Brandon sat in the chair and zoned out. This was his fifth day at the methadone clinic. After he'd declined Crash's offer to go demon hunting, Crash had handed him two hundred dollars and had looked up a methadone clinic and given him the address. He'd told him that he could stay in the apartment for as long as he needed. Then he was gone. He'd picked up his juice and walked out.
He was now five days sober and could feel himself growing stronger and more clear headed. His body still called out for the drug, but when he heard the call, he refused it. He'd flipped through some of the pages of the books in the apartment and had taken to taking walks when the urge hit him. He didn't like taking the methadone because he knew it was just another drug, but it was what he was supposed to do, right? As he looked around, he saw a white couple in the corner. He watched as they pocketed their pills when the nurse turned away. He shook his head.
As he ignored the older white woman speaking about the benefits of inpatient treatment, he counted the people of color in the room. Counting him, it was two total. And the other person was a janitor. He groaned and stood. He'd chosen to visit the clinic because he truly wanted to get clean. Now he really felt like he could get clean and stay clean. He didn't know why. But in between him meeting Crash and now he knew that that horse had turned into a newborn foal. He eased out of the room and wasn't surprised when the nurse didn't call out for him. Day after day, she conversed with the other people in the room. When it came to him, she gave him his pill and continued on trying to save the others.
As he walked along the sidewalk, he caught sight of his reflection in a storefront. He looked decent. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a blue t-shirt that'd been in the closet of the apartment. His skin looked healthier. He ran a hand through his hair and shrugged. It was still wild and thick, but at least it was moisturized. He stuck his hand in his pocket. He had enough for a haircut, but he remembered reading that your hair was an extension of your body and that it shouldn't be cut. With that in mind, he pulled his hand out of his pocket and continued his walk.
His stomach grumbled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten that morning. He looked around and realized that he was on the same street as the juice bar. He sped up and reached the bar in less than three minutes. Contrary to feeling winded, he felt refreshed when he reached the doorway of the bar.
"You running from somebody?" Yonna greeted him with a small grin.
"Running?" Brandon looked behind him. "I just thought I was walking." He hadn't noticed his speed walk had turned into a light jog and then finally a full blown sprint.
"No. You ran. I was cleaning the window and saw you."
"Shit," He caught himself. "Excuse me. Shoot. I didn't even notice. Guess I didn't know I was in a hurry to get here," he gave her a sly grin.
"Well, you can sit wherever," Yonna told him before stepping out of his way.
"Where's your section?" He asked. He was surprised by his confidence. A week ago, he would've turned away from her as she passed him on the street. Now he was low-key flirting. He felt like his old self. He knew he wasn't bad looking, but he wasn't always a girl's first choice. In fact, his girl in college had rejected him several times, left him on read in her DMs and in her inbox, before they met by chance at a black student union meeting. He charmed her with his conversation and they'd talked for hours in the common area of the BSU.
Yonna blushed and pointed to the four tables in the front of the bar. Brandon nodded and sat down at an empty table. Just like the day he'd come with Crash, college students were scattered throughout the bar. Even though it was only, he looked at the digital clock on the wall, 11:38, they were already working, conversing, sipping on their juices and eating their breakfast sandwiches. He grabbed the menu and perused it silently. He scratched his head absently as he tried to decide between the healer, the competition, or the rejuvenator.
"You made up your mind?" Yonna asked. She cocked out her leg so that one hip touched the table. She looked down at Brandon and gave him another smile.
Brandon looked up. "What would you recommend for somebody like me? In recovery?"
"How's that going for you?" Yonna asked as she grabbed the menu from him. She didn't need to look at it to know what she recommended. She was shocked by her actions. She was never this forward, open, damn near flirtatious with anyone. Let alone, an addict that she'd met less than a week ago.
"It's going. I feel stronger everyday. Everyday is a struggle, but I'm going to beat this. I know I'm stronger than addiction," Brandon declared with a self assured nod of his head.
"You should get something composed of green and orange. You know, like oranges, carrots, apricots, peaches, cabbage, collard greens, things like that."
"I can make my own?"
"Yeah," she held out the menu to him and used her pen to point to a "build your own" option at the bottom.
It was almost ten dollars. He frowned. "Y'all killing my pockets. But I trust you, Yonna. So give me one with all that you just mentioned. You go make it, too?"
Yonna shook her head and reached over him to return the menu. "No, I'm just the server."
Brandon looked over her and saw who was behind the counter. It was her co-worker from before. The one who spoke with an attitude. "Can you make mine? Your girl don't sit right with me."
Yonna nodded. Crash had made the same request. "You just like your brother, I see. He don't fool with her either. I got you."
"Brother?" Brandon blanked. "Oh, Crash! Yeah."
"Did you forget you had a brother?"
Brandon thought back to his original family. He called them original because he refused to call them his real family. They dropped him soon after the college did. They talked down on him and his name and refused to even try to help him. Their words drove him deeper into addiction. So, he dropped his last name. He didn't want any ties to them. So, did he forget he had a brother? To him, he didn't have a brother. That man didn't exist. But Crash wasn't a familial brother. He was more of a race brother.
"No, I just blanked. I'm hungry," Brandon joked.
Yonna took the hint. "I'll be right back."
Brandon quickly grew bored. He looked around and saw a discarded newspaper on the table next to him. He reached over and grabbed it. He turned to the local section. It seemed like nothing had changed during his addiction. Gentrification was still happening and crime was steady rising as neighborhoods disappeared. He frowned as he read about a two local middle schools closing and a new youth detention center being built on the outskirts of the city. He shook his head sadly. He wondered why his people didn't see the correlation. As he looked up and examined his peers in the bar, he saw that they were still living in their phones. Life was happening around them and they were too busy to notice. He stood and began to walk around the bar. He pretended to be examining the pictures on the walls, but he was peeking at their books and computer screens. When he returned to his seat, he was disappointed.
They were either scrolling through their social media, screen shopping on online boutiques, texting, or taking pictures. Their books were even more heartbreaking. They were all run of the mill: marketing, nursing, business. Nothing to really to spur them into action. He sighed and laughed to himself. He'd picked at Crash calling him a "woke" nigga, but now that he saw what the future looked like he realized that they were all asleep and he was a "woke" nigga.
"Inside joke..literally," Yonna commented as she placed his drink down.
"You go to school with them?" Brandon asked before taking a sip. It was much sweeter than the drink Crash had ordered him.
Yonna glanced around quickly. "Probably. I don't go to school to socialize. I'm sure I see them here more than at school anyway."
"Yeah, socializing ain't all it's cracked up to be," Brandon remarked as he thought back on the guy that had plied him with drinks and drugs.
"I know it's a story there, but I can't stay to hear it," Yonna said before tapping his shoulder and moving on to a couple that had just walked in.
A broad shadow cast over his shoulder and Brandon looked up from the classified section of the paper.
"What's up?" Crash asked casaully before sitting down across from him.
Brandon folded the paper quickly. "Just chilling. You?" He looked Crash up and down. He looked the same: serious, confident, alert, but bored. Brandon's eyes narrowed and his forehead bunched up as he noticed the moonstone that hang against Crash's black v-neck t-shirt. It stood out because of its shape and color. It was jagged and bright against the smooth dark fabric of the shirt. He was reaching out to touch it before he could stop himself. Luckily, Crash stopped him.
"Watch yourself," Crash admonished.
Brandon dropped his hand. "My bad. What is that? A pet rock or something?"
Crash jerked his head back as if he had been slapped. That's how disrespectful Brandon's words were. He quickly reconciled his emotions with a quick breathing technique. He had to remember that Brandon was in the dark. His eyes were only squinted; they weren't fully open. "Do I look like the type to have a pet rock?" He raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"So, what is it then?"
Brandon was intrigued, but he tried to play it off by taking a sip of his drink. "And that is?"
"Something I don't know if you're ready for, young brother," Crash dismissed his interest.
"I asked didn't I?"
Crash liked Brandon's fire. He had a feeling he was seeing a glimpse of the fiery personality that had rallied his peers to protest. Still, he shook his head. "I was just coming to grab a quick drink when I saw you. I didn't mean to interrupt." Crash started to stand.
"So, you was just bullshitting me the other day, right? All that talk about demons and having a greater purpose...that was straight bullshit, huh? Cause when I ask you about the shit, you get silent." Brandon had no idea where his anger came from.
Crash was impressed. He sat back down. A few seconds passed before either of them spoke.
"You know I forgot you told Yonna that I was your little brother. I completely blanked when she brought you up earlier," Brandon told him. His tone was much calmer, more conversational. Not knowing if Crash was offended, he apologized. "I'm sorry about that. I don't know what came over me. I really grateful to you. For everything. No lie. I just don't like to be ignored. Made to seem like my opinion doesn't matter. Like my voice isn't being heard. You feel me?"
Crash nodded. He did indeed feel him. "It's cool, brother."
"So, why you call me brother? A race thing?"
Crash raised his arm and waved Yonna over. "Let me get the usual," he told her when she came over.
Once she was gone, he fingered the moonstone. "Race is a social construct. Used to divide, conquer and establish a system of power and oppression. So, no, I don't call you brother because of race."
Brandon said nothing. Just sipped from his cup. He felt the power behind Crash's words. The sentiment behind them. He thought back to his college days. In his intro to sociology class, his professor had said something similar.
With is silent agreement noted, Crash continued. "I call you brother because we share a common origin. We have the same mother and father. We were born of the same force."
Brandon placed his cup down. "What force is that?"
"The greatest force there is. The universe."