Fall of 1985, my freshman year at Red Bank Regional high school, there was a kid whose locker was down the hall from mine who came to school dressed in ill-fitting clothes that had holes in them. His name was Damion. I didn’t know him, but I sat behind his friend John in history class. Damion was very short and very skinny and his hair was often messed up. Other kids teased him. One day news went around the school that he had squared off to fight another kid, this guy Jeff, who was much bigger than him, and that Damion had pulled out a knife and made Jeff back down. I didn’t quite believe it. It sounded like something out of a movie.
I saw Jeff and asked him if it was true and he said it was. “He pulled a fucking knife on me,” said Jeff. “What was I going to do?”
The next day in history class, I asked John about it. “Oh, yeah,” John said, “That’s Damion. He’s crazy.” I think I then questioned the intelligence of bringing a knife to high school. “No, Damion’s smart,” John said. “People think he’s stupid, but he’s really smart. He is crazy, though. He doesn’t give a fuck.”
The next year, Damion started coming to school in nice clothes and fresh haircuts. He’d grown taller, too, and would often be talking to girls. By the time we were juniors, he was wearing very expensive-looking suits and jewelry and brand-new sneakers with the tags still on them every day.
Everyone knew what was going on. A girl in my homeroom who had grown up near Damion told me that he was making $30,000 every weekend. I didn’t quite believe it, I don’t think. But then, I didn’t really understand how much money that was anyway at that point. She told me that every weekend he’d get two hotel rooms. One where he’d keep his stash, one where’d he’d sleep. And that he’d rent a new Mercedes or BMW to drive around in. “He’d better stop before he turns 18,” she said. “The cops are just waiting for him.”
I don’t remember Damion being at graduation. And I hadn’t heard news of him until last week, when he was sentenced to 20 years in prison-eight before being eligible for parole-for first-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute and second-degree money laundering. He was arrested last year when police found more than $1 million worth of cocaine and heroin, and four guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle, after searching his two Asbury Park apartments.
His lawyer told a reporter from the Asbury Park Press that Damion is not going to sell any more drugs after he gets out prison. “He doesn’t want to live this lifestyle anymore,” the lawyer said.