welcome back. Last chapter we were discussing my middle school and I was bringing us to the point where one set of aunt and uncles no longer wanted the responsibility of me and my sisters. Really, they didn’t want the responsibility of me. Since I was no longer going to be at boarding school, I was going to be living at home. It was mutual, I couldn’t stand them and they couldn’t stand me. I couldn’t have been happier to never have to go and be in their existence again when I was leaving. So we literally went seven miles across the street to my other aunt and uncle’s house, my mom’s side of the family. During the summer, it was different. There was no school, so the environment at my new aunt and uncle’s house was really relaxed, there were no responsibilities. I had my basketball and I had football. I was a year older, remember, I repeated sixth grade, I was able to be on the varsity football team because of my size and my athletic ability.
At the time through eighth grade, I was on three different basketball teams. I was with the school, AAU, then a city team. So me and my buddy, who used to live in the dorm with me, were literally traveling every day and every night. If we weren’t at school practice, we’d be at a different practice. If we weren’t at that practice, we’d be at a different practice. So we were all over. That summer, it was mostly just AAU, we would travel around California basically, The furthest we traveled was to Las Vegas to play basketball.
When I came back from Vegas, it was time to start school. When school something was brand new. They weren’t as sport-oriented as my middle school. When I asked, “Why am I taking a foreign language?” They were like, “Because you have to.” And I was like, “Well, I’ve never taken a foreign language before. I don’t want to.” They’re like, “You have to take a foreign language.” As long as I could play sports in middle school, why did I need a foreign language? I was athlete of the year.
Well, being an athlete and only thinking that sports mattered affected my life in a negative way. Through middle school, anything I wanted, I got. It did not matter. I was this statistic in the grade and I was an athlete. I was always in trouble, but I always got out of it somehow.
for three years, I was the master of my own destiny. I lived in a dorm, didn’t have parents. It was weird living at home every night. In the dorm, you have dorm parents, but it’s different. They’re not your parents. They’re not your guardians. They’re just kind of like a glorified babysitter.
But when I moved in with my aunt and uncle, then it was less structure, more rules, if that makes any sense. So the structure was completely different. I mean, I could go to the refrigerator when I wanted to. I could do whatever I wanted, but more rules as, “no, Erik, you don’t get to decide what you want”.
Physics. So now I’m taking a foreign language, never had to take a foreign language, got introduced to marijuana over the summer. Well, not really the summer. Yeah, it was about the summer, end eighth grade, early summer. When I first started, I was probably really stupid and slow. So physics was not making any sense to me. Mind you, I would smoke right before physics class.
All the other kids of color. They didn’t consider us smart enough to learn physics as freshmen. got to drop physics for the first year, they could take it later. It was too advanced for us. So I’m like, “Yeah, it’s too advanced. It’s too advanced.” I wanted a study hall.
Study my ass off on something I had no interest in, or go smoke and have a study hall, which one would you choose? Obviously, smoke, study hall. My family was not going for that. They disagreed with physics being too difficult for me. They took the stance of “Erik, you have to at least put in some energy. If you never pick up the book and you never open it, yes, physics is going to be difficult. But we’re not going to let you give up”. And I’m like, “I can’t do it.” They’re like, “Open the book.” I’m like, “That’s an awful idea, but no, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”
Three years before, the other family, they would have been like, “Yeah, he’s just not smart enough. He can’t do it.” And they would’ve given me a study hall. Would have been easy. Well, this new family, they told me straight out. They said, “Erik, if you do not give 100% effort and show us that you are trying, we’re going to make you take that F. And then you can drop out of that class.”
I’m going to say that again. I didn’t believe them. I did not believe them because it was not up to the school. It was my family who made this decision. The school would have dropped me. My family was like, “No, you will take this F. And this F will follow you forever, this is a decision that you’re making.” Talk about being a kid to being an adult fast.
Now, of course, what do you think I did? I took the F. Well, by taking that F, my family took me off of football. This was the first semester, all the way up until Christmas, this was an argument, so midway through basketball season. Now, they took me off the football team, but they told me they will not take me off of basketball. They will let the school do that.
Now, I wasn’t paying attention. I literally still thought that I could get out of everything. But when I took that F, I was like, “Man, fuck.” So what did that F mean? That meant that now I was on academic suspension for playing basketball. I didn’t know that was really going to affect everything. I could get back on the basketball team, but that means that I would have to increase my grades and show everybody that I was trying.
That was the end of the year. Come January, I had a new perspective. They took me off the team. I was like, “All right, I’m going to start putting more energy into this to try to get my grades up so at least I can maybe play spring sports and get myself ready for next football season.” The cutoff for fall sports was coming up. I mean, it wasn’t like next year is a new year. You could be on academic suspension for more than a season, if you never changed your grades. So that was kind of a wake-up call because they took the one thing that for years, that’s the only thing that schools cared about is that I could play sports. Now I’m in a new school and they don’t care. They literally ripped the sports away from me and said, “Sorry.”
Remember, middle school Harker and my uncle I was living with at the time was very frustrated with the school. He had been dealing with the owners of the school on a personal basis for three years, and it felt like a slap in the face when they just had some random secretary call and say I didn’t get into the high school. All right. So fast forward to the fall. I ended up going to a dance back at the old school. And the dean of the high school, which was my basketball coach, basically seventh and eighth grade. And he was my math teacher in sixth grade. He’s watched me grow up and he had been my coach. The relationship that a young athlete and their coach has is a close relationship. It’s kind of like a father figure.
He said, “Why are you not home? Why aren’t you here?” This is the dean of the high school. I told him, “I didn’t get accepted.” He looked at me like I was just crazy. And he was like, “What do you mean you didn’t get accepted? I’m the dean. How did you not get accepted? I would have seen this.” I was like, “I don’t know. I didn’t get accepted.” that really affected me because it’s like, well, what the fuck? What do you mean? The dean of the high school, my old basketball coach, is asking me why I’m not going to this school. I’m telling him I didn’t get accepted, and he’s looking at me like I’m crazy.
The next day, I was talking to my aunt. Mind you, I wasn’t at the family that I’d been living with for three years. This is the new family. This is my mom’s side of the family. Well, I told her the story about the encounter I had with my basketball coach and now the dean of the high school. And she told me, “Oh yeah,” and she said this nonchalant like it was like everyday news. She’s like, “Yeah, the school wanted your uncle to donate a lot of vans and your uncle said he wasn’t going to do it. And so, you didn’t get accepted.”
I’m going to say that one more time. The response was the school wanted to bribe my family in order for me to go to school. But my uncle did not accept the bribe, so the school did not accept me. So when my uncle on my dad’s side of the family got the phone call and was like, “Well, that’s weird. I’ve been talking to the owners of a school for years. Why are they just basically brushing me off like I’m a nobody?” Well, because the owners of the school had been negotiating with my other uncle as well, the entire time. And when he shut the money off, they kicked me out.
So let’s go back to sixth grade when I was like, “How did I end up going to Japan?” Because my family paid for me to go to Japan. And they probably paid for the only other black person, because I told my uncle I wanted him to go too. That is a very important thing for y’all to remember, because my family has done this on more than one occasion when I was older. They all tend to manipulate situations through finance. When you have something that other people want, you can kind of dictate a situation more than you should be able to.
I mean, years later, I have extreme trust issues with everything nothing in my life has been what it seems. There’s always something being a puppet master. something as large not accepted into a school because my uncle didn’t want to donate cars, that’s below shitty. But whatever, abandonment again.
All right, move forward. Now, during this time, this large argument with my mom’s side of the family over physics, caused a strain on the relationship, obviously. So during this time of the argument with my family, they had three little kids. They would fly to Utah, we were in the Bay Area, California. They would fly to Utah because their kids were on the ski team. So every weekend, they’d fly out to Utah. They were little kids, so it was okay for them to miss school. And they were way more advanced, so it was fine.
My grades were terrible, so they were like, “Uh-uh (negative), you’re not going, Mr. you want to fight us over physics. You’re not getting any perks.” So I wasn’t going. Well, since I wasn’t going, they had to send me somewhere. So at this point in time, during the week, I’d be with this family. During the weekend, I’d be back at my other aunt and uncle that didn’t really want me there, and I sure as hell did not want to be there. I was basically living in a divorced family’s house because on the week I’d be at one house and, on the weekend I’d be at a different house, switching back and forth. My sister was a senior at the time and I was a freshman.
So February, Super Bowl Sunday, I’m at my aunt and uncle’s house, my dad’s side, the ones that I didn’t particularly like. So I’m bored. I am extremely bored. By this time I’d been smoking a little bit of weed. I had some weed, while waiting for the Super Bowl, I was like, “You know what?” I mean, I was such an idiot. But at my mom’s side of the family, I could hide somewhere on the property, smoke, and change my clothes, wash my face, and no one would know. But at my dad’s side of the family, I couldn’t go on a walk unless I had permission. And then when I came back, it was more like a Nazi camp. I had eyes on me at all times. I couldn’t do anything. So the night before, I was taking a shower and I smoked a bowl in the bathroom and nothing happened. There were people walking in the hallway and nothing happened. So I was like, “Okay, okay, well, I can smoke in the bathroom.” Not a smart idea. “I’m going to smoke a quick bowl and then come back down, play some video games and wait for the Super Bowl.”
I go upstairs to the bathroom, I pack my bowl, and smoke a little bit. out of nowhere, bam, bam, bam knocking on our door. I open it, and I’m a“deer in the headlights”. My uncle said, “Give it to me.”I almost had a heart attack. He scared the shit out of me, I was too high to process anything.
I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I do remember he called the police, they weren’t going to take me to jail, but the police offered this place. I remember they were talking. I was grounded as usual, stuck in my room. they called every member of the family, like I had just murdered somebody. This is just marijuana. I know, it’s crazy. Marijuana is legal and used for post-traumatic distress syndrome, it’s good for you.
They called the police, told everybody in the family, police gave them this idea for troubled teens. And then when my uncle on my mom’s side came, he picked me up because they were getting back that night. My sister had already gone home, but I had to wait. My uncle picked me up by myself.
You would think he’d be yelling, screaming and all this kind of good stuff, he didn’t. We went home and he said nothing. He brought me into the room and he started crying. And I mean, this is my uncle. This is the person I’ve been looking up to. And I would have never thought that he would cry at all. And he said, “Erik, you don’t know what you’re doing. You are throwing your life away. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”
That affected me more than anything. It would have been easier if he had just yelled and screamed at me, but that tactic, I was not ready for that. not much I could do either. So the next day at school, everybody knew. I was kind of popular now in a weird way because everyone was asking me what happened.
Don’t forget, my sister was a senior. I was a freshman. So even seniors were coming up. And also at that time, it was really difficult for me because I played varsity football. So all my friends were juniors and seniors, but I was a freshman. I knew a lot of people in my freshmen class, but I wasn’t really close to any of them. Plus they were all a year younger than me. So the natural age group I was, was a sophomore. So all my friend group were sophomore, juniors and seniors to where those people, they’re more advanced. They’re older kids and I was an older kid. I was turning 16 in my freshman year. I was in the age group of the grade above me. It was just more natural I hung out with them.
Wednesday, February 2nd, I remember that day very well, I was getting in an argument with my best friend at the time. At the time, we were young entrepreneurs. So we were trying to figure out how we were going to make a little bit of money. Now, of course I was in trouble at home, but I figured it would be in a couple of weeks and everything will go back to normal and whatever. As long as I could get my grades back up, by summer time, this would be in a distant memory. So back to business as normal.
My friend and I were embarking on a new business venture “mushrooms”. We wanted to see if there was a market to make some money. He knew where we could get them for cheaper, and then we would try to flip them. So we were in a heated argument about who knows, because it’s not like we’re arguing about lots and lots of money. We were probably arguing over about $50 worth of mushrooms or something, not very much. I don’t remember exactly what the argument was about, but we were arguing. That was the last time we would talk for years.
So what happened? There’s two places you can be picked up. You get picked up at the back or in the front. It was typical for me to meet my sister in the back. This was my sister’s first day of work. She was working at Starbucks. During football season my aunt would pick me up from the back as well.
A weird thing happened. I was called to the front of the school, “Your uncle’s here to pick you up.” I was like, “My uncle? Why would my uncle come and pick me up?” I had no idea why he was picking me up. This was probably the first time ever he stopped doing what he was doing, stopped working, and came to pick me up from school. I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t connect the dots.
So I get in the car and we’re driving, he’s in a good, cheery mood. So I’m almost like, “Yeah, this was faster than I thought! A couple days and he’s already over it? Alright. This is easy.” We pull into the gate, there’s no cars, so I can’t tell what’s about to happen. I go in. I’m about to drop my backpack off and I kind of turned the corner a little bit and my aunt is like, “Erik, come here.”
When I turn the corner, I look in the room and both sides of the family, mom’s side and dad’s side of uncles are sitting down and they’re like, “Erik, sit down. We have something to talk to you about.” Now that brings us to the next chapter.