(c)Copyrights 2016 by Halim A. Flowers
All rights reserved. Published by SATO Communications. No part of this copyrights may be copied, reproduced, or distributed in any manner without the clear and express consent of Halim A. Flowers and SATO Communications.
THREAD – By Halim A. Flowers
“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.” (James Baldwin – Notes Of A Native Son)
“The Kennedy Center,” Raphael says out loud as he waits for the Metro bus to take him to his destination, “I can’t believe it.” He feels like he is dreaming.
“On my way,” Raphael text messages his mother this blazing hot summer afternoon in the nation’s capital. His mother had to work today so she could not take off to see his performance at the Kennedy Center. Raphael was sad that she could not be in attendance, but he planned on recording his solo alto saxophone performance on his IPad tablet to stream it live on his Facebook page for his family, friends, and loved ones to see. Even his haters. And, he had haters. Raphael reflects on a conversation that he had earlier this morning.
“Mo, you be playing them white people too close for me,” Shine, Raphael childhood friend told him before he had caught the bus earlier this morning to go to the Kennedy Center this afternoon. Shine did not agree with him playing his music for a rich white audience, especially for free. “Kill, you be throwing me off Ralph.”
“I’m doing me Shine,” Raphael told Shine as they stood in front of their project housing apartment building in the predominantly low income Ward 8 area of the District of Columbia. The surge of hyper-gentrification had not yet invaded this side of the Anacostia River yet, but all of the poor black citizens of the city knew well that its tide would soon come and wash them away from their beloved native city and land them on the shores of suburban Maryland. For all poor black folks in Washington knew well that their kind would never receive a warm reception in the neighboring Commonwealth state of Virginia.
“You charge people in the hood to play at their parties,” Shine replied resentfully, “but you going to play for them white motherfuckers for free. That’s some bullshit Mo!”
“Shine,” Jamal says as he looks at his black saxophone case in his right hand, “you’ve been hating every since I told you I was going away to college.”
“Boston, you anything Ralph,” Shine explained in anger. “Mo, on everything, you just like that wild nigga Kevin Durant. You could’ve went to Howard, a black college in the city, but you want to go all the way up Boston. They hate black people in Boston! It’s cold as shit up there!” Shine shakes his head side-to-side, still in disbelief that his childhood friend would choose Boston over their city.
“I aint trying to stay in D.C. all my life,” Raphael snapped back with a hint of frustration. “Fuck D.C.! This is the same city that got my father doing life in the Feds, all the way out California. My father told me to go to Berklee School of Music College in Boston.”
“Whatever,” Shine said as he waves his right hand in the air. “I don’t trust white people. Police killing us and shit, locking us up, white people taking our city from us, and you playing music for them for free like you a slave. Don’t charge nobody else in the hood no more!” Shine walked away without looking back at Raphael as the bus pulled up in front of them.
Raphael stood up to begin his journey to the Kennedy Center. He entered the bus, greeted the middle age black female bus driver, and walked to the bus. “Rosa Parks went to jail for you to sit up front,” an older lady told him as he sat down in his seat in the back. He understood the historical implications of what she said to him, but he loved being in the back of the bus, watching everyone enter and exit, while looking outside of the back window at the pedestrians in the city coming and going about their individual lives.
As the bus pulled off from his building, he saw Shine walking down the street in the opposite direction. And, their lives seemed to be going like that lately, in opposite directions. Shine had started selling synthetic marijuana this year and hanging out with a different crowd of people that were all headed to prison or the cemetery before they were twenty-one.
Raphael snaps out of his reverie and turns on his tablet. He is now on Constitution Avenue in the “rich” part of Washington. He didn’t have to worry about anyone trying to rob him for his IPad in this area of D.C., so he decided to log into his Corrlinks account online to email his father in federal prison. “On my way to the performance,” he types on the touch screen to message his dad. He knew that his dad would be proud of him today, regardless of what his friend Shine had said earlier about him performing free for white people. However, thinking about his father caused him to feel sad again because he realized that neither one of his parents would be in attendance to see him perform this afternoon.
Raphael’s father had been imprisoned since his mother was six months pregnant with him in her womb. His dad always wrote him letters, emailed him daily, sent him pictures, birthday cards, and even sent him money from prison. Nonetheless, he had never “been there” for any of his birthdays, proms, performances, or graduations. And, it angered him that his dad was doing life for selling drugs while people like George Zimmerman were killing unarmed young black men like him everyday and yet they were still at home with their children and families.
“Oh shit!” Raphael shouts as he suddenly realizes that the bus that he was waiting to transfer on had just passed him. He quickly jumps up from the bench, grabs his saxophone case, and runs after the bus to attempt to catch it at the next stop. He runs in the middle of the street holding his tablet in his left hand as he sees the light ahead turn red. He should be able to catch the bus at its next stop one block away. “HEY, STOP, THAT’S MY TABLET!” a voice yells out across the street.
“What about your mother’s jewelry?” Justin asks Michael.
“I can’t get to it,” Michael replies, lying to his best friend. He could access his mother’s jewelry collection, but he is afraid to. “What about your dad’s watch collection?”
“My dad will fucking go crazy if I steal one his Rolexes,” Justin explains. “Especially with all of the shit going on in Congress right now with the sit-in that the Democrats are doing in the House for a vote on the gun control issue. He’s still pissed off about that.” Justin’s father, Justin Long, is a top ranking Republican from Texas in the United States Congress House of Representatives.
“He’ll forgive you Justin,” Michael reasons, “he always does.” Michael’s opiate addiction is taking over his rationality. Michael’s parents were both powerful Congressional lobbyists on Capitol Hill. He had been stealing unnoticeable items from their home since they cut off his allowance and canceled all of his credits cards when they found out about his addiction to heroin and other opioids. Michael was instigating Justin to take a risk that he was afraid to take with his own parents because his father had threatened to allow him to go to jail before he saw him overdose on drugs.
“Forgive me!” Justin responds emotionally. “My dad is the mullah of the tough on drugs mafia in U.S. Congress right now. If he finds out I’m getting stoned during his Senate campaign, he’ll send me to Syria for ISIS to behead me.”
“Bullshit my ass Mike!”
“You’re dad would never threaten you with prison like my dad did me.”
“You don’t know my dad like I do Mike, trust me,” Justin explains. “He’s a Bible Belt self-righteous holy roller on a modern Christian Crusade to save the world from vice. He feels like he’s carrying the torch for the War On Drugs that his idol Richard Nixon started decades ago. He’s a fucking lunatic with his politics on drugs.”
“How the hell are we going to cop today then?” Michael asks. His itch is taking over his body. He NEEDS a fix. “Lets rob a bank?”
“Are you crazy?”
“We can do it without a gun. Lets just write a note. I saw it on YouTube, how you can rob a bank with a note, no fucking guns.”
“Mike, are you really trying to go to prison?”
“I’m just trying to get wasted.”
“And end up in jail with all those fucking black guys, they’re real thugs man. They’ll anally rape you, make you their personal bitch.”
“We can join a skinhead prison gang to survive in there,” Michael responds as he watches cars drive pass them. His eyes are focusing on a Bank of America sign on a building across the street from them on Constitution Avenue. He scratches his face, he’s getting desperate, “I saw it on Orange Is The New Black.”
“Mike,” Justin says sharply to snap Michael back to their upper class reality, “that’s a female prison show.”
“So what, prison is prison Justin. We’ve got to get right man. I can’t deal with the reality of this mass incarceration, Radical Islamic terrorism, police brutality, War On Drugs, Black Lives Matter, transgender bathroom battle crazy ass world we’re living in while being sober!” Michael announces in agitation as he keeps scratching his pale face.
“Look,” Justin says as he points towards a guy getting out of a brand new convertible sky blue BMW. The top on the car is down.
“What, steal his freaking car?” Michael asks. “This isn’t Fast-N-Furious.”
“It definitely isn’t Orange Is The New Black either,” Justin says sarcastically. “We can steal his tablet from him.”
“What are we going to do with the tablet?”
“Take it to one of those black kids in Potomac Gardens. They’ll give us a couple of bags for a new IPad,” Justin answers as he watches the man standing across the street from them totally captivated by whatever it is that he is looking at on the tablet.
“Better than robbing a bank huh?” Michael agrees. They both began to walk towards the man leaning on the hood of his car. The man’s attention is still imprisoned by the content on his tablet. As they cross the street, the man looks up at them briefly, and quickly returns to touching the screen of the tablet with his right index finger.
“Go behind him,” Michael commands Justin as they reach the same side of the street of their unsuspecting victim. Justin cuts in between the car parked behind the BMW and gets directly behind the man. With the cover of the car down, Justin is able to look inside of the vehicle and see that it is an expensive brown leather bag sitting in the passenger seat. He goes up behind the man as he sees Michael cross in front of him, and he SHOVES his victim to the ground, watching him hit his head on the pavement as his eyeglasses fall off of his face. Justin CRUSHES the man’s glasses as he reaches inside of the car to grab the leather bag. Michael grabs the tablet from the man’s hand and they both run away back across the street. “HEY GUYS!” an unseen voice calls out.
“Look at them buns, so tight!” Bernard says as he watches his supple young neighbor perform her pre-jog yoga stretches in the small lawn in front of her house. Every weekday afternoon, he would come to his front window to watch the shapely young lady bend over during her stretching routine before she ran. He took pictures of her in those erotic poses dressed in her tight yoga pants and kept them stored on his cloud. “Comes with being a widow,” he tells himself to justify his voyeurism.
His wife had died ten years ago, and now, at the age of seventy, his only intimate pleasure came from watching his young neighbor doing seductive yoga poses and sunbathing naked in her backyard. “At least its not child porn,” he reasons with himself as he thinks about some of his former colleagues and friends that were now in federal prison for downloading pornography of under aged children.
In his mind, he was certain that she knew that he was watching her. Some days he would speak to her while she was laying down nude in her beach chair in her backyard across from him. She would carry on a conversation with him as she laid their on her stomach with her tight bare buns facing up towards him. She allowed him to consume her nakedness as if nothing was wrong with him seeing her that way. He swore that she had looked up from her beach chair one day that they were talking while she was tanning nude and she saw his wrinkled erection poking through his polyester summer shorts. She probably got a kick out of teasing the lonely “dirty old man” next door.