Rising from a restless slumber Shareef pulls pack the covers and his feet land on the seemingly frozen floor of his broken down apartment, “I’m so tired of this dump.” Standing erect, “Umph,” he groans putting a hand to his lower back, “this mattress killing me, Imma have to find money for a new one.” His eyes catch 8:15 on his desktop clock. He’s twenty minutes off schedule, “Tsst,” he hisses, “stupid alarm clock; I should have replaced you months ago.” Rushing for a quick shower he tries to defy the odds. He rushes outside. As if angered by the early morning freeze, his car refuses to start. “Nothing in my life works like it’s supposed to.” He slams the car door shut and walks around to check under the hood. He checks the oil and shakes his head, “why this kinda stuff always happen to me?” He hops back in the car and tries to start it again. The engine slowly rolls over like a reluctant sleeper, “fricken piece of crap,” he mutters as he pulls off.
Shareef converses with Gerald a co-worker at the auto repair shop, “You know Ms. Alvin was tripping about you being late, right?” “Man, she need to worry about keeping this trash heap functioning. Don’t nothing in here work like it’s supposed to.” “You lucky she aint docked your pay as much as you late.” “Don’t matter, man, I hate working here anyway.” Gerald laughs and asks, “If things in your world so messed up, why don’t you change them?” blowing off the truth of his words, Shareef answers, “that would be a waste of time.” “So you let your life go down the drain?”
Ms. Alvin, the boss, interrupts their conversation, “Mr. Abdur, glad you could join us today. One more late day, and I dock your pay.” She walks off. “That broad really know how to work my nerves.” “So it’s the alarm clock fault you late, the car fault for not getting you here fast enough and the boss fault for giving you a warning about being late?” Shareef ignores the question, “Lunchtime.”
Gerald and Shareef continue to talk over lunch. In between bites of their sandwiches, “Reef, you good people, but it’s like you put your life’s course in everybody else’s hands. This life, this world, is yours. You gotta make it what you want it to be.” Before Shareef can respond, Gerald’s eyes grow big in panic. He drops his sandwich and grabs Shareef’s arm. Unsure of what’s going on, Shareef backs up staring at Gerald. Gerald points at his throat. “What do I do?” Shareef asks helplessly as Gerald continues to choke and falls to the ground. “Help me get him up!” a young man yells as he jumps from behind the counter. Shareef can only watch, frozen in fear. The young man lifts Gerald from the floor and wraps both hands around Gerald’s waist. He places his fist in Gerald’s midsection and pulls upward in short thrusts. After a few thrusts, a few large chunks of salami and bread exit Gerald’s mouth, freeing his airway. After a few coughs and deep breaths, Gerald’s features slowly return to normal. “You was just gone watch him die?” the young helper who saved Gerald’s life asks Shareef in frustration.
Two years later, Shareef wakes up cursing his bed, grumbling about his apartment, crappy car, and miserable job. Like Gerald, his life is being choked to death. Shareef stands and looks without trying to change things. Things remain broken, only because he never acts to fix them.
A world unchanged.