Friday, September 2. 2005
Posted by Johnny Elbows in Hacking Existence
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I thought I had seen the last of him, but just like a bad penny, he came back. His trademark single knock, the knock that had bothered me so many times when we were roommates, announced his arrival. I was tempted to ignore it. I was in the middle of an important homework assignment, and he would interrupt me. I turned back to my paper, but for some reason, I felt bad, leaving him standing at the door.
I opened the door and stood there, waiting for him to say something. He looked at me, waiting, I suppose, for me to say something. He glanced around nervously. Finally, he extended his hand. "Hi."
I returned the handshake coolly. "Hi."
Once again, we stood in silence, waiting for the other to speak. Howell kept looking around like he was nervous. "Umm, I was wondering, could you do a favor for me?"
"I . . . well, see here's the thing . . . umm . .. I need to get into the Black Quarter, and I was wondering . . . "
"You were wondering if I'd get you in. Hmm, let me think about this, NO! Why would I vouch for you?"
His face fell. He turned to walk away, but before I could close the door, he turned back. "Please? You don't understand. See, the feds are after me, and I've got to meet someone, and . . . well, never mind. I shouldn't talk about it probably. I just. You're the only black friend I have."
That caught me off guard. He thought I was his friend. He still hadn't figured out why the feds were after him. And he trusted me. That was somehow appealing. But I didn't want to go back there. Some of us got out. And if we did, it was best that we never return. Those who returned never quite made it. They were always on the fringe, never completely trusted. I couldn't say why, but I really wanted to help him. "Howell, I'm sorry. I just can't go back there."
"Yeah. OK. Sorry I bugged you."
I watched him walk away, and wondered what life must be like for him. He couldn't know that most of the people he thought were his friends despised him. How did people like him survive?
I closed the door, and went back to my homework. I had trouble picking up the threads of my thoughts. What would it hurt if I went back, just this once? I hadn't seen my family in years. It's a slippery slope, I told myself. Don't even think about it.
A heavy fist knocked on the door, startling me. I should have known they would show up.
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