Let Me Just Breathe

Email a Friend

MARIANNE: I’m Marianne McCune – you’re listening to Up From Down – WNYC’s Radio Rookies on how they made it through their teens.

Jesus: Alright, so it’s Halloween of 2004.

MARIANNE: That’s Radio Rookie Jesus Gonzalez.

Jesus: I was meeting up with friends that night.

MARIANNE: For Jesus, it’s one of those nights when you’re young that almost sends your life in an entirely different direction. This is a story about the most basic kind of survival. But let me give you a little background: Jesus lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn -- a neighborhood that’s full of life, but also has a violent side.

An interview about a night that almost took Jesus Gonzalez's life in a completely different direction. It was Halloween of 2004, and Jesus got into a confrontation with P-Mac, another teenager from his neighborhood. P-Mac pulls a knife and swings at Jesus, who gets away but is later faced with the question of whether or not to seek revenge.

CLIP: Everybody’s got a gun in Bushwick, yo. Everybody.

MARIANNE: That’s an interview from Jesus’ first radio story, nine years ago, about how easy it was for kids in his neighborhood to buy guns. He was only 15.

Jesus: You know a couple of people that sell guns? Chaos: I sell guns. Jesus: You sell guns? Chaos: Yeah I sell guns. I sell a lot of guns

MARIANNE: Now as a teenager Jesus could easily have let his life get swallowed up by that world. But, instead, he kept finding ways to escape. Like … on that Halloween night. Jesus still remembers it well – so we stuck him in a studio and got him to take us back.

Jesus: I wind up bumping into a friend. And I really didn’t know his personal business and what he does in the street. What I did know was he was cool with me, right?

MARIANNE: They stop by a house where a bunch of people are drinking and watching basketball. And within a few minutes, Jesus sees his friend arguing with this guy who’s known for acting crazy. Jesus calls him P-Mac.

MARIANNE: So what happened next?

Jesus: I hear P-Mac talking about getting a banger. And a banger means a knife or a gun. And he starts like scrambling around the room, and that’s when I started walking down the steps.

MARIANNE: But now P-Mac starts coming after Jesus.

Jesus: I told him to fall back. It ain’t got nothing to do with me. That’s your personal business. And step out my face. Then I see he had his hand in his pocket and he pulls out a knife. (Wow). And he wasn’t--- like, he was aiming for my face. And luckily at the time I was very much into boxing, that when he swung the knife I weaved like towards my left, and it caught my left shoulder. And it cut my clothing.

MARIANNE: Jesus has the good sense to run away. But as soon as he gets to where his friends and some cousins are hanging out, they … want to go right back. They want revenge.

Jesus: One of them he was 22, and a police officer. So he was just like, ‘Yo, let’s go back.’

MARIANNE: And part of you wants to do that.

Jesus: Yeah. I really feel like getting back at him because I knew he went right back up stairs and stood there and probably laughed at the fact that I ran. But ummm things were happening so quick oh so quick. Weapons were being drawn and some people were drunk and the cars were being started and people calling me pussy. Like, how you gonna back down? There’s 13, 16 people. You know where he’s at. You can just go right now. And you can get away with it. You know, you got a police officer with you. You know? It’s crazy. It was like the hood was knocking at my door.

Jesus: I was telling them I need to breath real quick, I need to breath. Let me breath real quick. I remember just sitting in the corner on a little recliner in the living room where we all met up at. And I just, I had a choice to make. I was a senior in high school. I was ready to graduate. I do community work. I can’t get wrapped up into this. Nobody F’s with Jesus man. Like nobody does that to me. You know what I’m saying? That just doesn’t happen to me.

Jesus: I was already at a point where Bushwick Brooklyn was not my world. You know what I’m saying, There was more to look forward to.

MARIANNE: Jesus tells his friends to hold back, at least for a few days. And as those days pass, the rest of his life, the part that has a lot of promise, comes back into focus, and --- he just drops it.

Jesus: I let it go. With him- he was willing to stab me up -- he had more time on his hands, and a lot less to look forward to. Because if you willing to stab somebody, if you willing to do that, it’s cause you willing to throw life away. That means you have nothing to live for, besides his pride. And I’d seen bigger and better things for me.

MARIANNE: THERE’S ONE MORE CHAPTER TO THIS STORY. A few months after Jesus came face to face with P-Mac, he got a rare opportunity to look back on the decision he made and see how his life might have been different if he’d chosen revenge.

Jesus: I was at a college meeting, I was filling out a college application and a friend of mine, Sarah, she walks in the room. And she looks kinda sad, she said she just came back from a funeral. And I said: ‘Yo, whose funeral you came back from?’ She says a name I didn’t recognize. And when I looked at the picture, it was P-Mac, it was the one that tried to cut me. He got shot in the head, three times. I had my college application in one hand, I held the obituary on other hand. And I felt kind of cold. He was my age. It could have been any one of us, you know what I’m saying? It could have been any one of us. I looked up and thanked god I wasn’t involved or got wrapped up into that situation. I just let it go.

MARIANNE: Jesus Gonzalez is finishing college at Hofstra University on Long Island. You can hear that first story he did - about guns in Bushwick - at Radio Rookies.org.