Cal sits on the worn out, splinter ridden, steps to the porch of his Portland Avenue apartment building. The light beer is warm and a bit nasty but it was all that was in his uncle’s fridge and he needed something, just a little to tie him over. He doesn’t have a problem, he can not drink if he wants, but he doesn’t want to, and since folks are going to think bad of him anyway, who cares if he gets a little drunk.
Six. That is the number of stores and restaurants he has walked into today. All over the city from the lakeside to the edge of Highland Park, milking that day pass for all it is worth and waiting, waiting, waiting at bus stops and in diner booths. So much waiting it feels like that is all he ever does anymore. He waits once a week at the DSS. He waits for the mail, for news from his cousin’s lawyer telling him whether or not he can see his kids. He waits for just one goddamn phone call asking him to start tomorrow. Any tomorrow.
It’s his record: one little assault. Everyone was out partying, celebrating LeShaun actually graduating college. One of them made it, whatever the hell that means. You run into another group though, and mouths start working. A broken nose here, a bloody lip there, but the Po Po had to make an example so Cal, and one of the guys from the other group, and poor fucking LeShaun all get thrown in. Just for a little bit, but that is all it takes.
Marked for life, at least LeShaun still has that degree. He could have done better but now he works as warehouse shift supervisor. It’s something they all suppose, but he has nothing for Cal. He’ll call when someone leaves, but for now, all Cal can do is drink his beer, and then another. All he can do is swallow down the bitterness. All he can do is wait.