The following life story was written by our young Beat colleague Louis Apodaca, a young man who began his relationship with the system by visiting his father in various prisons. He later got into his own troubles, spending time in juvenile hall. But today, things are looking up — he's a college student at Chabot Junior College. The letter was originally published by The Beat Within, a juvenile justice system writing workshop, which has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.
Introduction To My Life
I remember being a young child, maybe four or five years moving into my first real house, well home anyway. I remember being 12 years old and being raped of my home, and thrown to the streets with my widow mother and my three siblings. I remember having no place to go but my grandmothers living room floor and being stared at, laughed at, humiliation and cruelty from my grandmother. I remember hearing her whisper insults and threats to my mother.
I remember hearing one morning while waiting in line to go take a shower for school in what seemed to be a line that would drag on for hours, my grandmother spoke with such a cold sharp voice you would think it was reptile talk, “Toni, its not my fault you and your kids have nowhere to go. I'm sick of you and them. I promise you I will make your life a living hell while living under this roof!” I remember thinking in my 12-year-old state of mind, “How could anyone speak to my mother like that?” I could honestly say from all the events, tragic and disgusting events in my life, I owe everything I am in life to these events.
Most people who I grew up loving and I held so dear to me, I could now say today as a young adult that I either no longer speak with them, or they don't speak with me due to some choices/actions I've done in life. They're in prison for life sentences, murdered, etc. The point I'm trying to make is that in the end, after all the false smiles, false love, false people, all you end up having is yourself. Well, at least that's all I ended up with in the end.
I live by a saying I came across from a strange girl I met a while ago. It was weird hearing this from her, because she didn't seem like the type to give good advice, or just in general, not a very bright person. I used to tell her she was a few beers shy of a six pack, if you know what I mean. But I was going through some issues while I was on house arrest for eight months, which were starting to really crawl and chew their way under my skin. To be honest, they were chewing into my heart.
She told me, “You could hope for the best all you want, Lou, but just always expect the worst out of people, 'cause when they go to disappoint you, you wont be disappointed.” I let that soak into my mind for a good day. The next day I went to the hall for two weeks, and she sent me a letter out the blue saying all kinds of odd, random stuff, which is normal for her. But at the end of the letter, she said, “Oh yeah, by the way, don't ever give anyone benefit of the doubt, 'cause the day you do that, you're gonna regret it in the end.”
Well, that goes to show, you never judge a book by its cover, because that little square emo-rocker chick had some real useful knowledge. I wish someone'd told me that when I was born. It would've saved me a long seventeen years of problems. I guess you could say I'm a negative person with nothing nice to say about this world. That may be true, but in reality, most people wouldn't be able to imagine the foulness that I've seen and fell victim to.
If I were to sit here and talk about everything, would anyone care? Would anyone listen? Would anyone respect my words? Would anyone believe me? To be honest, do I even care? If I said I didn't care, I would be a liar, just like anyone else. But I'm trying really hard not to be like everyone else, because I want better for myself. I want to be able to be known as a person who was a good dude, a respectable person with morals, ambition, a person who won't be dead, in prison, a user, or considered foul. But I know that may not be the outcome at the end of my equation.
I sometimes feel as if I'm digging for water in a desert, but I'm gonna keep on digging regardless of how deep, dark, and lonely this hole may get because without struggle, doubt and obstacles in life, then that just means you taking short cuts. You're not on your own two feet. I'm not gonna be the person who got everything they own and accomplished in life because someone gave it to them. The only thanks I'm giving are for my life my dear mother gave me, and the life God set in stone for me.
In order to keep going in life, I think in my own opinion, some type of future or dream is going to be needed in order to survive or last, because a lost person still always has hope. But some one who is lost, but doesn't want to be found, is what I can honestly say is a lost cause. I feel this way about life at times, but this is what my life has come to.
In my conclusion to this introduction of my story, I want to say thank you to everyone and everything that occurred in my life, good and bad. I give you thanks, and I appreciate everything, because with your righteous and foul ways of living, I wouldn't be the piece of work I am today. I am truly a product of my surroundings, and my surrounds haven't changed. But I do say now, I'm now a factor in this game. When I walk, I will not take a foul step. When I speak, lies won't come out my lips. And when I love someone, I will not hurt them like how I was.
My name is Louis the IV. I was born in November on the 5th, of 1992. I was a tall baby my mother always tells me, who no one used to like to hold due to me throwing up on everyone for some odd reason. If I could get away with it, I would probably still go around doing it. My father, who was also named Louis, if you didn't figure that out, was a man who most people described as a well-respected, bi-polar, righteous person. I have a different opinion, but I will not get into that, just yet.
My mother, Antoinette, is who really raised me and provided for everything in my life. I owe her my life and the world for what she has given me and taught me in life, even though from years of weird shhh happening, I've come to the conclusion that she's a witch of some sort, which I'll later get into, also.
My siblings are some real characters, which all have impact and role in this story. The oldest. Elia, older than me by two years, I would describe to you as a firecracker. Yeah, they cool, but you play with fireworks, you might blow a finger or two off. Well, the same goes for my sister Elia.
Then there's my baby sister, Angelica, which we all call Angel. She's off top my baby sister which is one-half of my heart. The other side of my heart is my little brother, Lucky Luciano, who is something of another world. You couldn't find another person like Lucky. He's something of a different breed, cut from a different cloth, you might say. This is whom I consider my family, my loved ones, my reason to strive for better, regardless of what you got.
Growing up with a father in and out of prison was kind of a good and bad thing, you might say. Some people might find me saying this rather ignorant, or just, okay, plain stupid. But hey, that's how I felt as a child. My father was a man of many faces. One moment he was nice, the next he wasn't; but to make this clear, my dad is someone that you can say if you meet him you will never forget him.
My first memories that I can recall are from way back in 1996 when I was around four years old getting up early. I can't recall how early it was, exactly, but I remember the sun being down still, and it was cold as hell sleeping in the backseat of my mom's old purple Chevrolet with my two sisters (Lucky wasn't born until 1999).
We'd pull up to San Quentin, or whichever state prison my dad was being stored in at the moment. My sisters rarely came, due to my mother not wanting to bring them, because… Well, who wants to take two little girls into a prison to see their father, and because of all the hassle? (My sisters are some pains in the ass; I'm sure most people know what I mean.)
But anyways, I remember my mom would wake me up and wipe my face down with a few wipes and make me look up to par. My father would snap if his children left anywhere not looking like they should look, which means showered, lotion on, hair combed, matching, and last of all, ironed clothes. (I've been ironing since kindergarten.) If my dad were to catch something wrong, my mom would receive a cruel glare that would send chills down the spine of a polar bear, also a slap upside the head. So we walked up to the stone castle-like building with men with rifles at every corner.
Long lines, the usual faces, and guards greeted us with metal detectors, the usual Saturday morning for my young life. I would get stale Jolly Ranchers for ridiculously high prices. The guards would either be rude or polite, depending on what kind of mood they were in at the moment. They'd always say hi to me, but I grew a hate for them over time, because in my young, immature mind of a four-year-old, they were the people who held my father away from me.
After an hour-long wait, we step into a long hall of glass windows and phones that had no dialer pad. It wasn't needed, because the only person the phone was to talk to was the person on the opposite side of that glass window. As everywhere in the castle, there was these knights armed, in case someone got out of hand. We'd take a seat to wherever we were directed, of course, and wait for my father to walk from wherever he was…
When my father appeared, he was a short, stocky man with a stir mean look on his face. He looked just like me, just way more tattoos and way more muscle. He'd smile at the sight of his family, as did we. He kissed my mother through the glass, waved to his children, said hello, and my mother an' him would talk about their business. Then, after what seemed like hours, I would get my turn to speak through the glass to him. It would be weird, because I would wait so impatiently for my turn, and look so forward to it, but when I finally got to my desired spot, I would become speechless, realize that I had nothing to say.
Come to think about it, I barely knew this man. But I loved — wait, I still do love him — with a passion from son to father. I guess I'm kind of like a dog. Your dog will love you, even if he doesn't know why. That's real love, I've heard from many people that it's not very appealing to compare yourself to a dog, but in reality, dogs have morals and standards — more morals and standards than most people in this day and age.
So that's how I feel towards my dad. I love him regardless of what he did. If he was wrong, if he hurt my feelings or me in general, I didn't care. Whatever he did, it could never faze how I feel. I'm loyal, even now. In our short but many conversations we had together when he was in or out of prison, he always taught me things. He didn't teach me, he engraved morals and beliefs into my mind and soul. To this day, I live by these few things — well, at least as much as I can.
It's like when you're born, you're a huge marble stone ready for life to carve and shape you into whatever you end up. He carved these thoughts so deep, you would have to pull my heart out to cross them out.
Now that I am grown, my mind is older and developed into a sharp tool I use like a surgeon uses his needle and thread to stitch up an innocent victim's bullet wound. I see that my father was completely right for treating the world like he did. He treated people how they acted. You acted as like a coward, that's how you will be treated; act like a whore, you will be treated like a whore; and if you're a liar, you won't last long, because people who aren't lying when they talking will spot you and exile you eventually. If they don't, then they're just liars themselves, because they're just lying to themselves, which is worst than lying to someone else. You have to be honest with yourself before you even attempt to be honest with someone else.
Strength like that is rare in this world. My father knew this, so he made it a point to filter his surroundings as much as possible. Now, ten years later, I know why he did this, and I wish he would've explained this part of life to me. But to be honest, you got to learn certain things yourself in this life. Most people are hard headed and don't learn until it's too late. Or, when they do figure it out, they're too old in life to benefit from the knowledge.
I'm grateful that I was blessed with knowing this at such a young age; my mother tells me I'm seventeen going on fifty. A random lady walked up to me one day when I was little. She told me I had an old soul in a little boy's body. I thought she was a witch or on dope. Both seemed like a reasonable conclusion. But she was right, come to think about it.
My father was murdered in the beginning of the new millennium, January 29th, as I recall. It was a the coldest winter, the coldest morning I've ever experienced in my short life anyways. I was seven years old, left to be there for my widow mother, my sister Angel, my sister Elia, and my three-month-old brother Lucky. That day I cried for a day, but I've always had a awful habit of keeping my feelings inside.
I've recently started speaking my mind out boldly, you could say. I stood in my own world, or cocoon, for many years. I felt like nobody would listen or would care about what I had to say, or could even help me with my inner thoughts and problems.
Let's be real, who really cares about a seven-year-old boy's opinion or thoughts, especially when you had environment like mine where the weak get laughed at and walked on? You tend to be intimidated by this when you're a child. Well, at least I did, anyways.
“Closed mouths don't get fed,” is a well-known saying in every household, I'm sure. Well, that saying goes a long way. If you don't speak loud, then people won't listen. If you don't speak with bold words along with a bold backbone, who will listen? I didn't have either of these things at seven years old. Later on down the road of life, I was taught them.
Sure, I was taught to never be punk and get bullied by nobody, normal people in other words, my peers. I suppose you could say it never fazed me. I always felt like my state of mind and my thought process was above or way ahead of anyone that was my age. This was true and false. But my point, overall, was I was just confused and too scared of the adults in my life to speak my mind and feelings. They never asked, so I never said anything. But I felt like the world was dropped on my shoulders. My father was no longer here to hold the world for me, so I had to hold it myself, which sounds like an over statement, but how else was I to feel?
My mother, brother and sisters were all I had. My uncles and aunts despised my mother and us, along with my grandparents who thought of us as Louie's children. My grandmother did not like my father, and she didn't try to hide it. They all thought they were better.
My father's side of the family migrated from motel to motel, living well, if you call that living. My grandfather was a nice, good man, but his ways were something of another breed, and his children were something spawned from only god knows where. They're something of a different breed. They're all loving and nice, but they are also cold blooded, and they weren't allowed around us all the time, because of my mother. She knew how they were. I used to get mad at my mother because she would alienate them from us, but now that I'm older and I see the reality of the world, she was doing me and my siblings a favor.
The day I seen my fathers lifeless body in a casket, he looked as pale as he did when he would first get out… as white as snow. You could see the veins bulging from his oversized hands. I touched them, no longer warm. They felt cold, so cold I couldn't explain the thoughts that were going through my head. The confusion, the anger, the fear, the reality of everything going on in my seven-year-old life. It was truly my worst day I've ever had. Watching my mother's eyes bloodshot red from the tears that would stop only to talk or to go to work.
My baby sister Angel turned purple when I she was just a little girl. I wonder what was going through her five-year-old mind when she figured out that daddy wasn't going to wake up and he isn't coming back. I know my sister Elia, who was by far the closest to my father, took it the hardest. My father and her had a type of bond that was stronger than anything I've ever seen before. The only type of bond I would compare it to the bond I share with my mother.
Elia wrote a speech at my father's funeral. Over a thousand people came to my father's funeral. Cars flooded the streets of Decoto (Union City, CA) to the breaking point. I saw men and women I've never seen before in my life crying, and flooding the place with flowers and cards. I seen Mercedes and BMW's all over, wealthy looking men with tattoos covering their bodies and faces. I remember seeing so many women crying I thought to myself, “How on earth did all these people know my father?” He was just my dad to me in my simple mind at the time. But obviously he was a lot more than just my father.
The last hour I spent with my father's lifeless vessel was my turning point as a child into whatever you would like to call it I am now. My heart dried up and crumbled into dust like a dead rose in a desert. It was like I buried my heart that day, not my father.