The Victim

Chapter Two: Friends

Moral high ground

We wake up the next day incredibly hangover. I feel like all the water in my body has been sucked dry by the alcohol. I open the kitchen tab and start drinking as much water as I can, then prepare some coffee. “Someone kill me…” my roommate says from the bedroom. I bring her the first coffee I make, which she thanks with a smile, then make my own. “Today we’re going to see uncle,” she announces from her bedroom. “About the… shootout?” I ask. “About a lot of things,” she replies.

I have a feeling of what’s at stake here. My future. Well, our future. “Sure, what time is it?” I ask. “Uhm… Two?” she says. “Let me see…” After a minute fighting with her phone’s interface she finally says “Yeah, it’s at two. We’re also meeting the lawyer, my brother and his assistant.” Instead of our usual talk, we spend lunch in silence, with a blank stare on our face thinking of the two bullies bleeding out on the street as cops handcuff them. I feel out of my body throughout the whole day, like I’m in some strange world. My girlfriend’s uncle waits for us in a luxury hotel in town. “Good to see you, dear,” he greets his niece with a kiss on the cheek. He barely glances at me.

My girlfriend, her brother, his assistant (my arab friend,) my friend from school and I all sit down with her uncle. All of us saw what happened first hand and are still in shock, though some more than others. “The police has launched an investigation into the leak,” explains the lawyer. I look away, worried. “Is there anything that can implicate any of you?” asks her uncle. We all stay mute at first. “No, uncle, trust me,” jumps my girlfriend’s brother. “She used an anonymous—” “What did you use, a phone?” interrupts his uncle. He nods. “Did you throw it away?” I feel my face starting to burn. “No, she still has it.”

He looks at me. It’s like a titanic fiery eye focusing all its fire on me. “Are you f-wording stupid!? Take it out.” I oblige. “For f-words sake, we taught you to be smarter than this,” he says to his niece and nephew. Then he takes my phone, removes the card, smashes it, throws everything in the toilet and flushes. “But we posted it from a cafeteria, using a fake account. There wasn’t anything there…” her brother tries to explain. But his uncle shakes his head. “You put in danger… you don’t even know what you’ve put in danger. You’re both a couple of ungrateful brats! Zero, zero respect for tradition… Why even do it!? Why!?”

“Look, uncle, what’s done is done,” starts my girlfriend calmly. “No point in lamenting. Now it’s time for damage control, and it looks like there’s no damage. We didn’t do it on a whim, we didn’t do it out of spite. We did what was right. We made justice happen when no one else would.” She stands up. “And if you think I’m going to do nothing when I know I can make a difference, well, think again. Maybe I don’t care so much about your precious ‘legacy’ so much as I care about what’s right. And if that’s a problem, I will manage on my own.”

Her uncle opens his mouth to talk, then shuts up. Right then and there I realize: as long as she has a political future, she has him under her thumb. It’s her uncle who has the most to lose. What I don’t get is why he treats his nephew so poorly… “Can you at least promise none of this can go public?” my girlfriend’s uncle asks. “Only the people in this room know,” her brother says. “Oh, well, and whoever sent us the info,” says my friend from school. “But that doesn’t prove anything. It was sent to one of tol’s email addresses, so the leak can always be blamed on some aide or—” “Are you people even listening to yourselves?” my arab friend interrupts.

“Who, who’s this again?” says her uncle. “You… you people are talking about blaming someone else… and covering your tracks. Are you… are you forgetting people actually died? Four people died yesterday, and it’s on us. Did you sleep last night? Because I didn’t, and I hope you couldn’t either. Those people are, like… gone forever because of a decision you made.” He’s looking directly at me. “Wait a second mister,” says my girlfriend raising her voice. “We made that decision, and you agreed. Don’t try to pin this on us. And cut the moral high ground drama crap.”

My arab friend stands up, as if repulsed by the chair he’s sitting in. “Look…” he sighs. “I joined you because… well, because I thought you were good and could make a difference… I didn’t… expect this. So I think it’ll be better if I just resign.” I feel the hairs in my back stand up. And by the look on the faces of the rest of the people in the room, the same thing happens to them. “Don’t worry,” he says as if sensing our concern. “I won’t expose you… even if I should. No, I want to get away from you people and try to have a life while I can.”

“You ungrateful f…” starts my girlfriend’s brother. “No, no, let him alone,” says my friend from school. “It looks like he’s made up his mind.” My arab friend exits the room. “Give me a moment,” I say before following him outside. “I’m sorry about what happened, it was never-I-I—” I mutter. “You can also leave them, it’s not too late yet. But if you stay with them… well, I don’t know what will become of you.”

“Stop demonizing them,” I burst. “What happened to you? When I met you, you were funny and…” “They happened. What we did yesterday happened.” I’m mad now. “You see… you see everything black and white! Well it’s not. You didn’t want to play victim on tv? Fine. But you know what? We got thousands of dollars out of that, which we used to promote fairness and—” “Fairness?” he asks. “How can we promote fairness if we’re the first to avoid justice and use influence to hide crimes. You have no idea what they do. You think you do, but you don’t. And I can’t stand it one more second. I-I don’t want to see you or any of them ever again.”

He turns around and leaves. I stand there for a moment, feeling very violent. My gut burns. I hate him for saying those things. I hate him for hating me, for hating us. I walk back into the room. “… explore other options,” I hear my friend from school say as I come back in.