She did and flipped it onto the seat beside my hip. She said, “Don’t you have any New Music?” New Music, I guess, is all those bands Angie listens to. They have names like Depeche Mode and The Smiths and they all sound the same to me like a bunch of skinny white British nerds on Thorazine. The Stones, when they started, were a bunch of skinny white British nerds too, but they never sounded like they were on Thorazine. Even if they were.
Angie was looking through my cassette case. I said, “Try the Lou Reed. More your style.”
After putting in New York, listening for five minutes, she said, “This is all right. What, you buy it by mistake?”
Just outside the city limits, I pulled into a Store 24 and Angie went in for cigarettes. She came out with two late editions of the News and handed me a copy.
That’s how I confirmed that I’d become the second generation of Kenzie to achieve a sort of immortality in newsprint. I’d always be there, frozen in time and black-and-white on June 30, for anyone who wished to access the file on a microfiche. And that moment, that most personal of moments squatting by Blue Cap with Jenna’s corpse behind me, my ears ringing and my brain trying to re-anchor in my skull none of it was completely mine anymore. It had been spat out for the breakfast consumption of hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t know me from Adam. Possibly the most intensely personal moment of my life and it would be rehashed and second-guessed by everyone from a barfly in Southie to two stockbrokers riding the elevator in some skyscraper downtown. The Global Village Principle at work, and I didn’t like it one bit.
But I did finally learn Blue Cap’s name. Curtis Moore. He was listed in critical condition at Boston City and doctors were said to be working frantically to save his foot. He was eighteen years old and a reputed member of the Raven Saints, a gang that ran out of the Raven Boulevard Projects in Roxbury and favored New Orleans Saints baseball caps and team memorabilia. His mother was pictured on page three, holding a framed photograph of him when he was ten years old. She was quoted as saying, “Curtis never ran with no gang. Never did nothing wrong.” She demanded an investigation, said the whole thing was “racially motivated.” She managed to compare it to the Charles Stuart case, of course, in which the DA and just about everyone else had believed Charles Stuart’s story that a black guy had killed his wife. They’d arrested a black guy, and possibly would have sent him up if the insurance policy Stuart had taken out on his wife hadn’t finally raised a few eyebrows. And when Chuck Stuart took a 9.5 swan dive off the Mystic River bridge, it pretty much confirmed what a lot of people had already thought was obvious in the first place. Shooting Curtis Moore had about as much in common with the Stuart case as Howard Beach has in common with Miami Beach, but there wasn’t much I could do about it standing outside a Store 24.
Angie snorted loudly and I knew she was reading the same article. I said, “Lemme guess the ‘racially motivated’ line.”
She nodded. “The nerve of you, shoving that Uzi into that poor boy’s hand and forcing him to pull the trigger.”
“I don’t know what comes over me sometimes.”
“You should have tried to talk with him, Patrick. Told him you understood the life of deprivation that put that gun in his hand.”
“I’m such a prick that way.” I tossed the paper in the backseat and got behind the wheel and headed into the city. Angie kept looking at her copy in the dim light and breathing heavily through her nostrils. Eventually, she bunched it in her hand and threw it on the floor.
She said, “How can they look at themselves in the mirror?”
“People who say such...shit. ‘Racially motivated.’ Please. ‘Curtis never ran with no gang.’“She looked down at the paper and spoke to the picture of Curtis’s mother. “Well he wasn’t out till three a.m. every night with the fucking Boy Scouts, lady.”
I patted her shoulder. “Calm down.”
“It’s bullshit,” she said.
“It’s a mother,” I said. “Say anything in the world to protect her child. Can’t blame her.”
“Oh, no?” she said. “Then, why bring race into it if all she wants to do is protect her child? What’s next Al Sharp-ton going to come to town, hold a vigil for Curtis’s foot? Pin Jenna’s death on the white man too?”
She was sounding off. Reactionary white rage. I hear more of it lately. A lot more of it. I’ve said similar things on occasion myself. You hear it most among the poor and working class. You hear it when brain-dead sociologists call incidents like the wilding attack in Central Park a result of “uncontrollable” impulses, and defend the actions of a group of animals with the argument that they were only reacting to years of white oppression. And if you point out that those nice, well-bred animals who happen to be black probably would have controlled those actions just fine if they’d thought that female jogger was protected by an army of her own, you’re labeled a racist. You hear it when the media make a point out of race. You hear it when a bunch of possibly well-intentioned whites get together to sort it all out and end up saying, “I’m no racist but...” You hear it when judges who forcibly desegregate public schools with bussing put their own children in private schools, or when, recently, a circuit court judge said he’d never seen evidence to suggest that street gangs were any more dangerous than labor unions.
You hear it most when politicians who live in places like Hyannis Port and Beacon Hill and Wellesley make decisions that affect people who live in Dorchester and Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, and then step back and say there isn’t a war going on.
There is a war going on. It’s happening in playgrounds, not health clubs. It’s fought on cement, not lawns. It’s fought with pipes and bottles, and lately, automatic weapons. And as long as it doesn’t push through the heavy oak doors where they fight with prep school educations and filibusters and two-martini lunches, it will never actually exist.
South Central L.A. could burn for a decade, and most people wouldn’t smell the smoke unless the flames reached Rodeo Drive.
I wanted to sort this out. Now. To wade through it all, in the car with Angie, until our places in this war were clearly defined, until we knew exactly where we stood on every issue, until we could look into our hearts and be satisfied with what we saw there. But I feel this way a lot, and everything always ends up in circles, coming back to me with nothing solved.