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If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin (part 3)

Author: James Baldwin

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On the Tuesday after the Monday that I saw Hayward, I saw Fonny at the six o’clock visit. I had never seen him so upset before.

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May 7
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(May 07 2020 7:05AM) : Click here to leave a video comment about this part of the novel: https://flipgrid.com/0e773598
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May 25
Idrissa S (May 25 2020 6:02PM) : he has a great reason to be upset because his freedom was taken away from him.
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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:29PM) : who wouldn't be upset being lock up?

“What the fuck we going to do about Mrs. Rogers? Where the fuck did she go?”

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“I don’t know. But we’ll find her.”

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“How you going to find her?”

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“We’re sending people to Puerto Rico. We think that’s where she went.”

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“And suppose she went to Argentina? or Chile? or China?”

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“Fonny. Please. How’s she going to get that far?”

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“They can give her the money, to go anywhere!”

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“Who?”

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“The D.A.’s office, that’s who!”

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 5:30PM) : that would be pretty mess up if the D.A did that!
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“Fonny-“

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“You don’t believe me? You don’t think they can do it?”

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“I don’t think they have.”

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“How you going to get the money to find her?”

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“We’re all working, all of us.”

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“Yeah. My Daddy’s working in the garment center, you’re working in a department store, your Daddy’s working on the waterfront-!”

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“Fonny. Listen-“

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“Listen to what? What we going to do about that fucking lawyer? He don’t give a shit about me, he don’t give a shit about nobodyl You want me to die in here? You know what’s going on in here? You know what’s happening to me, to me, to me, in here?”

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:32PM) : dam I could only imagine what he's going through
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May 19
Cristy I (May 19 2020 7:54PM) : Lines 1-18 this visit was so intense after the fact that mrs.roger left. more

I feel like fonny is under a lot of pressure for being in there and this caused his reaction , he scared of being left there unfairly.

“Fonny. Fonny. Fonny.”

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“I’m sorry, baby. I don’t mean none of that for you. I’m sorry. I love you, Tish. I’m sorry.”

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“I love you, Fonny. I love you.”

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“How’s the baby coming?”

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“It’s growing. It’ll start showing more next month.”

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We stared at each other.

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“Get me out of here, baby. Get me out of here. Please.”

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“I promise. I promise. I promise.”

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“Don’t cry. I’m sorry I yelled. I wasn’t yelling at you, Tish.”

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“I know.”

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“Please don’t cry. Please don’t cry. It’s bad for the baby.”

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“AH right.”

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“Give us a smile, Tish.”

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“Is that all right?”

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“You can do better than that.”

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“Is this better?”

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“Yeah. Give us a kiss.”

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I kissed the glass. He kissed the glass.

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“You still love me?”

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“I’ll always love you, Fonny.”

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“I love you. I miss you. I miss everything about you, I miss everything we had together, every­thing we did together, walking and talking and making love – oh, baby, get me out of here.”

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:34PM) : aww they are such puppy love!
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May 19
Cristy I (May 19 2020 7:56PM) : It’s so hard to go threw tough situations without the person that keep you strong next to you.
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May 25
Idrissa S (May 25 2020 6:58PM) : they acting like babies right now lol.

“I will. Hold on.”

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“I promise. – Later.”

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“Later.”

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He followed the guard into the unimaginable inferno, and I stood up, my knees and elbows shaking, to cross the Sahara again.

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That night I dreamed, I dreamed all night, I had terrible dreams. In one of these dreams, Fonny was driving a truck, a great big truck, very fast, too fast, down the highway, and he was looking for me. But he didn’t see me. I was behind the truck, calling out his name, but the roar of the motor drowned my voice. There were two turnings off this highway, and they both looked exactly alike. The highway was on a cliff, above the sea. One of the turnings led to the driveway of our house; the other led to the cliff’s edge and a drop straight down to the sea. He was driving too fast, too fast! I called his name as loud as I could and, as he began to turn the truck, I screamed again and woke up.

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May 19
Cristy I (May 19 2020 7:59PM) : I feel like there’s a message behind dreams like this.
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The light was on, and Sharon was standing above me. I cannot describe her face. She had brought in a cold, wet towel and she wiped my brow and my neck. She leaned down and kissed me.

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:40PM) : she had a nightmare right?
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May 20
Jessica H (May 20 2020 5:11AM) : right.
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Then, she straightened and looked into my eyes.

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“I know I can’t help you very much right now – God knows what I wouldn’t give if I could. But I know about suffering; if that helps. I know that it ends. I ain’t going to tell you no lies, like it al­ways ends for the better.Sometimes it ends for the worse. You can suffer so bad that you can be driven to a place where you can’t ever suffer again: and that’s worse.”

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:43PM) : I really agree with her mom on this one because once you stop suffering for good you become coldhearted person because if you really think about it what is life without suffering ?
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May 19
Cristy I (May 19 2020 8:06PM) : I totally know exactly what the mom means that’s the pain that you can’t do nothing but take it cause nothing that you do can make it better or fix the situation you facing.
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May 25
Idrissa S (May 25 2020 7:03PM) : Thats true because when you cant suffer again you become heartless and not care about nothing that comes you way.

She took both my hands and held them tightly between her own. “Try to remember that. And: the only way anything ever gets done is when you make up your mind to do it. I know a lot of our loved ones, a lot of our men, have died in prison: but not all of them. You remember that. And: you ain’t really alone in that bed, Tish. You got that child beneath your heart and we’re all counting on you, Fonny’s counting on you, to bring that child here safe and well. You the only one who can do it. But you’re strong. Lean on your strength.”

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I said, “Yes. Yes, Mama.” I knew I didn’t have any strength. But I was going to have to find some, somewhere.

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 2:46PM) : yes she does especially for that baby she has to be super healthy
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‘Are you all right now? Can you sleep? ’Yes.”

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“I don’t want to sound foolish. But, just remember, love brought you here. If you trusted love this far, don’t panic now.”

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 6:40PM) : I can relate!
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May 27
Idrissa S (May 27 2020 11:15AM) : I agree with her because love is something strong once you start love theres no going back that is why a lot of people be scared to fall in love because they scared to get they heart broken.
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And, again, she kissed me and she turned out the light and she left me.

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I lay there – wide awake; and very frightened. Get me out of here.

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I remembered women I had known, but scarcely looked at, who had frightened me; because they knew how to use their bodies in order to get something that they wanted. I now began to real­ize that my judgment of these women had had very little to do with morals. (And I now began to wonder about the meaning of this word.) My judgment had been due to my sense of how little they appeared to want. I could not conceive of peddling myself for so low a price.

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But, for a higher price? for Fonny?

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And I fell asleep; for a white; and then I woke up. I had never been so tired in my life. I ached all over. I looked at the clock and I realized that it would soon be time to get up and go to work, un­less I called in sick.But I could not call in sick.

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I got dressed and went out to the kitchen, to have tea with Mama. Joseph and Ernestine had al­ready gone. Mama and I sipped our tea in almost total silence. Something was turning over and over and over, in my mind: I could not speak.

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May 14
Angelina F (May 14 2020 6:44PM) : she was talking about her baby?
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May 20
Jessica H (May 20 2020 5:13AM) : No, she was thinking. It was a thought turning itself over in her mind.

I came down into the streets. It was a little past eight o’clock. I walked these morning streets; these streets are never empty. I passed the old blind black man on the corner. Perhaps I had seen him all my life. But I wondered about his life, for the first time, now. There were about four kids, all junkies, standing on the corner, talking. Some women were rushing to work. I tried to read their faces. Some women were finally going to get a little rest, and they headed off the avenue, to their furnished rooms. Every side street was piled high with garbage, and garbage was piled high before every stoop along the avenue. I thought, If I’m going to peddle ass, I better not try it up here. It would take just as long as scrubbing floors, and be a lot more painful. What I was really thinking was, I know I can’t do it before the baby comes, but, if Fonny’s not out by then, maybe I’ll have to try it. Maybe I better get ready. But there was something else turning over, at the bottom of my mind, which I knew I didn’t have the courage to look at yet.

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 3:22PM) : ITS funny to say this but I thought I was the only one who does this when i'm outside I always get in this funny mood to read people faces and just imagining where they going and etc...
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Get ready, how? I walked down the steps and pushed through the turnstile and stood on the subway platform, with the others. When the train came, I pushed in, with the others, and I leaned against a pole, while their breath and smell rolled over me. Cold sweat covered my forehead and began to trickle down my armpits and my back. I hadn’t thought of it before, because I knew I had to keep on working up to just about the last minute; but now I began to wonder just how, as I be­came heavier and sicker, I was going to get to work. If I should pass out, these people, getting on and getting off, would simply trample me and the baby to death. We’re counting on you – Fonny’s counting on you – Fonny’s counting on you, to bring that baby here, safe and well. I held the white bar more firmly. My freezing body shook.

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 3:26PM) : was she feeling like she wanted To pass out cuz of the baby? or cuz she feels like she over working herself?
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I looked around the subway car. It was a little like the drawings I had seen of slave ships. Of course, they hadn’t had newspapers on the slave ships, hadn’t needed them yet; but, as concerned space (and also, perhaps, as concerned intention) the principle was exactly the same. A heavy man, smelling of hot sauce and toothpaste, breathed heavily into my face. It wasn’t his fault that he had to breathe, or that my face was there. His body pressed against me, too, very hard, but this did not mean that he was thinking of rape, or thinking of me at all. He was probably wondering only – and that, dimly – how he was going to get through another day on his job. And he certainly did not see me.

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 3:31PM) : was the train really full?
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And, when a subway car is packed – unless it’s full of people who know each other, going on a picnic, say – it is almost always silent. It’s as though everybody is just holding his breath, waiting to get out of there.Each time the train comes into a station, and some of the people push you aside, in order to get out – as happened now, for example, with the man who smelled of hot sauce and toothpaste – a great sigh seems to rise; stifled immediately by the people who get on. Now, a blond girl, carrying a bandbox, was breathing her hangover into my face. My stop came, and I got off, climbed the steps and crossed the street. I went into the service entrance and punched the clock, put my street clothes away and went out to my counter. I was a little late for the floor, but I’d clocked in on time.

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May 11
Jessica H (May 11 2020 8:12AM) : A bandbox is a circular or oval box for carrying a hat: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18177753/
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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 3:36PM) : why would she have that?
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The floor manager, a white boy, young, nice enough, gave me a mock scowl as I hurried to my place.

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It isn’t only old white ladies who come to that counter to smell the back of my hand. Very rarely does a black cat come anywhere near this counter, and if, or when, he does, his intentions are often more generous and always more precise. Perhaps, for a black cat, I really do, too closely, resemble a helpless baby sister. He doesn’t want to see me turn into a whore. And perhaps some black cats come closer, just to look into my eyes, just to hear my voice, to check out what’s happening. And they never smell the back of my hand: a black cat puts out his hand, and you spray it, and he car­ries the back of his own hand to his own nostrils.And he doesn’t bother to pretend that he’s come to buy perfume. Sometimes, he does – buy some perfume; most often he doesn’t. Sometimes the hand he has brought down from his nostrils clenches itself into a secret fist, and, with that prayer, that salutation, he moves away. But a white man will carry your hand to his nostrils, he will hold it there. I watched everybody, all day long, with something turning over and over and over, in my mind. Ernestine came to pick me up at the end of the day. She said that Mrs. Rogers had been lo­cated, in Santurce, Puerto Rico; and someone of us would, have to go there.

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 3:41PM) : black cat does she means a black person?
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“With Hayward?”

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“No. Hayward’s got to deal with Bell, and the D.A. here. Anyway, you can see that, for many, many reasons, Hayward can’t go. He’d be accused of intimidating a witness.”

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‘But that’s what they’re doing-!”

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 6:44PM) : nothing have change honestly cops do whatever make them please
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“Tish” – we were walking up Eighth Avenue, toward Columbus Circle – “it would take us until your baby is voting age to prove that.”

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“Are we going to take the subway, or the bus?”

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“We’re going to sit down somewhere until this rush hour’s over. You and me, we’ve got to talk anyway, before we talk to Mama and Daddy. They don’t know yet. I haven’t talked to them yet”

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And I realize how much Ernestine loves me, at the same time that I remember that she is, after all, only four years older than I.

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Mrs. Victoria Rogers, nee Victoria Maria San Felipe Sanchez, declares that on the evening of March 5, be­tween the hours of eleven and twelve, in the vestibule of her home, she was criminally assaulted by a man she now knows to have been Alonzo Hunt, and was used by the aforesaid Hunt in the most extreme and abomi­nable sexual manner, and forced to undergo the most unimaginable sexual perversions.

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I have never seen her. I know only that an American-born Irishman, Gary Rogers, an engineer, went to Puerto Rico about six years ago, and there met Victoria, who was then about eighteen. He married her, and brought her to the mainland. His career did not go up, but down; he seems to have become embittered. In any case, having pumped three children out of her, he left. I know nothing about the man with whom she was living on Orchard Street, with whom, presumably, she had fled to Puerto Rico. The children are, presumably, somewhere on the mainland, with her rela­tives. Her “home” is Orchard Street. She lived on the fourth floor. If the rape took place in the “ves­tibule,” then she was raped on the ground floor, under the staircase. It could have taken place on the fourth floor, but it seems unlikely; there are four apartments on that floor. Orchard Street, if you know New York, is a very long way from Bank Street. Orchard Street is damn near in the East River and Bank Street is practically in the Hudson. It is not possible to run from Orchard to Bank, particularly not with the police behind you. Yet, Bell swears that he saw Fonny “run from the scene of the crime.” This is possible only if Bell were off duty, for his “beat” is on the West Side, not the East. Yet, Bell could arrest Fonny out of the house on Bank Street. It is then up to the accused to prove, and pay for proving, the irregularity and improbability of this sequence of events.

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Ernestine and I had sat down in the last booth of a bar off Columbus.

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Ernestine’s way with me, and with all her children, is to drop something heavy on you and then lean back, calculating how you’ll take it. She’s got to know that, in order to calculate her own posi­tion: the net’s got to be in place.

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Now, maybe because I had spent so much of the day, and the night before, with my terrors – and my calculations – concerning the possible sale of my body, I began to see the reality of rape.

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I asked, “Do you think she really was raped?”

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Jun 8
Angelina F (Jun 08 2020 6:53PM) : wait did test the women for rape?
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“Tish. I don’t know what’s going on in that busy, ingrown mind of yours, but that question has no bearing on anything. As fax as our situation is concerned, baby, she was raped. That’s it.” She paused and sipped her drink. She sounded very calm, but her forehead was tense, intelligent, with terror. “I think, in fact, that she was raped and that she has absolutely no idea who did it, would probably not even recognize him if he passed her on the street. I may sound crazy, but the mind works that way. She’d recognize him if he raped her again. But then it would no longer be rape. If you see what I mean.”

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“I see what you mean. But why does she accuse Fonny?”

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“Because Fonny was presented to her as the rapist and it was much easier to say yes than to try and relive the whole damn thing again. This way, it’s over, for her. Except for the trial. But, then, it’s really over. For her.”

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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 2:57PM) : how was fonny represented as a rapist to her?
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“And for us, too?”

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“No.” She looked at me very steadily. It may seem a funny thing to say, but I found myself ad­miring her guts. “It won’t be over for us.” She spoke very carefully, watching me all the while. “There’s a way in which it may never be over, for us. But we won’t talk about that now. Listen. We have to think about it very seriously, and in another way. That’s why I wanted to have a drink alone with you, before we went home.”

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“What are you trying to tell me?” I was suddenly very frightened.

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“Listen. I don’t think that we can get her to change her testimony. You’ve got to understand: she’s not lying.”

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“What are you trying to tell me? What the fuck do you mean, she’s not lying?”

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“Will you listen to me? Please? Of course, she’s lying. We know she’s lying. But – she’s – not – ly­ing. As far as she’s concerned, Fonny raped her and that’s that, and now she hasn’t got to deal with it anymore. It’s over. For her. If she changes her testimony, she’ll go mad. Or become another woman. And you know how often people go mad, and how rarely they change.”

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May 27
Idrissa S (May 27 2020 11:20AM) : so do they know that shes lying or they thing she might be lying or telling the truth?
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Jun 3
Jessica H (Jun 03 2020 8:48AM) : The problem is that she did not see who raped her. The police told her to say it was Fonny, so she did, just to end the whole problem. She does not want to go back through it, even to save an innocent man.
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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 3:05PM) : why would she go mad isn't she trying to find the real rapists?
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” So – what are we to do?”

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“We have to disprove the state’s case. There’s no point in saying that we have to make them prove it, because, as far as they’re concerned, the accusation is the proof and that’s exactly the way those nuts in the jury box will take it, quiet as it’s kept. They’re liars, too – and we know they’re liars. But they don’t.”

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I remembered, for some reason, something someone had said to me, a long time ago – it might have been Fonny: A fool never says he’s a fool.

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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 6:07PM) : what she means by a fool never says he is a fool?
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‘We can’t disprove it. Daniel’s in jail.”

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“Yes. But Hayward is seeing him tomorrow.”

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‘That don’t mean nothing. Daniel is still going to change his testimony, I bet you.”

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“He may. He may not. But I have another idea.”

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There we sat, in this dirty bar, two sisters, trying to be cool.

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“Let’s say the worst comes to the worst. Mrs. Rogers will not change her testimony. Let’s say Da­niel changes his. That leaves only Officer Bell, doesn’t it?”

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“Yes. And so what?”

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“Well – I have a file on him. A long file. I can prove that he murdered a twelve-year-old black boy, in Brooklyn, two years ago. That’s how come he was transferred to Manhattan. I know the mother of the murdered boy. And I know Bell’s wife, who hates him.”

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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 3:12PM) : ouu they have dirt on the cop !
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“She can’t testify against him.”

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“She hasn’t got to testify against him. She just has to sit in that courtroom, and watch him-“

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“I don’t see how this helps us – at all-‘

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“I know you don’t. And you may be right. But, if worse comes to worst, and it’s always better to assume that it will – come to worst – then our tactic has to be to shatter the credibility of the state’s only witness.”

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“Ernestine,” I said, “you’re dreaming.”

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“I don’t think I am. I’m gambling. If I can get those two women, one white and one black, to sit in that courtroom, and if Hayward does his work right, we ought to be able to shatter the case, on cross-examination.Remember, Tish, that, after all, it isn’t very much of a case. If Fonny were white, it wouldn’t be a case at all.”

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May 27
Idrissa S (May 27 2020 11:23AM) : Even tho theres racism but she might be wrong about what she just said. I understand that they frustrated with what happened but i dont think its right for her to say that.
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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 3:17PM) : racism was really destroying a lot of black people back of the days no wonder they want to take over now

Well. I understand what she means. I know where she’s coming from. It’s a long shot. But, in our position, after all, only the long shot counts. We don’t have any other: that’s it. And I realize, too, that if we thought it were feasible, we might very well be sitting here, cool, very cool, discussing ways and means of having Bell’s head blown off. And, when it was done, we’d shrug and have another drink: that’s it. People don’t know.

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“Yes. Okay. What about Puerto Rico?”

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“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. Before we talk to Mama and Daddy. Look. You can’t go. You’ve got to be here. For one thing, without you, Fonny will panic. I don’t see how I can go. I’ve got to keep lighting firecrackers under Hayward’s ass. Obviously, a man can’t go. Daddy can’t go, and God knows Frank can’t go. That leaves – Mama.”

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“Mama-?”

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“Yes.”

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“She don’t want to go to Puerto Rico.”

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“That’s right. And she hates planes. But she wants your baby’s father out of jail. Of course she doesn’t want to go to Puerto Rico. But she’ll go.”

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“And what do you think she can do?”

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“She can do something no special investigator can do. She may be able to break through to Mrs. Rogers. Maybe not – but if she can, we’re ahead. And if not – well, we haven’t lost anything, and, at least, we’ll know we’ve tried.”

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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 3:19PM) : that's true especially coming from a mother
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I watch her forehead. Okay.

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“And what about Daniel?”

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“I told you. Hayward is seeing him tomorrow. He may have been able to see him today. He’s calling us tonight”

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I lean back. “Some shit.”

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“Yeah. But we in it now.”

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Then, we are silent. I realize, for the first time, that the bar is loud. And I look around me. It’s ac­tually a terrible place and I realize that the people here can only suppose that Ernestine and I are tired whores, or a Lesbian couple, or both. Well. We are certainly in it now, and it may get worse. It will, certainly – and now something almost as hard to catch as a whisper in a crowded place, as light and as definite as a spider’s web, strikes below my ribs, stunning and astonishing my heart – get worse. But that light tap, that kick, that signal, announces to me that what can get worse can get better. Yes. It will get worse. But the baby, turning for the first time in its incredible veil of wa­ter, announces its presence and claims me; tells me, in that instant, that what can get worse can get better; and that what can get better can get worse. In the meantime – forever – it is entirely up to me. The baby cannot get here without me. And, while I may have known this, in one way, a little while ago, now the baby knows it, and tells me that while it will certainly be worse, once it leaves the water, what gets worse can also get better. It will be in the water for a while yet: but it is pre­paring itself for a transformation. And so must I.

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I said, “It’s all right. I’m not afraid.”

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And Ernestine smiled, and said, “Let’s move it then.”

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Joseph and Frank, as we learn later, have also been sitting in a bar, and this is what happened between them:

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Joseph has a certain advantage over Frank – though it is only now that he begins to realize, or, rather, suspect it – in that he has no sons. He has always wanted a son; this fact cost Ernestine far more than it cost me; for, by the time I came along, he was reconciled. If he had had sons, they might very well be dead, or in jail. And they both know, facing each other in the booth of a bar on Lenox Avenue, that it is a miracle that Joseph’s daughters are not on the block. Both of them know far more than either of them would like to know, and certainly far more than either can say, con­cerning the disasters which have overtaken the women in Frank’s house.

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And Frank looks down, holding his drink tightly between both hands: he has a son. And Joseph sips his beer and watches him. That son is also his son now, and that makes Frank his brother.

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They are both grown men, approaching fifty, and they are both in terrible trouble.

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Neither of them look it. Joseph is much darker than Frank, black, deep-set, hooded eyes, stem, still, a high forehead in which one vein beats, leftward, a forehead so high that it can make you think of cathedrals. His lips are always a little twisted. Only those who know him – only those who love him – know when this twist signals laughter, love, or fury. The key is to be found in the pulsing vein in the forehead. The lips change very little, the eyes change all the time: and when Joseph is happy, and when he laughs, something absolutely miraculous is happening. He then looks, I swear to you, – and his hair is beginning to turn gray, – about thirteen years old. I thought once, I’m certainly glad I didn’t meet him when he was a young man and then I thought, But you’re his daughter, and then I dropped into a paralyzed silence, thinking: Wow.

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Frank is light, thinner. I don’t think that you can describe my father as handsome; but you can describe Frank that way. I don’t mean to be putting him down when I say that because that face has paid, and is paying, a dreadful price. People make you pay for the way you look, which is also the way you think you look, and what time writes in a human face is the record of that collision. Frank has survived it, barely. His forehead is lined like the palm of a hand – unreadable; his gray­ing hair is thick and curls violently upward from the widow’s peak. His lips are not as thick as Jo­seph’s and do not dance that way, are pressed tightly together, as though he wished they would disappear. His cheekbones are high, and his large dark eyes slant upward, like Fonny’s – Fonny has his father’s eyes.

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Joseph certainly cannot realize this in the way that his daughter knows it. But he stares at Frank in silence, and forces Frank to raise his eyes.

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“What we going to do?” Frank asks.

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“Well, the first thing we got to do,” says Joseph, resolutely, “is to stop blaming each other, and stop blaming ourselves. If we can’t do that, man, we’ll never get the boy out because we’ll be so fucked up. And we cannot fuck up now, baby, and I know you hear where I’m coming from.”

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“Man, what,” asks Frank – with his little smile – “we going to do about the money?”

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“You ever have any money?” Joseph asks.

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Frank looks up at him and says nothing – merely questions him with his eyes.

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Joseph asks again, “You ever have any money?” Frank says, finally, “No.”

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“Then, why you worried about it now?”

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Frank looks up at him again.

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“You raised them somehow, didn’t you? You fed them somehow – didn’t you? If we start to wor­rying about money now, man, we going to be fucked and we going to lose our children. That white man, baby, and may his balls shrivel and his ass-hole rot, he want you to be worried about the money. That’s his whole game. But if we got to where we are without money, we can get fur­ther. I ain’t worried about they money – they ain’t got no right to it anyhow, they stole it from us – they ain’t never met nobody they didn’t lie to and steal from. Well, I can steal, too. And rob. How you think I raised my daughters? Shit.”

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Jun 9
Angelina F (Jun 09 2020 3:29PM) : its crazy to say but life is still a struggle till this day
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But Frank is not Joseph. He stares down again, into his drink.

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“What you think is going to happen?”

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“What we make happen,” says Joseph – again, with resolution.

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“That’s easy to say,” says Frank.

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“Not if you mean it,” says Joseph.

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There is a long silence into which neither man speaks. Even the jukebox is silent.

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“I guess,” Frank says, finally, “I love Fonny more than I love anybody in this world. And it makes me ashamed, man, I swear, because he was a real sweet manly little boy, wasn’t scared of nothing – except maybe his Mama. He didn’t understand his Mama.” Frank stops. “And I don’t know what I should have done. I ain’t a woman. And there’s some things only a woman can do with a child. And I thought she loved him – like I guess I thought, one time, she loved me.” Frank sips his drink, and he tries to smile. “I don’t know if I was ever any kind of father to him – any kind of real father – and now he’s in jail and it ain’t his fault and I don’t even know how I’m going to get him out. I’m sure one hell of a man.”

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“Well,” says Joseph, “he sure think you are. He loves you, and he respects you – now, you got to remember that I might know that much better than you. Tell you something else. Your baby son is the father of my baby daughter’s baby. Now, how you going to sit here and act like can’t nothing be done? We got a child on the way here, man. You want me to beat the shit out of you?” He says this with ferocity; but, after a moment, he smiles. “I know,” he says, then, carefully, “I know. But I know some hustles and you know some hustles and these are our children and we got to set them free.” Joseph finishes his beer. “So, let’s drink up, man, and go on in. We got a whole lot of shit to deal with, in a hurry.”

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Frank finishes his drink, and straightens his shoulders. “You right, old buddy. Let’s make it.”

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The date for Fonny’s trial keeps changing. This fact, paradoxically, forces me to realize that Hayward’s concern is genuine. I don’t think that he very much cared, in the beginning. He had never taken a case like Fonny’s before, and it was Ernestine, acting partly out of experience but mainly out of instinct, who had bludgeoned him into it. But, once into it, the odor of shit rose high; and he had no choice but to keep on stirring it. It became obvious at once, for example, that the degree of his concern for his client – or the fact that he had any genuine concern for his client at all – placed him at odds, at loggerheads, with the keepers of the keys and seals. He had not expected this, and at first it bewildered, then frightened, then angered him. He swiftly understood that he was between the carrot and the stick: he couldn’t avoid the stick but he had to make it clear, final­ly, that he’d be damned if he’d go for the carrot. This had the effect of isolating, indeed of branding him, and, as this increased Fonny’s danger, it also increased Hayward’s responsibility. It did not help that I distrusted him, Ernestine harangued him, Mama was laconic, and, for Joseph, he was just another white boy with a college degree.

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Although, naturally, in the beginning, I distrusted him, I am not really what you can call a dis­trustful person: and, anyway, as time wore on, with each of us trying to hide our terror from the other, we began to depend more and more on one another – we had no choice. And I began to see, as time wore on, that, for Hayward, the battle increasingly became a private one, involving neither gratitude nor public honor. It was a sordid, a banal case, this rape by a black boy of an ignorant Puerto Rican woman – what was he getting so excited about? And so his colleagues scorned and avoided him. This fact introduced yet other dangers, not least of them the danger of retreating into the self-pitying and quixotic. But Fonny was too real a presence, and Hayward too proud a man for that.

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But the calendars were full – it would take about a thousand years to try all the people in the American prisons, but the Americans are optimistic and still hope for time – and sympathetic or merely intelligent judges are as rare as snowstorms in the tropics. There was the obscene power and the ferocious enmity of the D.A.’s office. Thus, Hayward walked a chalk line, maneuvering very hard to bring Fonny before a judge who would really listen to the case. For this, Hayward needed charm, patience, money, and a backbone of tempered steel.

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He managed to see Daniel, who has been beaten. He cannot arrange for his release because Da­niel has been booked on a narcotics charge. Without becoming Daniel’s lawyer, he cannot visit him. He suggests this to Daniel, but Daniel is evasive and afraid. Hayward suspects that Daniel has alio been drugged and he does not know if he dares bring Daniel to the witness stand, or not.

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So. There we are. Mama begins letting out my clothes, and I go to work wearing jackets and slacks. But it’s clear that I’m not going to be able to keep working much longer: I’ve got to be able to visit Fonny every instant that I can. Joseph is working overtime, double time, and so is Frank. Ernestine has to spend less time with her children because she has taken a job as part-time private secretary to a very rich and eccentric young actress, whose connections she intends to intimidate, and use. Joseph is coldly, systematically, stealing from the docks, and Frank is stealing from the garment center and they sell the hot goods in Harlem, or in Brooklyn. They don’t tell us this, but we know it. They don’t tell us because, if things go wrong, we can’t be accused of being accomplic­es. We cannot penetrate their silence, we must not try. Each of these men would gladly go to jail, blow away a pig, or blow up a city, to save their progeny from the jaws of this democratic hell.

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Now, Sharon must begin preparing for her Puerto Rican journey, and Hayward briefs her:

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“She is not actually in Santurce, but a little beyond it, in what might once have been called a suburb, but which is now far worse than what we would call a slum. In Puerto Rico, I believe it is called afavella. I have been to Puerto Rico once, and so I will not try to describe a favella. And I am sure, when you return, that you will not try to describe it, either.”

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Jun 10
Angelina F (Jun 10 2020 11:25AM) : what does he mean by this?

Hayward looks at her, at once distant and intense, and hands her a typewritten sheet of paper. “This is the address. But I think that you will understand, almost as soon as you get where you are going, that the word ‘address’ has almost no meaning – it would be more honest to say: this is the neighborhood.”

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Sharon, wearing her floppy beige beret, looks at it.

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“There’s no phone,” says Hayward, “and, anyway, a phone is the very last thing you need. You might as well send up flares. But it isn’t hard to find. Just follow your nose.”

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They stare at each other.

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“Now,” says Hayward, with his really painful smile, “just to make things easier for you, I must tell you that we are not really certain under which name she is living. Her maiden name is Sanchez – but that’s a little like looking for a Mrs. Jones or a Mr. Smith. Her married name is Rogers; but I am sure that that appears only on her passport. The name of what we must call her common-law husband” – and now he pauses to look down at another sheet of paper, and then at Sharon and then at me – “is Pietro Thomasino Alvarez.”

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He hands Sharon this piece of paper; and, again, Sharon studies it.

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“And,” says Hayward, “take this with you. I hope it will help. She still looks this way. It was snapped last week.”

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And he hands Sharon a photograph, slightly larger than passport size.

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I have never seen her. I stand, to peer over Sharon’s shoulder. She is blond – but are Puerto Ri­cans blond? She is smiling up into the camera a constipated smile; yet, there is life in the eyes. The eyes and the eyebrows are dark, and the dark shoulders are bare.

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