< My Mother vs. The Streets


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Today's Radio Rookies story comes from a 16-year-old who, like many teens, often doesn't think about the consequences of her actions. Scientific research has shown that the decision-making part of the brain is not yet fully developed in adolescents. One professor of psychiatry says the teenage brain is a bit like the Nike slogan: Just Do It. Radio Rookie Jacuyra's mom tries to keep a close eye on her, because she knows her daughter has made some serious mistakes in the past. (A note to listeners: this story includes talk of teens and sex.)

[walking up stairs]

JACUYRA Mother I'm home!

[cooking sounds]

MOTHER: [speaking in Spanish]

NARRATION: That's my mother, she's always mad at me.

MOTHER: Listen, I don't have no time, I'm working right now very busy.

NARRATION: On the weekend my mother makes food to sell. And my little brother and I deliver it to people around the neighborhood. When I'm leaving for a delivery she tries to be funny and says: "I'm gonna spit on the floor and you better be back before the spit dries." She knows I'm gonna talk to boys.

JACUYRA: Why you don't you trust me?

MOTHER: You too fresh.

JACUYRA: I'm not fresh!

MOTHER: Very fresh.

JACUYRA: I don't think I'm fresh.


JACUYRA: No. I think I'm a nice young lady.

MOM: Ok, nice young lady.

NARRATION: My mother wants me to be a nice young lady. But it seems like everybody else wants me to be "that chick"—that girl that everybody wants to date. I come from a Panamanian family full of girls that have big butts, thighs, hips and all that good stuff.

[walking down the stairs]

NARRATION: My mother was that chick and all my aunts were that chick—so it's part of my heritage.

[opening the door, going outside, street sounds]

JACUYRA: Hi people! How you all doing?

NARRATION: In my neighborhood, if you're that chick and you want to be seen, you go on Franklin Ave. Franklin's a chillable place where if I dress to impress—I get mad attention. So does my friend Serena, she's one of my besties.

JACUYRA: Do you like the attention you get from guys?



SERENA: Because, I'm the bomb like tick, tick.


NARRATION: My mother doesn’t want me on the Ave. because that's where all the boys are. She wants them to notice me, but I'm supposed to keep-it-pushing—just keep walking. And it's true. Sometimes being "that chick" on the Ave. can lead a girl to trouble. It all starts when you get bagged...

JACUYRA: What's getting bagged?

MOOKY: Getting bagged is when the boy gets your name and your phone number and all that. It's like the first step of going out with you.

NARRATION: That's Mooky, we used to kinda sorta date.

JACUYRA: No, move! So when you bag a girl what do you look for in them?

MOOKY: Sexiness.

NARRATION: In my neighborhood bagging doesn't mean having sex. Like Mooky said, it's just getting somebody’s number.

JACUYRA: So when girls hang out what you think they do?

MOOKY: They wanna get bagged.

JACUYRA: They wanna get bagged?

MOOKY: Yeah.

NARRATION: That's not true for every body. There’s my cousin Tiana—she lives to make me look bad. She was valedictorian for the 8th grade, I was nowhere close, she's a virgin, I'm not. And when she gets bagged...

TIANA: I just take the number and don't call.

NARRATION: I take the number and call—every time. But I bag nothing but cute boys.

[dialing phone]

NARRATION: When I'm home alone and my mother's out, I call my honey dips and tell them how bored I am.

[clearing throat, phone ringing]

DARNELLE: Hey now, what's good?

JACUYRA: Nothing. I'm bored.


JACUYRA: I'm bored.

DARNELLE: So come to my house if you're bored.

CHRIS: Yo, come over.

JACUYRA: What we gonna do when I come over?

CHRIS:I'll tell you when you get here.

JACUYRA: So if I was to come to your house, how am I not gonna be bored?

DARNELLE: Come and see, you gotta just come and see. I just can't tell you over the phone.

JACUYRA: [laughing]

JONATHAN: You call like 6 times!


JONATHAN: One, two, three...

JACUYRA: [laughing]

CHRIS: Come over.

JACUYRA: And what are we gonna do when I come over?

CHRIS: Sit and watch TV.

JACUYRA: [laughing] Watch TV, you ain't even got cable!

GEORGE: Say, you better not be getting yourself into no trouble.

JACUYRA: You know me George I'm not getting into no trouble.

GEORGE: Alright, you say that now.

CHRIS: Come around the corner.


CHRIS: Come around the corner.

JACUYRA: Right, right now?

CHRIS: Yeah.

JACUYRA: I gotta wait till my mommy walk out the house cause she about to leave right, right now.

NARRATION: Well I'm lying—I'm not going over there. Ok, sometimes I do.

[phone call fades in]


NARRATION: I get caught up in the moment.

CHRIS: Yeah.


NARRATION: And that's when things can get out of control.

JACUYRA: You home?


JACUYRA: What are you doing?

NARRATION: This is Chris.

CHRIS: Yeah.

NARRATION: We bagged each other on my block. I was walking to the laundromat in some poom-poom shorts—real short ones.

CHRIS: And you was like 11 when I first me you. See how you lie to me.

JACUYRA: [laughing] I was 12!

NARRATION: He gave me his number—after that we started talking on the regular.

JACUYRA: Nobody tell you to be going around bagging girls!

CHRIS: Who me?

JACUYRA: Yeah you.

CHRIS: How you figure that's what I do.

NARRATION: Chris is a little older than me.

CHRIS: I'm ugly. Girls don't like me.

NARRATION: I used to hate when he'd see me in my school uniform—those nasty grey slacks, even though he said he thought it was cute. But we didn't get serious until just before my 8th grade graduation.

CHRIS: [singing]

JACUYRA: Oh my god, Chris! You really singing.

[singing fades under]

NARRATION: A few months later I let him take my virginity—we didn't use a condom. He didn't bring it up and I didn't either.

CHRIS: [singing]



NARRATION: I just wasn't thinking straight.

JACUYRA: You need to stop frontin' for real, for real. Keep it a hundred.

CHRIS: I am keeping it a hundred.

NARRATION: So one thing led to another and I got pregnant.

JACUYRA: Would you have been a part of the baby's life?

CHRIS: Of course.

JACUYRA: In what way?

CHRIS: In every way.

JACUYRA: Like what? Be specific.

CHRIS: Every way a parent is supposed to. What time is it? 5:30. By 6:30, chicken should be done.

JACUYRA: [half laugh]

NARRATION: That's crazy. I'm talking to him about a baby and he's talking about chicken? Wow.

JACUYRA: But I was 14 at the moment.


JACUYRA: You know I was 14, right?

CHRIS: Uh huh.

NARRATION: Anyway, I wasn't going to be able to take care of the baby by myself so my mother made me get an abortion.

MOTHER: [speaking in Spanish]

NARRATION: She says she needed me to have a future not a baby.

NARRATION: [speaking in Spanish]

NARRATION: : And then her little smart behind says, "You don’t even know how to wipe your butt."

MOTHER: [speaking in Spanish]

NARRATION: Ma, you cannot say that!

NARRATION: And that I'm a little girl and I need to graduate, not have a baby.

MOTHER: [speaking in Spanish]

NARRATION: Sometimes I feel sorry for my mother and I try to think twice before I do something stupid. But then right in front of my own face I mess up again.

NARRATION: [walking into court] Now look at me, I'm walking into a Manhattan courthouse because I got in trouble, and not just regular trouble. I got arrested.

NARRATION: [school sounds] One crazy afternoon, two of the homies from school asked me to skip class and come shopping with them. We went to a department store, they picked out two polo shirts—for them—gave me a credit card and told me to pay. Come to find out, one of them stole the card.

MS. COCO: Why do you think they picked you?

JACUYRA: I don't know.

MS. COCO: Think about it.

JACUYRA: The credit card was one of my teachers.

MS. COCO: What made you do it?

NARRATION: This is my advisor, Ms. Coco, schooling me about it.

JACUYRA: I don't know.

MS. COCO: Really, you don't know? Think back to that moment, what happened?

JACUYRA: I wanted to go shopping.

MS. COCO: And you didn't think to ask where the money came from?

JACUYRA: No, cause usually they have money in their pocket and stuff like that.

MS. COCO: Um hmm. You said you felt scared, and how do you feel now? Do you still feel scared?

JACUYRA: I feel like kind of like okay now.

MS. COCO: Ok. You should be terrified. And so you just have to figure out, do you want to go to college or do you want to go to Rikers?

JACUYRA I want to go to college.

MS. COCO: So, it's everyday you gotta remember that choice—that that’s what you want to do. And if you chose to hang out on Franklin Ave. it's all around you. But none of us can make that decision for you, at all. It's gonna be you.

NARRATION: I know what you're thinking, I'm gonna end up in Rikers or being somebody's baby-mother. Maybe, maybe not.

[doing dishes]

NARRATION: But, for now I'm stuck in the house on punishment, washing dishes, mopping the floors, cleaning the stove like a Panamanian Cinderella. My mother might think she can turn me into a nice young lady, but I don't think so. Like she says, "a mother gives you life, a mother cannot give you mind."

For WNYC, this is Rookie Reporter Jacuyra.

Produced by:

Courtney Stein


Marianne McCune