“Give me five dollars.”
“For the struggle.”
“The Original Asiatic Black Man’s. The fatherless children of political prisoners’. The Brothers and Sisters in the Movement. Don’t ask me which Movement. Take your pick.”
“Whatever, nigga. I ain’t loanin’ you shit. You never pay back.”
“I ain’t ask for no loan. I said, ‘Give me five dollars.’”
He jousted his elbow into her ribs. They laughed and things were light between them for a minute. Then he turned to face her.
“You know I’d give you anything you ask for, right? The head of the last nigga who did you wrong, the earrings of whatever girl tormented you in high school… with the lobes still attached…”
Ramsey’s macabre edge never let her forget he’d been raised by addicts. His loyalty was fiercer than warranted, and his threats, however dark, were never idle. She was relieved he had so few friends. Were there more, he’d likely be doing a bid for one of them right now.
“You know, right?” His eyes bored into her forehead, like he was testing out his telekinesis.
She shrugged and hopped off the wall.
“When’s the last time you seen your Pops? I been lookin’ for him.”
“If you find him, hook me up with his coordinates. His ass been off the grid.”
“Been that long, huh?”
“When he’s on that stuff, he’s damn near unrecognizable. I be seein’ this saucer-eyed bum wanderin’-mostly ‘round Edmondson-and it look like it might be him. But I never stop to make sure it is. To be honest, I don’t really wanna know.”
Akousa felt incredibly sad when he said that, sad and suddenly grateful that her own Dad was the super-suspicious freak that he was. He wouldn’t even smoke grass unless he’d grown it himself. He wouldn’t have touched crack with a pole. Still, a slight shift in circumstance and they both could’ve been sitting there, commiserating the loss of their Revolutionary Deadbeat Dads.
“I’m sorry, Rams.”
He shrugged and even under a forest of facial hair, she saw the boyish helplessness settling onto his face.
“He always finds me when he gets cleaned up.”
“So you’re pretty sure he’s relapsed, then? I just saw him last month. He looked clean.”
“You know how long a month is for a junkie?”
She reached out and pressed her palm to his cheek. His beard was a lot softer than she expected, and she recoiled.
“What do you want with him, anyway?”
She thought his voice sounded a little hard, but she couldn’t place why. It was her turn to shrug again. “Somethin’ I wanna ask him.”
He looked like he wanted her to go on, but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at her until she expected him to lean down and kiss her, until she discovered she was disappointed that he didn’t. “Anyway,” she said, backing away from him, “If you see him again soon, tell him I want to talk to him, cleaned up or not.”
Ramsey nodded and pushed a keychain button to disarm his car alarm.