Something about me kept the general riff raff away, though. I’d never been here before. I’d never dared.
I had the gun. I could deal with anyone who messed with me, or at least I thought I could. Maybe I was too cocky. But all I saw, really, was sullen faces, the expressions of people with little or nothing left to lose. I did feel something of a desire to help them, but it was tempered by the certain knowledge that there was nothing I could do.
If I ever became a one percenter or something. But I couldn’t answer the prayers in those faces. Those who could didn’t care. Wasn’t there a correlation between wealth and sociopathic traits? Or success…
But these people hadn’t even failed. They’d just been stork dropped here, dark skins in a dark part of the city. I didn’t just feel conspicuous. I felt guilty, as if my white skin alone was enough to mark me as privileged. Telling them I was as broke as they were wouldn’t avail me anything.
And if they knew what I was? Nah. They wouldn’t believe it. I could almost feel the miasma of cynical depression over this place.
Kanesha’s father was living in a battered tenement, renting a single room from a landlady who answered the door in, cliche alert, hair curlers and bunny slippers.
“Don’t need your kind here.”
I put my foot in the door. “I’m trying to stop something from going violent. I need to talk to Mr. Clem.”
“Nobody talks to Mr. Clem without Mr. Clem’s say-so.”
I could see it in her eyes. She was afraid of the man. Not surprising, really. He was a man who warranted it. More quietly, “He’ll hurt you.”
“No. I can handle him.” I kept my voice quiet, confident, but I still felt as if I did not and never could belong in this place. Race. It echoed through everything and I knew from the internet that a good portion of those who followed the Norse gods were racist bastards.
I wouldn’t be like that, but standing here I understood why people feared the black man, or maybe it was the legacy of slavery that scared them, a past that was being visited…was it the seventh generation yet? I wasn’t sure. The sins of the fathers…but they weren’t mine. Maybe. I didn’t know.
“Your funeral.” She let me in, and I walked into a corridor in which the paper cracked and bulged and I was pretty sure that patch on the carpet was black mold. As unpleasant as the group home was, anyone who would think Kanesha was better off here was crazy.
Of course, she’d said he wasn’t going to stay here. It was temporary, and anyone could put up with a fair bit knowing it was temporary.
I went that way, feeling the stairs creak and crumble beneath me. “Mr. Clem.”
“Kanesha’s pasty friend.” Clearly he recognized my voice.
“Yeah. I do have that disadvantage. But I only want to talk. Can I come in?”
“Do I sound stupid? I’m in Southeast.”
He laughed…and opened the door.