Thankfully, everything had worked out with Laney leaving and all. I had been rapping with Ros for almost four weeks. We hadn’t gone out because of conflicting schedules. My job and Laney held me captive. Ros’ son and work held her captive. But the weekend when Laney left, our clocks became magically synchronized. We set up dinner at the Olive Garden on Saturday. Flip wanted to double date, but that was a major no-no. Never allow two women, that you have no intention on making your ladies, see each other. Flip knew that, but he was slippin. He called me the day after Laney left which was a Saturday.
“Damn Tee I don’t get to see you no more. You leave work and don’t call me. We don’t go out anymore. I need to know if we’re together or not?”
“Flip quit trippin.”
“So what’s up?”
“I told you Laney left yesterday right?”
“Yeah, I had to cover for your ass down on the floor at work. You remember that don’t you? Seemed as if she had you stretched out.”
“Little bit. Man, what’s up with you leaving the message about double dating? You know better.”
“I just figured-”
“Sounds as if you’re the one that’s got his nose open.”
“I’m coming over,” he said.
“That’s cool for a little while, but I’m going out with Ros at seven.”
“We got about an hour to talk?”
“Is everything cool?”
“It’s the job man,” he responded.
“I’ll see you in a minute, peace.”
In the past few months that Flip and I had been hanging, I allowed his job position and how he seemed to deal with his personal life so well, blind me to the reality that he was still young. Before Flip made it over, I wrote in my journal what had occurred with Laney. I wondered if I handled it in the right way. I think I did. I told her that I wasn’t looking for anything that would be extremely serious, she knew that. By telling her, before she left, about how I felt, the window of opportunity remained open. She could neither hate me or regret what occurred. The best thing was that she would still want me when she got back.
Flip got to my house shortly after I finished my entry. The phone rang for me to let him in.
“Everything alright with you lil brother?” I said as he walked through the door.
“You got something to drink?”
“Go get it yourself, you know where everything is.” He walked towards the kitchen and came back with a bottle of water. Flip sat on the couch and took a drink. He looked at me and shook his head, before placing the bottle on the table.
“You said the job was bothering you man?”
“Tee, I walked upstairs, when you were gone yesterday, to rap with Mr. Sams about some of the paperwork.”
“Right,” I said. “What happened Flip talk to me man.”
“When I got up there, the door was cracked to his office and I overheard him speaking to someone about some people who work on the line.”
“He always does that. He’s always complains about something, you know Sammy,” I said trying to lighten the mood.
“He was talking about the Mexicans.”
“And, you’re Puerto Rican. What’s that got to do with you?”
“I’m Latino. He’s been hiring ‘wetbacks,’ as he said. He ain’t even paying them what they’re supposed to be getting.”
“He’s paying them. Look Flip you have to realize that business is business. What he’s doing up there isn’t any of your concern. They may not be getting paid twelve or thirteen dollars an hour, but what they’re getting is a lot more than they would get in Tijuana.”
“So it’s okay to you that the Mexicans are the new niggers?”
“I didn’t say it was okay, I’m just saying that it’s none of your business and that some things can’t be changed. Everything takes time.”
“I don’t know man. I don’t like it. My parents were treated like that before they died.”
I knew that Flip had been raised by a Black family, but I assumed that it was from birth. I wasn’t ready for what he was saying. He glossed over his parents story in an attempt to make his point. I realized where he was coming from, but hell Blacks folks done had it bad for so long that I find it hard to find a lot of sympathy for any other races. Flip was really bothered by the whole thing. We talked about the situation for a few months, before he settled down, but I’m not sure if he’s truly over it. Youth is a trip. You still believe that you can save the world, which is admirable. Unfortunately, it’s not true and if you don’t accept that some things will take lifetimes to fix, you can destroy yourself.
I felt sorry for Flip and I respected him for his compassion, but I told him, “Flip if you want to do something about this, talk to the Mexicans that work on the line.”
“Unions, saving money, working together, you know.”
“I don’t know. They can’t join unions, they’re not full-fledged citizens. They don’t have any health care, nothing man.”
“Look, I feel you Flip, but on the real there’s nothing that you can do except respect them as if they are citizens. Actually, respect them like they’re human, which they are. Sams is a fool, but he runs the facility.”
“Maybe you can help them organize to pay for monthly hospital visits with a doctor who has his own practice.” His face seemed to brighten.
“Maybe man. Maybe I can do that. That would be a start.”
“Remember though, you can’t save the world, you can save yourself and listen to your conscience.”
“Do the right thing huh?”
“Yeah the right thing.”
We said our byes and I gave him a pound before he walked out.
“Do the right thing,” he said walking out of the door.
Flip was a strong young brother and now he’s a strong man who understands the way things kind of work. I admired him for what he attempted to do. He tried to help them out but the problem was simple, they weren’t making enough money. He couldn’t fix that, at least that’s what I thought. He even did the unthinkable by talking with Sams about the whole problem. Sams responded by asking him if he would be willing to take a pay cut to pay them more money. I thought to myself that that was just like a White man. Take what a brother has earned to correct the wrongs that he has done. Then I reconsidered and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t White men, but men period. All people from a race aren’t messed up, but sometimes you can‘t tell.
When Flip left that afternoon, “Do the right thing,” stuck with me for a moment. I wrote it down. It was Flip’s step towards Stage Two. The signs were there, but it wouldn’t be for another six months that he would cross the line.
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