For their Valentines Day program, This American Life on NPR broadcast a cluster of love stories in their usual format: people tell true life experiences, most with an odd angle or surprise ending. Some spoke of unrequited love, others about unusual breakups, and some even lived happily ever—after leaping over obstacles. One of the stories knocked me out, but not in the way you’d expect or want to be knocked out on Valentines Day. No, this story didn’t fill my heart with love unending, or give me hope and inspiration for the human race. It didn’t even make me cry. This story absolutely enraged me.
It was told by Justin, a high school senior who fell, hard, for a new girl in his school. She arrived mid-term and immediately caught all the boys’ attention with her mature (his word) good looks. She was in two of his classes, and when he worked up enough courage to talk to her and even flirt a little, she did not discourage him.
There was something about Naomi , however, that we in the audience knew, but the hapless Justin did not: she was an undercover narc. That’s right, those clever slimy creeps at the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) came up with a scheme whereby a bevy of young, recently graduated cops fan out to schools all over the country—that is, to those states in which marijuana is still illegal—posing as students. I’d even hazard a cynical guess that they purposely chose those states with the most draconian drug laws in which to lay their evil traps. This incident occurred in Florida, where marijuana is classified as a
Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has high potential for abuse and “no currently accepted medical use,” according to state statute (Fl. § 893.03). Florida also criminalizes marijuana trafficking, and possession or sales of drug paraphernalia, with a range of penalties, going up to 30 years in prison. (Fl. Stat. Ann. § 893.13.)
This American Life regularly runs long stories, but this one seemed even longer than most. Maybe that’s because I knew what was coming and my heart began cracking long before Justin’s did. He courted her for months while she strung him along, keeping him in suspense about attending the prom with him. This kid was going to graduate in a few months. He planned to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He had good grades. He had good friends. He did not regularly do drugs. Yes, he’d occasionally used pot; who by his age has not? In California he’d be toking a doobie after lunch on the lawn across from Berkeley High. Not in Florida: in Florida the kid watched his ass—that is, until a pretty girl with a heart made of razor blades sank her claws in him.
While he anxiously awaited her decision on the prom, she casually asked him if he had any weed. He did not, but if she wanted some, he said, he’d try to get it for her. So removed was this kid from drug culture that it took him a couple of weeks and a
whole lot of nerve to make a connection, and even more nerve to pass the stuff along to his beloved. When she handed him $25 he, like any teenage boy in love, refused to take it. He was showing off, giving her a present, trying to look like a big shot. Lest we forget, it was Naomi who’d put him in this position.
Ah, but in the state of Florida if you give someone less than 20 grams of marijuana without being paid, it’s only a first degree misdemeanor. For that the punishment is a puny year or less in jail—but selling the stuff can get you as many as 30. Naomi had to make Justin take payment. They went back and forth about it, she insisting, he refusing. Naomi, with more on the line than Justin, was the more persistent, and in exasperation he finally took the cash. Deed accomplished. Criminal apprehended. Another dealer off the street.
Justin got a three year sentence. No high school graduation. No Air Force: the US military excludes “felons.” And Justin’s reaction? With his life in ruins, his future shattered, his dreams all trashed, you’d think he’d be furious at the bitch. But is he? He is not. This poor creature is heartbroken, plain and simple. He responds as he might if she’d left him for another guy. That is the full extent of his emotions—at least as far as the program’s narrative takes us.
And Narc Naomi? No regrets, she says. Well bully for her. And bully for the U.S. of A. and their war on drugs.