It was clear that Allen was trying to make a deeper connection with me. To show me more of who he was.
“It’s going to be a long walk Brian.”
“I like walking.”
“At least three miles.”
“That’s fine Allen.”
“Ok, so we better get started. Just stick with me. We have to go through some neighborhoods that we don’t want to be in after dark so, just stick with me.”
The long walk up into North Omaha was uneventful. I remember almost none of it. I only remember that Allen did all he could to stay away from certain streets and I’m glad he did. Right away I recognized by our direction, that we were passing right by the area that black, off duty cop had taken me through to show me where NOT be as a white boy after dark.
That helpful man had very strongly suggested it wasn’t good for me to be there in the daytime either and here I was… passing through that same area, only a block or two away. It also wasn’t good at all that I was with someone like Allen no matter how well he knew his way around.
We arrived at our destination about three hours later. Again, if was uneventful. A waste of time really. Allen felt it too. We arrived in this completely ordinary-looking neighborhood and stopped to look at this completely ordinary-looking house that Allen had insisted we walk all morning to see.
As usual, I wasn’t talking. All the time we’d been walking Allen had been telling me that he was going to show me where he was from. He had not gone into any details at all. He just said he wanted to show me where he was from. Now that we were here. Looking at the house he’d left four years ago, it all seemed so pointless.
I have no idea what he’d been expecting. Whatever it was he was looking for, whatever this thing was that he wanted to show me… he didn’t find it.
It really pissed him off.
It really REALLY pissed him off but I could see that he had no idea why. What made it worse for Allen, was that he knew he had no reason to be angry, and nothing (and no one) to be angry at. Here he had sought to show his friend (me) this thing he’d thought would have so much meaning, and it turned out to have none.
I didn’t care. I had had nothing better to do. I was fine with walking all that way and so gave no indication that I thought our walk had been the complete waste of time we both could clearly see it was.
Allen cared though.
As we started back, he spoke a little about this house where he was born. I could see that he felt guilty about having taken me there. He apologized and I told him that it didn’t matter. Allen wasn’t accepting that but then, without having intended to do so… he told me the story that really did matter.
It was a story about how he’d left and ended up where he was now. How, he’d been in trouble as long as he could remember. His step dad had been a drunk asshole and his mom had given up on him and after he went to jail the second time, they both told him to get out and never come back. He was just thirteen years old. Allen then said he’d lived in the garage of a friend until he got sent to juvenile prison for stealing a car.
As we walked and I heard this story, it was clear to me that at seventeen, my friend was now in the best situation he’d ever been in his life. He had a job at Burger King, he had a girlfriend who worked at McDonald’s and between the two of them, they made enough to pay rent and have enough left over for beer and weed. They both ate at work most of the time.
My adult self tells me I could have said something to make a difference. To remind Allen that he had the opportunity to keep doing better. That if he’d just stop doing all those things he was doing that were eventually going to get him arrested again, he might be able to turn his life around.
Again, I said nothing. I was on automatic. In survival mode. As he spoke it was clear that Allen was beginning to work himself up. The anger and self-loathing was coming up and it wouldn’t be long before he was looking to distract himself from those feelings. I knew what was most likely to happen and I was exactly right.
Allen needed to break some glass.
Since I was walking next to him, it was going to be a lot harder to just leave as I’d always done before. I remember thinking of what I was going to do when he started, and before I could really think, Allen just walked up to a garage door that had French-style windows and started punching.
I immediately crossed the street. Allen was quickly done with the windows but he was just getting started with his rampage. I quickened my pace. I intended to put enough distance between us so a cop wouldn’t automatically see us as together. Allen was breaking more windows. It was in the early afternoon and I suppose most people were at work. There seemed to be no one around at all.
I could tell Allen was feeling better and soon he ran up to me. He was smiling and excited now.
“Hey man, I have a great idea. Let’s find a cab to take us home and when we get near our street we’ll just ditch him. It’ll be cool!”
I said nothing and continued walking faster. I was beginning to get pretty uneasy. Since Allen was in this rambling ranting state, I was now pretty much on my own regarding my direction. I didn’t really know how to make sure to keep going towards home and still avoid those certain streets of the black neighborhood we were passing through.
“Ok dude so I know you don’t like this shit but… come on. Lighten up. I mean… let’s at least make the most of this. It’s not like anyone will recognize us or ever see us around here again. I mean… this is a n!#@r neighborhood anyway.”
I said nothing. I crossed the street again and kept walking.
“Fuck man!” Fuck… Fuckin’n n!#@rs anyway!”
Allen then grabbed a small tree in the front yard of the house he was passing. He put all his weight into trying to uproot it but he failed. All he succeeded in doing was to leave the thing bent over.
“Fuckin’n n!#@rs! I hate fuckin’n n!#@rs!!”
I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember Allen leaving me alone to find my way home either. It was several days before I saw him again. He tried to act like it never happened. I never talked about it again and neither did he.
My adult self says this could have been an event of great meaning for Allen, and for me. But I was far from adulthood at this point. I was in survival mode and…
I was barely surviving.