"What's your hurry?" he asks. I scan the row of doorways searching for Sam's mom. She watches, motionless, cradling the baby and wrapping her arm around Sam like a fragile chick beneath her wing. I was on my own. I look up at him, questioning. He smiles... but not with his eyes. I tell him my mom is sick, and I need to go home to call her for test results. He relaxes his arm, lowering the bottle... but keeps my keys.
He asks me questions about life, about myself, about my friendship with Sam. Before long he laughs... with his eyes. And I laugh, and the talk grows easy. I forget about the keys. The guys behind him go back to their clusters. We share thoughts about life for a few moments as the sky grows darker.
He sidles up to my car, unlocks the door, opens it and bows his head... as a gentleman to a lady... handing me the keys.
I remember him saying something about holding fast to my dreams. "You have a good heart." His words hang on the night air.
I look in his eyes. So does he... he has a good heart. His edges are harsh and protective of the place he knows... the way he knows. That rough exterior is only a facade, much like the brick exterior wall, a barricade against anything that might bring more pain. I smile.
"You call your mama, now.... and..." he hesitates, holding the door open as I look up from the steering wheel into an expression now soft and earnest . "You have a good life... a good life."
As I drove home to a tiny, quiet apartment in my sleepy, tree-lined town, tears streamed silently. Adrenaline. Relief. Joy. Fear. Discovery. Knowledge. Listening. Something had changed forever.
Sam's uncle came back to the States. One of the first things he wanted to do was visit Sam. I hadn't told him about that night, or about my visits after that.
I pull into a parking space. Everybody looks up. They cheer his name when they see him emerge. Then they call greetings to me with an easy familiarity, and go back to what they were doing. He turns on his heel and looks at me in wonder. He shakes his head. He knew I hadn't listened. I smile and walk up the row to Sam's door, as he gives high-fives and catches up on months of days.
After that first night, they had my back, always, for the short window of time that I was a part of their world... where walls had come down.
Laying down fear changed everything.
Fear. From what... where... whom... is it keeping you?
From my heart,