I know him and I don’t know him. When I moved here, he and his cousin used to sit in lawn chairs in front of the vacant lot, nodding out. They were lean and wolfish, even all slack in the creaking chairs. They were kind to me, protective when I passed by them on my way home late at night.
They both went away and only one came back: bowed, broken, swollen and aged. He is of the corner but doesn’t work there. He’s had his arm in a sling for a year now, and the other day I saw him pushing a roll of bills inside it, but he doesn’t have the sharp eyes of a lookout or the quick hands of a dealer’s boy, and he’s too old to be either. He’s fucked up too often to be part of the trade. But still, just like Dealer a few blocks away, he works the crowd on the corner and across the street in the courtyard of the projects like a street politician.
He asks me things. How’s my day, or where I’m going when I set off past the confines of his turf. There are things I want to ask him. Things like: what happened when you were gone that year, where is your cousin, what were you like before all this, why are you alone among the corner’s players such a gentleman, wanting nothing from me but a warm smile. There are things I want to ask him but I never do. There is some unspoken contract it would break. We’re neighbors. There are things it’s better not to know.