Let me tell you a story from my childhood. The people, places, and events in this story are all real:
One day, I was home sitting alone on my couch enjoying some television and homemade potato salad. It was quite enjoyable and I was having a fine time by myself. Suddenly, my phone rang. I gave a slight groan because I knew what was coming. Expectantly, it was my boy T-Bone on the other end.
“Yo man,” said T-Bone. “Get dressed. You’re coming out with us.”
“Nah man,” I replied. ‘I’m way too tired.”
I can hear him repeating my response to somebody else in the car. Then I hear a deeper voice than T-Bone speak.
“Fuck that,” said the voice. “Give me the phone.”
“Oh boy,” I say silently to myself.
“Yo Dubs! It’s me, Three Ball Caps. You pussying out on us?” The voice was so loud I had to take the phone away from my ear momentarily.
“Dude, relax. You don’t gotta yell. And no… I’m not pussying out… I’m just tired.”
“Bullshit. Three dollar pitchers at Uncle Bucks’s Tavern, tonight. We’ll be outside your house in five minutes.”
“I really wish I –“ click.
Sigh. It looked like I was going out.
After getting dressed in a hurry, I proceeded to go out with my three friends. Along with T-Bone and Three Ball caps, my old pal Fishstick was also tagging along. Pitchers were indeed three dollars, just as Three Ball Caps said. I had no reason to not believe him. If anybody’s gonna know about cheap beer specials, it’s Three Ball Caps.
Four eventful hours later that involved several pitchers, some shots, three games of pool, four rejections by three different girls (somehow), and one near-fight, the four of us were quite inebriated when Uncle Buck himself finally asked us to leave so that he could close down the bar.
“Good night… Uncle Fuck!” yelled Fishstick as we were leaving. “Ha ha! You see what I said there?! I called him Uncle Fuck. But his name is really Uncle Buck!”
“Nice one, man!” I laughed, giving him a high five.
We continued walking for several minutes, laughing and joking about a variety of topics. Finally, Three Ball Caps stopped walking.
“What’s up, Caps?”
“Didn’t we drive here?”
“Oh, shit!” I said. “He’s right. We did drive here!”
“So?” questioned Fishstick. “Why does it matter? We can’t drive now, anyway. We’re fuckin’ loaded!”
“Don’t be such a bitch,” said T-Bone. “I’m the best drunk driver there is. You know that.”
T-Bone began reaching into his pockets, searching for his keys.
“Oh, fuck… I my keys… they’re not here!”
“It’s alright, man,” I said. “Don’t panic. I’m sure you left them at Uncle Buck’s. We’ll go home, get some sleep, and then go back tomorrow morning.”
“It’s not that,” he responded. “I left my weed in the car!”
This sentence struck us like a knife to the chest. He might as well of just told us that one of our best friends just died. Several moments of silence followed until Fishstick finally spoke up.
“Oh my God,” he said frantically. “What are we gonna do?! I gotta get my fix, man! I haven’t gone a night without smoking in seven years!” cried T-Bone. “I can’t stop now! This is a disaster!”
“Get a grip on yourself, T-Bone!” I exclaimed, “First of all, is this really a “disaster?” It’s not that big of a deal. You guys can’t just not smoke for one night?’
“What the fuck did you say?” yelled Three Ball Caps.
“That’s what I thought. Alright, let’s think here. “T-Bone, you still talk to your dealer, right?”
“Umm… not really,” replied T-Bone.
“What do you mean?”
“I kinda…. uh….. slept with his girlfriend.”
“Ah, fuck man!” yelled Caps. “You don’t fuck around with your dealers, man! Everyone knows that!”
“Have you seen his girlfriend, man?”
“I don’t give a f-“
“Alright, alright,” I chimed in, trying to restore some order. “Let’s just head back to where we parked the car. Then we’ll figure out what to do next.”
“You know what,” started T-Bone, “I’m kinda tired. I think I’m just gonna go home.”
Nobody expected what happened next. The silence of the night was interrupted by the sound of a cocked gun. I turned my head quickly, fearing what I was about to see. Three Ball caps was pointing a gun straight at T-Bone.
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he said.
“C-caps,” I said fearfully, not removing my eyes from the gun. “Where… where did you get a gun from?”
“Doesn’t matter,” he replied. “What were you saying T-Bone? Something about you going home?”
“N-nah man,” said T-Bone. “Relax, man. Lower the gun. I was just joking. I’m not leaving…”
Three Ball Caps continued to stare him down. Finally, he lowered the gun.
“That’s what I thought. Now come on.”
He turned around and started walking. We had no choice but to follow. The night had taken an unexpected turn, and we were all scared out of our wits. After twenty minutes of walking in silence, we arrived back at Uncle Buck’s and located T-Bone’s car.
“Let’s search the ground for his keys,” said Three Ball Caps.
So we searched. Not surprisingly, our search was unsuccessful. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I spoke up.
“This is ridiculous,” I said. “Those keys have to be in the bar. We’re not going to find them.”
“Alright then,” said Three Ball Caps. He picked up a large rock.
“Wait!” yelled T-Bone. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’mma smash the window.”
“You fuckin’ kidding me, man?” said T-Bone. “This is my dad’s car, he’ll kill me!”
“Who you more afraid of?” responded Three Ball Caps. “Your dad… or me?”
At these words, T-Bone stared down Three Ball Caps. I was terrified as to what was gonna happen, In fact, if it wasn’t for what happened next, I’m convinced that things would’ve made a turn for the worst. But that’s when a fifth voice spoke up; a voice we had never heard before.
“I think I can solve your problem.”
We all immediately turned. Leaning against the wall of Uncle Buck’s stood a man whose likes had never been seen before in this town. It was a colored man.
“Who the fuck are you?” said Fishstick. I could sense the fear in his voice.
“I’m nobody,” said the man. “But I could help you.”
“We don’t need any help,” said T-Bone. “Especially not from… you.”
The man simply laughed. “Yeah, I get that a lot.” He started walking closer to us. “Let me make you a deal…”
“Get the fuck back!” yelled Three Ball Caps. For the second time that night, he reached into his back pocket for something.
“There’s no need to whip out a gun,” the man said, his voice still eerily calm. “I mean no harm. Like I said, I can help you. I heard about your predicament, and I think we could help each other out.”
A few moments of silence passed. Despite the fact that this man was a complete stranger, I couldn’t help but feel that we could trust him.
“I think we should hear him out, guys,” I said.
The man smiled at me. “Smart one.”
My three friends didn’t respond. Their eyes remained fixed on the mysterious man, and their faces contained looks of deep disgust.
“So what do you want?” I asked.
“All I want,” he started, “Is to smoke with you.”
“Alright genius,” said Fishstick. “If you know our “predicament” so well, you’ll know that our stash is in the car, and we ain’t got the keys!”
“Right,” replied the man. “What if I could say that I could get into the car… without damaging it.”
“I’d say you’re a fucking liar,” said T-Bone.
“Well then, give me a chance.” The man said. “I get into the car, you let me smoke with you guys.”
The four of us looked at each other. We were desperate. I could tell that Three Ball Caps didn’t want to trust him. But he also loves his weed. And that man wanted to get high.
“You have five minutes,” said Caps.
The man smiled. He walked over to the car and examined it. Then he reached into his pocket. At this, Three Ball Caps whipped out his gun and pointed it at him.
“Chill man,” said the man. “It’s only a piece of wire. “It’s a very useful thing to carry around. You’ll see.”
He went to work. After a couple minutes, sweat began to trickle down his forehead. However, as he worked at picking the lock on the driver’s side door, we finally heard a click.
“It’s like magic,” said the man. Then he opened the door.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said Fishstick.
We all stared at the man in awe. Where did he come from? However, we shoved those questions aside, as we were all very desperate to get high. T-Bone pulled out a dutch and immediately began rolling a blunt. Twenty-five minutes later, the five of us were as high as a kite, sitting on the curb outside of Uncle Buck’s.
“Where’d you learn to do that shit, man?” asked Caps. “that shit was wild.”
“Oh, you pick up some things here and there,” he responded. “It’s not really a big deal. I can teach you guys if you want.”
“Well I apologize for pointing a gun at you, man… it’s hard to know who to trust around here, you know?”
“We cool, bro,” said the man, giving Caps a pound.
“And you too Bones,” Caps continued, turning towards T-Bone. “I’m an idiot. I don’t know what got into me.”
“Seriously man, you scared the shit outta me,” said T-Bone. “But you know I love ya, man. We good. But where the hell did you get that gun from, anyway?”
I had been wondering the same thing.
“I stole it, actually,” replied Caps. “From a pimp.”
“Wow, man,” said Fishstick. “That’s pretty foolish.”
“Give me the gun.”
We turned. It was the man that said that. He was extending his hand towards Caps.
“I said… hand me the gun. Trust me.”
Again, we had absolutely no reason to fully trust this man, but yet, he exuded an aura of extreme likability, and we couldn’t help but believe him. Caps thought for a second, then took out the gun and handed it to him. Immediately, the man stood up, and tossed the gun over a fence and into the river.
“You’ll thank me later,” he said.
I was liking this man more and more by the second.
“I don’t believe in violence,” he said. “As long as you’re patient, and you do the right things… you can get what you want.”
“You just blew my fuckin’ mind, man,” said Fishstick.
“You know,” started T-Bone. “I’ve never met someone like you before. You know, a colored man. You hear things, though. That you guys are… evil. That you aren’t equal to us. But, after talking to you and all, I don’t believe that. I think you’re a good guy, and that you people have been given a raw deal of it.”
The rest of us nodded our heads at these words. The man simply smiled.
“Thanks man,” he said. “That really means a lot to me, coming from you. We have certainly been given a raw deal, no doubt about it. But like I said, as long as we are patient, as long we remain civil and disobedient… we will be given our fair share in this world. If I have to do it myself, I’ll make sure it happens.”
It sounded ridiculous, but I couldn’t help but believe him. It was just then that I remembered something.
“It’s funny,” I said. “I had a dream last night… that I met a colored man. I hadn’t even thought about it until now. But when I woke up, I laughed about it. Never in a million years did I think it would actually happen for real.”
“Sometimes dreams do come true,” he said. “you wanna hear about my dream? I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
“Holy shit,” I said, “That’s deep man.”
“Yeah…” he said absentmindedly, “I think about those kind of things often.”
“No, but seriously,” I asserted, “you should like… write a speech or something. You’re very eloquent.”
“Maybe I will,” he replied, “Maybe I will…”
We all stood in silence, thinking about what this man had just said. For years, we have kept colored people repressed, not allowing them to advance further in our society. But after talking to this man, I couldn’t help but feel anger for him, and at what we have put him through. He deserved better. And yet, he wasn’t even angry! He was… calm, and relaxed. This was man was unlike anyone I had ever met before.
“Alright guys,” he said, standing up. “I should get going. Thanks for letting me toke with you guys.”
“Yea, man”, T-Bone. “Thanks for helping us with the car.”
“Not a problem,” he responded. “I had a great time… and you guys are good people. You made me think about a lot of things. Who knows, maybe I will write that speech.”
“You should,” said Fishstick. “I’d certainly wanna hear it.”
“Thanks,” he said. Well Dubs, Fishstick, T-Bone, Three Ball Caps, have a good night. Perhaps our paths will cross again someday.”
I had no idea how he knew our names. I did not recall any of us revealing them.
“Wait!” I yelled. “We didn’t catch your name!”
He stopped at turned towards us, and smiled.
“Call me Marty,” he said. “Marty King. Junior.”
At that, he turned the corner and walked out of our lives, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever see or hear from this mysterious man ever again.