The Victim

Chapter Two: Friends

Real lives matter

I listen to the words coming out of the tv and can’t quite believe it. “… there’s sixteen dead so far, and many more are presumed to be buried under the structure. This is now the fourth fire of what is suspected to be a serial arsonist. The police have absolutely no clues regarding the man that has taken so many innocent lives already and caused millions in damages to public infrastructure. The—” My girlfriend turns it off. “It’s awful. Who would… who would do something like this?” she asks.

I stay silent for a moment. “You know… it’s horrible, but… this actually benefits us.” She pulls away from me in horror. “What… how?” She asks. “For the election, at least,” I say. “Your main, and maybe only real opponent has defended cutting down funds for law enforcement. This fire is your chance to show everyone he’s wrong.” She hesitates. “But I will lose the support of Real Lives Matter,” she says. “I know, I already thought of that,” I reply. “That’s why you will also announce that when you’re elected, you will organize a civil commission to look into black suspect deaths by police gunfire.”

“I guess,” she says. “… I should ask my uncle first if…” “Don’t worry,” I interrupt her. “I had the idea while you were in the debate, which is when the story broke. I asked him and he agreed. In fact, he suggested that the commission should be civil instead of a police department for additional clarity.” Her face is like I’ve been running my nails across a chalkboard this whole time. “You… you talk to my uncle like that?” she asks, being far from happy about it.

“Someone has to run your campaign, you know,” I explain. “And he’s been very helpful, really.” She pulls away from me. “Ok, now you’re starting to freak me out,” she says. I reach out to take her hand, but she rejects me. “I-I’m going to take a… to sleep,” she says. She doesn’t like being managed. I can’t let her see me like she sees her uncle. As I’m sitting in silence, thinking about the campaign, I get a text. “your arab friend is in the hospital, yuou should come.” I come to her door to knock, but decide it’s better to let her sleep. I leave a note in the kitchen and drive away.

Of course, I forgot to mention. We have our own apartment and two cars now. All paid for by tol. I get to the hospital, walk to room 128 and knock softly. My girlfriend’s brother comes out. “Good, you’re here. Come in.” Once again I find the poor guy in a hospital bed. The left half of his face is completely bandaged. “Please, leave,” he says without looking at me. I can see a tear run down his right cheek. I come closer. “Leave, leave, leave! Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” he screams and I freeze. My girlfriend’s brother takes me gently by the arm and guides me out.

We go to the hospital’s cafeteria, order some coffee and sit down. “Look,” he starts after a while in silence. “Don’t take it personally. He just… he needs time. Did you know that night, when you both were attacked, he was going to tell you he had a crush on you?” He catches me by surprise. “I had no idea, honestly,” I reply. Although I admit I suspected he had feelings. “You have to understand what this means to him. He thinks he’s lost you forever, he said it himself. He’s… angry. Very angry.”

After we’ve been eating in silence for a while, I ask: “And how… you know… How did it happen?” He sighs. “It was the big fire caused by that arsonist. His cubicle was in the top floor, and when the fire—” “His cubicle?” I interrupt. “Does he work there?” He lifts his eyes from the coffee to look at me. “Yes. I didn’t mention? Sorry. He works in technical support now. Well, more like worked.” I sense a slight smile. “I’m not sure there will be much of that company left after what happened.”

I stay in silence for a while as I drink my coffee. “Well, I’ve gotta go now,” I say. “We’re making an announcement after what happened, and she…” “It’s ok, you don’t have to explain,” he says. I leave the hospital feeling like I’m the cause of my arab friend’s misery. On the way home, I begin to prepare mentally my girlfriend’s speech. In it, she attacks our major opponent, claiming we need additional funds for law enforcement. But she doesn’t stop there. Of course not. She also attacks the current administration, for being so corrupt that it allowed a building well below the safety requirements to operate, “at the expense of sixteen human lifes.” She also blames the current police chief for failing to produce any leads on the arsonist.

She also… what the hell, I will tell you what I have in mind: “… And what about the police chief? We’re talking about a man who has the record of black suspects dead by gunfire under his watch. But now that it’s time to catch actual killers and not petty thieves, he has nothing! I ask, wait no, enough with the mild rhetoric. I demand he resigns! Now is the time for change, and it’s up to us, not the people in power. Your vote makes a difference. You make a difference!”

If only I could say the words myself…