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James Robinson, 37, sits on a wood bench outside the Washington Hospital Center’s main entrance. His right hand is completely bandaged up. His left arm has an empty IV port sticking out of it. Robinson has a complicated story as to why he’s here.
Last Thursday night, Robinson received a series of harassing cell phone calls from his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend while sitting on the Metrobus near the Anacostia Metro station. He decided then and there that he was going settle his differences with the man. He told the man the two needed to meet.
Robinson got off the bus and went looking for the boyfriend. He soon found his ex and her new man driving nearby. When the boyfriend saw Robinson, he jumped out of the car and the two got into it.
Robinson, a big guy who a faded tattoo on his left arm, says he hit the man in his mouth.
“My fist may have been cut by his teeth,” he explains.
By Sunday afternoon, the cuts on his hand had become infected and required a hospital visit. He needed surgery. “They cut into my hand and cleaned out the infection,” Robinson says.
Robinson’s hand now looks like a snowball; his fingers have disappeared under a mass of white gauze. He can’t do anything with that hand. He’s still at the hospital waiting for it to heal.
This morning while sitting in his room, which he calls his “dungeon,” Robinson faced down breakfast with his new handicap—eating with his left hand. He tried scooping scrambled eggs, though not without some difficulty.The food kept falling off his utensils. Eating was slow and frustrating and messy.
Robinson admits he hasn’t been eating much anyway: “I lost my appetite—just doing a lot of heavy thinking. How this happened, what I have to do, the things that led me up to where I am right now. I made a mistake. The mistake I made was by getting off the bus.”
Robinson, who grew up in northwest, says he’s been fighting pretty much all his life. His last fight was four years ago inside the D.C. jail’s basketball court. It was over who had a next game.
“I’m a changed man. I took my GED test March 21,” Robinson says. “I passed everything but the math. I’m scheduled to go to college. Fifteen percent of my life I’ve been a jive-ass criminal. I let myself down by fighting.”
Robinson hopes he can retire his mean right hook. “There’s so much I want to do,” he explains. “But my desire is to drive a Metrobus; get a college degree and drive a Metrobus.”
Reported by Jason Cherkis