The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis
Shinin, like who on top of this?
People was hustlin, arguin and bustlin
Gangstaz hardcore hustlin
I’m wrestlin with words and ideas
My ears is picky, seekin what will transmit
the scribes can apply to transcript, yo
This ain’t no time where the usual is suitable
Tonight alive, let’s describe the inscrutable

– Mos Def

As I walk out the door of my Dad’s house in Orlando for an evening run on Christmas the depression hits.  I don’t know if any one else experiences this, but I always get depressed after Christmas.  Maybe it’s the overload of sugar…….Maybe it’s the stress of the next year ahead……Maybe it’s the longing for more stuff……..the stuff that we mistakenly call “gifts.”

Whatever it is it hits me every year.  And don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  It is one of my favorite times of the year, but I dread the time after Christmas. 

As I walked down the street longing for a nice run to make me feel better I see a friend of mine that I grew up with in my neighborhood who is a year younger than me.  We are going to call him James because I don’t want to use his real name. 

I almost said hi and just walked on by…you know the “hey how are you, okay i’m way to busy to talk to you” thing that we do.

But, for some reason I stopped and chatted with James.  I quickly learned that James had just been released from prison and is on house arrest for selling cocaine in downtown Orlando.  James comes from a line of drug dealers.  His Dad was deported back to Haiti shortly after they moved into our neighborhood because he was arrested for having a kilo of cocaine.  After graduating high school, James realized that he could make a lot of quick money selling cocaine so he took a cruise ship to Haiti to meet his Dad and smuggled cocaine back to the states.  James made a lot of money really fast………..then he got arrested.

He should be in prison, but the judge gave him house arrest because his lawyer proved that he grew up in a nice area and was a good kid who just made a bad decision.  Funny what the suburbs can do for you…….

This is the wealthy burbs of Orlando.  So, here our conversation began….

We started with small talk, but we soon graduated to some very deep issues after I told him that I want to live in the neighborhoods that he deals in.  (By the way, this conversation is going on while he is buying an eight ball (cocaine) on his cell phone and waiting for his brother to pick him up to go downtown to deal).  I will never forget what he told me after I told him the things I want to do with my life…….He says, “There can be a million Jonnos (he calls me jonno), but it won’t make a difference.  Just get a good job, make money, support a family and stay away.  You need to make a good life for yourself.  You see, those areas, they      have      no      hope………”

So we continued to walk and talk………three hours to be exact.  We talked about everything from drugs to racism, from education to violence, from politics to money.  Every twenty minutes or so James would get a call and he would set up a deal for later that night, but as we walked the calls slowly stopped………………

At around 1 in the morning James stops and says, “You know what, I was going to go deal tonight, but this conversation really enlightened me.”  I quickly replied, “Well, I hope I enlightened you as much as you enlightened me.”  Then he said, “My brother hasn’t came to pick me up yet and my phone has stopped ringing.  I think this night happened for a reason.  I’m glad we talked.”  We then parted ways after a conversation that I, hopefully, will never forget.

As I walked back down the street to my Dad’s house, in the neighborhood where money is no issue, where my old friend James is on house arrest for dealing cocaine and where I learned that there is another way possible I thought to myself…….

There is always hope.  And James, who does not believe it, just proved it to me.  Maybe, just maybe, it starts with one conversation at a time………….