My plans had already been made. I had already taken the money under the counter without Cap’n Crunch’s knowledge. I walked the short distance to Dobbs Ferry from Cobalt and took public transit all the way down to Marble Hill and then walked the rest of the way down to Washington Heights. By the time I got there after all the delays and the waiting and the stopping to breathe in the fresh air the city had woken up and business as usual was under way. City Hall was open and in session so it was my chance to get Dwayne Jackson once and for all and just finish what I had spent so much energy on to accomplish. I asked for some directions to City Hall and then barged right in through the front doors.
“Good morning!” I was greeted by the secretary at the reception desk.
“Is councillor Dwayne Jackson in the building this morning?” I asked trying to be as civil and polite as I could.
“No, I’m sorry, he won’t be in office for another week or so. Would you like to leave your name and number and I will pass along a message to him to get back to you?”
“Uh, no thanks. I’ll come back in a week or two. Thank you.”
“Have a nice day!”
I walked out of that city hall feeling more deflated than ever. I had wanted to badly to just see that one last look on his face before I blew him away in the middle of City Hall. I had gone through all that trouble to finally get down to Washington Heights for absolutely nothing because the fucker wasn’t even around!
For the longest time I sat on the sidewalk at an intersection near the City Hall, just waiting for some idea regarding what to do next to just pop into my head and get into motion. The only thing I could possibly think of was either walk back or take public transit back to Yonkers and see if Eddie was home, apologize for all the shit I had done and ask him to help me somehow. I regretted the way things had ended between the two of us before I left. If there was a single person I still cared about in the entire universe, it was him. I wanted to feel the warmth of his presence again. After having spent extended periods of time away from the boys I missed their annoying company. And then something I had heard Jeff say echoed in the back of my mind.
“I’ve done nothing that requires forgiveness. I’ve only done what I needed to do to survive.”
I smiled softly at myself. Eddie lived according to that philosophy as well. Do what you’ve gotta do and fuck the rest. But it wasn’t like that for me. I went round and round aimlessly in circles not being able to find what I was looking for. I wasn’t even sure what that was supposed to be anymore. I didn’t know anything about life. I didn’t know anything about anything.
“I miss the sound of your voice Jeff,” I whispered to myself as I held back tears, “sometimes the silence screams so loud and the loneliness won’t leave me alone.”
In a surge of anger I got up from the sidewalk and got to the nearest bus stop and made my way to Yonkers to see Eddie. Thinking about Jeff made me realize just how short life really was and how even the last person I loved on earth could be taken from me in the blink of an eye. I would have been completely lost without Eddie after Jeff died. He and Byron were really the ones that kept me walking in a straight line after Jeff was murdered. The others cared, it was obvious, but they weren’t Eddie or Byron. They weren’t Jeff. They couldn’t fix me. They couldn’t bear my grief for me. They couldn’t take the burden of survival by yourself out in the streets for me. Were all the things I had done really forgivable because I needed to do them in order to survive? Maybe Byron’s God would go ahead and say yes, but I didn’t know anything about that. Getting even was all I wanted.
Back in Yonkers I barged into Eddie’s shack but it was empty. There was nothing left in his room either. He had moved out. There was nobody except me in the neighborhood it seemed. In my despair and loneliness I collapsed to the floor and started to cry and ask out why. WHY?! I knew that Lennie would probably be able to fetch him for me but I wasn’t in the mood to have to go through that or see the others. I knew that they’d give me an earful about my long walk and not even writing or calling for two weeks straight. I wasn’t up for that. I didn’t have the courage to face that. Once I dried up my tears I unloaded the gun and put it in my backpack for my own safety. It was the first time my own safety even crossed my mind. I suddenly longed for Eddie and I wanted to live another day to see him again. I simply laid down on the bare floor and listened to the wind blowing through the broken window.
After an unknown amount of time passed by, I heard footsteps coming up the skimpy metal staircase. The Ku Klux Klan? Catholic nuns maybe? The door to Eddie’s old room was still open but I was arranged in a way that I could see out into the hallway. I had no way of knowing who was coming up or what that person was coming up to do. I closed my eyes and imagined that it was one of my own coming up to see me. Or maybe it was Jeff coming back to get me and everything was just one big nasty dream and I would soon wake up from it and everything would go back to normal. I wouldn’t have to go out and kill Dwayne Jackson because he wouldn’t have ever killed my brother. I would still live with my mom and my dad and Jeff in a little pink house on a hill with blue skies up above. But that’s not what I saw when I opened my eyes.
“There you are!” Robin Crowley’s voice exclaimed joyfully as he walked into the room.
I wanted to cry when I saw him walk through that door but I couldn’t bring myself to shed a tear. I stayed on the floor right as I was and Robin got down on his knees to push my dirty hair out of my face and gently stroked my cheek.
“Why did you leave?” his voice was just a soft whisper, “Did you get scared?”
“I don’t know,” I choked up almost crying, “I couldn’t keep on doing what I was doing.”
“What are you running from? Just come back home, I’ll take care of you.”
“No, I can’t go back.”
“You don’t have to sail this world alone.”
I didn’t speak. I only wanted Jeff, Eddie. Robin eventually just got down next to me and held me in his arms. I held on to him with a tight grip so he wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t stand to be lonelier than I already was.
“How did you find me?” I couldn’t help but ask after an eternity of silence.
“I knew you were headed down to Washington Heights,” Robin’s voice was gentle and tender, “so I called up some of my friends and asked them if you had made it okay or if something had happened to you and that’s why you disappeared on me.”
“I’m sorry about that. It just couldn’t wait.”
“You could’ve just told me and I would have made arrangements for you to get there and do what you had to do.”
“I’m sorry. So did you follow me here after I left Washington Heights?”
“No, actually the person I called to see if you were okay was the clerk who sold you the tickets to come here.”
I chuckled under my breath.
“And considering the condition I found you in at my place, I kind of figured that you were homeless so I asked around the place and some street guys told me that you and your friends bunked in this neighborhood.”
“Yeah, the homeless communities kind of all know each other around here.”
“It’s good that you all look out for each other like that.”
“Yeah, you can say that.”
Robin Crowley and I spent the long cold and lonely night in Eddie’s former shack. I refused to go back to Robin’s duplex so he sacrificed his time and dignity to stay with me instead. For that he earned my highest degree of respect but I knew that in the morning he would have to go to work and I’d have to go back to being lonely and having to figure out how to move on without having to deal with my old life.
I’ve come way too far to give up now. I know that’s just the way it goes. Inside I realize that I’m the one confused. I understand the consequences to my choices and my actions. It is crucial that I don’t lose focus. It is essential that I keep my eyes on the prize in this mission of mine. This world can break my back but it cannot break me. Things may be pitch black around me, but I still find a way to see. In life there are so many missing pieces and only so much that you can do to fill in the blanks. I do not want forgiveness for what I’m about to do, I only want the world to know that I had to do it.
In the morning, as expected Robin had to leave for work but not before he gave me some money for public transit and his home address. After he left I did the only true thing I knew how to do, so I started walking.
Learn to walk away, but I’ve been walking my whole life.