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The Fight

“I have no fear in my heart for you.”

“I’m gonna jump you.”

“Do it.”

“I’m gonna jump you.”

“Then do it.”

The taunt. The stance. The blow.

Two people of equal stature call each other out. There will be shame, or there will be blood. This is a door to freedom, the most heroic.

Alma, a woman in her 20s, has been fighting powerfully since she was 12. She is strong, swift, precise. She is still alive even though she lives just off 58th Street NE.

Alma’s child was taken away because she fights. She lost a job over a fight. She pays to be free. Her place on the street is so far unrelinquished. “No one—no one—walks over me.”

The Truth

The truth is (almost) as potent as the fist. Truth can shock the opponent. Lay him out flat. Very few people dare to call out the truth and take the consequences.

“Who is the father of your child?” the judge asks.

“To tell the truth, judge, I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I was prostituting at the time. Could have been anyone.”

The judge’s anger, his disgust, are great. Here is a woman who lacks shame. Reba has felled him with truth. She looks delighted as she watches him.

Reba is double free. She also fights. Her brother and her cousin Tyrone filed assault charges against her after she called them out, waving the flag of truth, holding them down for the count as the police came. In an orange jumpsuit in the D.C. Jail, she laughs at the memory.

Reba has AIDS. She looks directly at you: “I have AIDS.”

The Escape

A swift door to freedom. Not heroic, but it calls for skill. Jeanine can get out of any hole the opponent puts her in. She is patient, and then she is fast. She has 17 varieties of smiles and sweet manners. Each day she loosens screws on an air conditioner, more and then a little more, until it can be kicked out at 3 a.m. Then she dives out and blends into the night. Laughing. Oh yes. She is free. The opponent can’t keep her in a mental institution, a hospital, a jail. She throws a charm about him while she studies the locks and times the shift changes. Then presto! Pow! She’s out the door. He’s angry! Shamed! She laughs.

The Story

It’s cheap. It’s a door to freedom, if freedom is never being pinned down. Anybody can, so anybody does tell stories—except truth-tellers, heroes. But the only glory is for fabulous liars. Alone, braggadocio won’t get you through the next 24 hours.

If you flat-out make up everything, you can amaze and fascinate the opponent. One day you are Willie the Kind Crab, and the next day Big Blood. You live off Benning Road, you live in far Northwest. You’re from Cuba, New York, Baltimore, around the corner. You’ve been to Lorton, to college. You’ve never been anywhere.

“Deon Green,” the clerk calls out in arraignment court. A stocky man with no belt or shoelaces comes out of the lockup door and over to counsel’s table.

“Deon Green?” the judge asks, incredulously.


“But weren’t you just out here in front of me two minutes ago when we called the case of Robert Parker?”


“Well who are you? Deon Green or Robert Parker?”

“Deon Green.”

“Well, when I arraigned Robert Parker—and you were standing there in front of me, responding to the charges as Robert Parker—didn’t you think there was something strange about the facts of the case?”

Deon looks at the judge flatly, coldly: “Uh-hunh.”

“Well, why didn’t you say something then? Why didn’t you say ‘I’m not Robert Parker and I didn’t do those things?’” Outraged, the judge calls the marshal and the lawyer to account for the mix-up.

Deon smiles and listens carefully.

The Cloud of Confusion

Escape hatch for the mentally ill, the destitute, those who have zero. Freedom is privacy, the quotient of peace one can never obtain in a shelter, in a psych ward, on a grate. For the homeless, the house that you live in can be woven out of obfuscation. Words that mean nothing. Words that lead down dead ends. Sounds that aren’t words. Sentences that have no verbs. Answers that do not connect to the question. Freedom is having a house of your own with code as key to a door that can be unlocked only from the inside.

“Aba luba de some kay fal so,” Ella says. Her skin is luminous, her black hair wild. She is dressed in red and green like a gypsy, her glance a little to the left of your left eye. “Haba so. Tink mir es.”

She kicks a little dance step. She is street free.CP