, and bag the product for him in return for free rent and five hundred dollars a week. Often I did these things on my own. Known as Lil Loco when I was a hardcore gangbanger, I would get high on a daily basis to cover up my true feelings. I reestablished these old habits. Unlike the old Lil Loco, however, I no longer sought out violent confrontations or felt the need to prove myself to anyone. In this sense, at least, I had grown.
The new Rey Rey became sort of a sex freak when under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Once I got high, I became obsessed with sex. Luckily, Josie was always ready and willing to please me. When she wasn't around I would masturbate, since other girls in the neighborhood were afraid of Josie — all of them except for Spanky's wife, Imelda.
Spanky was paralyzed from the waist down, which left him sexually dysfunctional. He was in a wheelchair because, years earlier, the Latin Kings had suspected him of ratting me out to the law. They called a meeting with the intention of talking to him but shot him in a drive-by instead. They planned to kill him as a means of discipline by setting an example to others, but he didn't die, and he didn't even quit the Latin Kings, even though he knew they were the ones who'd shot him. Spanky could only sexually please Imelda orally or with his hands. She secretly desired more. Imelda came looking for me one evening so I could help her count out the money to purchase two kilos of cocaine. It was one of the very few days that I was alone in my apartment. She walked into my bedroom to find me lying on my bed, naked, in my own sexual world, masturbating. I don't even know how she came to be in my room. I heard her voice saying something, but I didn't acknowledge it. Then the voice got louder. "Espera que llegue Josie (Wait until Josie arrives)," the voice said. I opened my eyes, startled, and stared at her as she looked at me with a devilish grin on her face. Imelda did not take her eyes off me for one minute. Her reaction to my nakedness and self-pleasure turned my initial embarrassment into excitement. I got up, grabbed her by the back of the neck, and gently pulled her toward me to kiss her. Imelda turned her face so I wouldn't kiss her and said, "no puedo (I can't)." "Si puedes (You can)," I whispered in her ear. I placed my hands on her waist and spun her body so her back faced the bed as I kissed her ear and neck. I laid her gently on the bed and after a few more weak "I can'ts," Imelda became my willing partner. That was the start of our affair.
My sexual involvement with Imelda became both a blessing and a curse. Imelda began to look forward to our sexual encounters, and she got upset with the lack of opportunity, due to Latin Kings hanging around in my apartment all the time and Josie's presence. Imelda grew jealous because Josie was spending nights with me, but she was only getting quickies here and there that, more often than not, left her with the desire for more. Her frustration led her to have Spanky ban the Latin Kings from using any part of the house as a hangout. I was happy that she had talked him into taking that action. I finally had some privacy within my own apartment, and Imelda and I enjoyed extended sex time. Suddenly it was I who wished it were Imelda spending nights with me instead of Josie. Imelda didn't get high, she drank very little, and she always smelled so good and clean, while Josie was always under the influence of drugs and alcohol and reeked of cigarette smoke even after having freshly showered. I wanted Imelda for myself.
My desire for Imelda got me closer to Spanky. I grew more involved in his drug business. I advised him on purchases and got him involved in the growing heroin business. Spanky's profits doubled. My knowledge of the drug business from my former time as a dealer in the Latin Kings, and my reputation for loyalty when I was a King, were the only reasons Spanky kept me around. I knew this, and I also knew that it was just a matter of time before I would no longer be needed, and therefore dispensable, but I didn't care. As long as I was a commodity, I was going to get all I could and then some.
I was now driving a beautiful Pontiac Bonneville and attracting the attention of the opposite sex. Even with Josie's reputation for violence, girls were now willing to get involved with me. My money seemed to remove all fear. The new generation of Latin Kings, however, was not impressed. Most of them felt as if I were raining on their parade. My presence kept them from getting closer to Spanky, and therefore considering themselves second, or third, in command and so forth. Because of that, they routinely requested that I prove myself worthy. My Lil Loco reputation did not carry me with this crowd. According to them I was just Rey Rey — unproven, untested, and not a Latin King. My return back to my violent ways became more and more inevitable.
Excerpted from Once a King, Always a King by Reymundo Sanchez. Copyright © 2003 Reymundo Sanchez. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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Table of Contents
1 Once a King, Always a King,
2 Career Change,
3 Josie's Way,
5 Cocaine Again,
6 The First Blessing,
7 Doing Time,
8 Almost Free,
9 Work Release,
10 New Beginning,
11 A Different Kind of Girl,
12 There Is Such a Thing as Friendship,
14 A New Plan,
15 Welcome to Dallas,
16 Is This Love?,
17 Maybe We Can Try Again,
18 Release of Pain,
20 Here and Now,
For Those at Risk,