Sunday morning, 8.30 hours; I startle awake because of the incredibly annoying, continuous sound of the doorbell. Even though I’ve only recently moved to my new apartment, I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to the doorbell. As fast as I reasonably can, I jump out of my bed. “Who the hell would be ringing my doorbell at this particular time – the one day I don’t have to be woken up by my alarm clock?” While the bell keeps on ringing, I quickly grab some clothes, which I’m putting on while making my way to the front door. While I was running up the stairs, some possible options flashed through my head; “the mail man…? My parents, perhaps?” I jumped off the stairs to the front door, pulled it open… And there stood Torro, ready for his interview.
Encounter on the streets
Torro, a.k.a. Tyron Duwaer, is a small Antillean man with big dread locks (and a big mouth) whom I met earlier that week out on the streets. He approached me on the exact moment when I just got home from university and was about to turn around the key in the keyhole of the front door. Immediately, Torro started to tell me an elaborate story about his life. However – as regularly is the case when you meet strangers out on the street – I only listened to his story with one ear. I did catch some of the things he was saying though; “… did a lot of bad things…been in jail for 14 years…addicted…found God…”. After hearing his sputter for a while, I cut him off and asked him what he wanted; “money?”. Of course. Something that’s normally entirely against my principles. Giving money doesn’t help anybody, it only gives people more reason to stay on the path they’re on. Yet, for this one time I wanted to make an exception, because of the talkativeness of this small but interesting man. I suggested we’d ‘trade’; money for an interview. Torro was enthusiastic right away and we agreed that he would meet me here at Saturday again – he already knew where I live anyway. Unfortunately, Torro interpreted the set time a little more loosely (he “he forgot about it for a moment”, as he told me), so Saturday afternoon became a Sunday morning.
Livin’ the good life
Of course, I had never thought Torro would still come back for the interview after he missed our initial meeting. Moreover, the chance that someone you met out on the streets – someone you gave money – would come back to share his story does not seem that big. Fortunately, the feeling I had about Torro earlier got to be confirmed; he’s a man of his word. While he was only just inside, right away he again started to talk about his life experiences elaborately. Quickly I grabbed my pen and notebook, and there I was; half awake, sitting on my own dinner table with a stranger. Not really a desirable situation, I admit, perhaps even dangerous, but I think that sometimes you have to be able to give trust to people – even when no one else can.
Torro wanted to start his story with his birth; March 10, 1974 in Curaçao – at the time of our meeting he was almost 38 years old. As a child on Curaçao, Torro had a good life; “I was raised by mother and stepdad, we had everything”. However, this situation changed entirely when his stepdad cheated on his mother after having one drink too many. Because of this, Torro’s mother moved out and went to live in the Netherlands. Torro started to live with his ill grandma in Curaçao. At this time, he was 12 years old. Since his mom and stepdad now played a much smaller role in his life, Torro stayed home from school more and more. “My stepdad always used to say ‘Tyron, go to school’, but I rather did other things – have fun”, Torro said. “I also had many different girls during that time. At a certain point in time [around his 16th birthday], I had even made a girl pregnant.” It was around this time that Torro’s grandma didn’t feel like she could handle it anymore. Together with his stepdad, she decided that it was best if Torro would also move to the Netherlands – back to his mother.
Mugging and cocaine
Once Torro arrived in the Netherlands, he continued to live his life like he did in Curaçao; “a lot of going out, women and playing sports”. Initially, this lifestyle worked out well for Torro, however, he slowly came into contact with a certain group of people. “I regularly saw people selling drugs out on the streets. And since I was still young, I thought it was cool. So, I wanted to hang out with those people.” While Torro continued to live exuberant, he started dealing drugs and it wasn’t until much later when he also started to use drugs himself – because of his activities as a dealer. It started with smoking some weed out of curiosity, however, this escalated quite rapidly in the heavy use of cocaine. “I became addicted to coke and I had a lot of debts because of it – a lot of problems. Coke can make you forget all those problems, but after two minutes that feeling is gone already. Then you start doing crazy things.”
From that moment on, Torro started to mug a lot of people on the streets; in the beginning, he said it was because of the coke, but later on he also did it while he was sober. He needed the money to pay for his addiction – a lot of it. “I only had to threaten people to get what I wanted – I frightened them with my mouth. I’m a good talker”, so he told. “Most of the times it sufficed to say that I carried a knife or gun with me; I never hit or stabbed anyone.” Until around a year ago Torro carried on to do this; sex, drugs… and mugging. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in my life; I saw people get shot, people dying. One time they shot at me too; a few years ago, here in Rotterdam, at the Marconiplein. De bullet didn’t hit me, but it truly is a miracle that I’m still alive”. Naturally, a lifestyle like Torro’s is not without its legal consequences. Torro says he has been behind bars for 14 years in total. “I saw every prison here in the Netherlands, I went everywhere. Every time after I got out, I got arrested again a few months later. As a stupid donkey I kicked the same stone over and over again”. Recently, Torro has been trying to better his life.
A new start?
And it turns out that isn’t easy. “Rotterdam is a bad environment for me. Here at Kruiskade I can’t learn anything. People walk around with guns, with drugs, so here I will definitely make mistakes again.” Torro also can’t count on the help of his social network with this; “I don’t have any friends, only acquaintances. They tell me they want to help, but they only want one thing; use me”. Torro explains that he regularly steals for his ‘acquaintances’, because they tell him to; laptops and mobile phones, for example. “If I get €50, – Euros for something that they’ll sell for €600, – I’m already satisfied. I just really need the money.” The only person that could’ve helped him, his mom, kicked him out of the house last month. Now, Torro has nowhere left to go. “I’m a good man, I was properly raised, I’ve got a lot of potential, and yet, I’m left with all these problems. I have to get out of my current environment, it’s dangerous. This is no life, out here on the streets.” Despite the current situation he’s in, Torro’s religion gives him hope.
“One year ago, a lot of things have changed for me. Then I found God.” Something inside of Torro snapped last year when his application to go to rehab got rejected for the third time in a row; he said the judges in court called him a ‘monster’, unable to fit in society. “At that point, I lost hope, I didn’t know what to do”. So, in complete desperation Torro took off his clothes, cried and turned to God; “I kneeled down, completely naked, and I asked; ‘God, you exist right? That God, aren’t you love?’.” Two times Torro turned to God this way and miraculously enough, his application to go to rehab got approved not much later. “God was the one who opened that door for me.” Torro devoted his life to God ever since and has been trying to better his life with it. “I made mistakes, I admit that. But I’m responsible for the consequences, not God.” For a split second, everything seemed to head into the right direction again; Torro had his own apartment, a job, he went to the clinic, he even had a girlfriend whom he loved very much. Yet, his past caught up with him and he made a mistake once again; “two mistakes”, he admits, “I went to the hookers and I did some cocaine with friends”. Now he has nothing left; he is back where he started, but he remains hopeful. Hopeful for a second chance from his probation officer. Hopeful for a stable life. Hopeful for a new start.
Do you think a man like Torro deserves a new start? Or do you agree with the judges in court and is Torro a ‘monster’ indeed that is better off behind bars, punished for his past? Let us know.