Anyway, when I was rolling with the Route 9 crew, I didn't want the Boston thugs to know me. I didn't want them to know me till I had them at the end of my gun, and they would have to give my sister back. I tried that in the end. It didn't work out how I wanted it to.
In the hospital, after Tintin wrote Route 9 on my bandage, he shook my hand. It hurt, but he didn't notice.
- How are you? he asked me.
- I got shot, I said. How do you think I am?
Tintin shrugged. He got shot a couple of years ago, and Biggie and Stéphanie arranged for him to come here to get sewn up. For him, it obviously wasn't a big deal. But that's Tintin. He's, like, so full of holes, so easy to hurt, that he stops the world from hurting him by hurting it fi rst. If he found a puppy, he'd strangle it to stop himself liking it. He knows I got shot, too, before, when I was young. But I don't remember that so well.
- Everyone in the hood be giving you props, blud, Tintin said in English. Tintin was one of those gangsters who talk all the time in English, like they're from the hood or something, the real hood, like in New York or Baltimore. You was cold out there. Vre chimère.
I didn't know what to say, so I just said:
This is what American gangsters say when they want to agree with something. I said it so that I would still sound like a player even though I couldn't care less about that thug shit anymore, for reasons which you will learn for your ownselves. But that seemed to be OK, cos Tintin nodded like I had said something profound.
- Leave here, you'll get a block, gen pwoblem. Maybe be a boss one day your ownself, Tintin said. You killed those Boston motherfuckers stone dead.
Now I shrugged. I didn't want a block. I wanted all the dead people to not be dead anymore, but that's a lot to ask, even in Haiti, where dead people are never really dead. Vre chimère.
A real ghost. Chimère is for gangster in the Site. Chimère cos we melt out of nothing and we go back to nothing after. Chimère cos we die so young we may as well be ghosts already. You're thinking, strange thing to call yourselves; strange thing to have a name that means you're gonna die young. And yeah, it's a name that the rich people came up with, the people who live outside the Site, but we took that name and we made it our own. Same as thug. Same as bandi.
You wanna name me a chimère? Too late. I already named my ownself.
Anyway, now I think it's kind of a good name. Now, I think, maybe I am a real ghost. Not a gangster, but a dead person. Sometime today or another day, I heard people shouting from far, far away in the darkness. It sounded like:
- ...alive... in there?
I shouted back. You can guess what I shouted. I shouted, yes. I shouted, help. I shouted those words in French and English. I shouted in Kreyòl to tell them there was an accident and I was hurt. Then I thought that was a dumb-ass thing to shout, cos this is a hospital, so of course I was hurt, and it must have been anpil obvious there had been an accident, with everything fallen down.
But nobody answered and the voices went away. I don't know when that was. I don't know when it's night and when it's day, or even if night and day exist anymore.
If I can hear people shouting, but they can't hear me, does that make me a ghost? I think, maybe yes. I can't see myself. I can't prove that I exist.
But then I think, no, I can't be a ghost. A ghost does not get thirsty, and as I'm lying here in the broken hospital it's like my mouth is bigger than me, bigger than the darkness. Like my mouth contains the world, not the other way round. It's dry and sore and I can't think of anything else. My thinking, cos of my thirst, is like this:
Excerpted from In Darkness by Nick Lake. Copyright © 2012 by Nick Lake. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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