A young, beautiful, dark-skinned woman, her hair in cornrows and her arms wrapped around her pregnancy, sits at the end of a park bench, silent and depressed, and for good reason: She's married to a 25-year-old drug dealer who suffered brain damage in a beating last spring, and he faces prison this fall. You can understand why she might want to avoid the conversation at the other end of the bench - the one between the father of her unborn child and the newspaper guy. The woman turns her back slightly and stares at the dry grass at her feet.
"She's having a tough time right now," her husband says, his mouth moving
oddly, as though a dentist's Novocain hadn't worn off.
Things are clearer about the decade leading up to the beating.
In the decade leading up to the beating, Drew was a cocaine dealer,
hustling in lower Park Heights or wherever the business took him, deep into
the culture of dark corners and young men killing each other. He had dropped
out of school as a teenager and started selling coke. He did little else.
Though estranged from his family, he sometimes would ask his mother to bring
food to a building in Hampden or an abandoned rowhouse in Park Heights,
wherever he was staying.
"He was living crazy," his mother says, and she still doesn't understand
"I didn't raise my son in some drug-infested area where there were dealers
right outside your door. I raised him mostly in this area [Pikesville] and for
a while in Catonsville. ... He's never seen his mother do anything but work
for a living. I've been a bus driver for seven years, and I was a correctional
officer before that. I raised two other sons, and they're doing fine."
For the longest time, she didn't want Drew anywhere near his younger
brothers, and told him so again last spring - the day after Baltimore police
came to her Pikesville apartment with a fugitive warrant.
They were looking for Drew, of course. Charged with possession of cocaine,
he had failed to appear for a court hearing. "I told the police he wasn't
here, but they searched the place anyway," his mother says. "Later, I told
Drew, `I can't have this. I can't have police surrounding my house in this
nice neighborhood. I'm trying to raise my other sons here.'"
Sometimes, on those occasions when Drew would drop by her apartment, his
mother found herself staring at him, filthy from the street, in dire need of a
"I would look at this child I gave life to - ravaging my refrigerator like
he hadn't eaten in forever - and wonder, `What happened?' The things he told
me about, things he'd seen and survived, people getting killed. .... He wasn't
afraid to be out there. But he is now."
He is now because of the beating.
His mother doesn't know much about it; no arrests have been made, and she
doesn't expect any. She just accepts it as the kind of violent event that
occurs in the life of a drug dealer. Drew spent about a month in intensive
care at Johns Hopkins before being released to his mother; he lives with her
now, the first time in years that they've shared a domicile.
"Drew almost died," his mother says. "When the police got to the motel,
they found him on the ground. I didn't think he'd ever be well. They said he
had brain damage. I prayed to God for his complete recovery. I was so happy he
was alive, but I was so afraid that he wouldn't be the person I knew."
Turns out, he's not.
The brain damage has had a profound effect, and Drew is no longer dealing
drugs. "He has a fear of the streets that he never had before," his mother
She found him a job busing tables at a Pikesville restaurant that
apparently has a tradition of hiring ex-offenders. Drew started Tuesday, and
his mother and grandmother were excited for this little victory.
But it may be short-lived. The drug charges against him are pending.
"I have to go to court on Thursday," Drew says.
What did his public defender say would happen?
"She said I could get five years, even with a plea."
Maybe the judge will give Drew a break because of the beating. Maybe the
judge will see that enough damage has already been done, and with a job and
family support, there's hope for Drew to get out of the drug life for good.
Drew just shrugs when I say these things. His beautiful and silent wife,
arms wrapped about her unborn child, turns her back to us fully, hard away at
the end of the bench.
Ex-dealer is no longer the man he used to be
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