“ That Weren’t Nothing “ by Kylie Small
When I asked my friend William about his past, he’d say,
“Oh that weren’t nothing.” But his past, his life was something
and he was a good man.
In 1985, William was well known and respected on Euclid
and 14th Street, N.W. in D.C. During that time, the area was
drug infested. On 14th Street there was a large apt complex
across from the Police Boys and Girls Club, that was the
source of trouble night and day.
He lived in a rooming house less than a block over and saw
ugly drama unfold in every direction. Instead of the ugliness
making him hard, William had a heart of pure gold! He fed
homeless people, helped addicts get clean, gave away clothing
and volunteered at the Police Boys and Girls Club. He did most
of these activities with his young son, teaching him compassion
and to keep him away from drugs and gangs.
I met William when I managed the Eagle Black Business Meetings, at
what was then called the “Harambee House”, on Georgia Avenue.
It was renamed “Howard Inn” since it’s in front of famous Howard
Most of our staff were volunteers. William provided security for
the meetings and made sure we had plenty of flyers to pass out.
His real job was in the mail room of a government building where he
had excess to high speed copiers.
He even inspired me to get involved at the Police Boys and Girls Club.
I taught the kids to sew. They made dresses, suits for the boys, jeans and
other items, including knock off Cabbage Patch dolls.
You see, it was vital that they be as professional as possible so that one day they could make a good living sewing.
To conclude our class, I had them put on a fashion show that stunned everyone.
All the police, their parents, friends and community attended. They couldn't believe the children ages 8 to 12, actually made those outfits, but of course they did.
I also had picnics for the kids, teaching them to eat healthy food, instead of junk from the corner stores.
They couldn't be late for class either. The consequence was having to rip out incorrect seams. Since they hated that, each one make sure they were on time, even sliding to the door so they weren't deemed late. It was my way of preparing them for a future work atmosphere where they'd have to be on time or lose out.
Anyway after months of hanging out, William suddenly stopped
attending the meetings and didn’t call me. I called the rooming house and
spoke to the owner. She said he wasn’t home but she would give him my message.
Then she told me what William had been up too. She knew me
cause I brought William and his son home several times, but I
got the feeling she would tell William’s business to anyone.
“Oh it was a terrible mess!”, she said. “William was in the alley
and came up-on sum’n. Big man, he the crack man, had a gun
to old Larry’s head. He was gonna blow his brains out on account
of Larry owing him drug money.
Larry stay here too, but I told him not to bring them damn drugs
in my house, so he does it in the alley. Anyways William pleaded
with Big man to let Larry go. Said he'd pay the money out of his
own pocket, just give him a couple days to get it. See, they all
knows William good for his word. Big man got his money
and Larry tells everybody how William saved his life.
After that you'd think old Larry stop using that mess. Hell no!
He in the hospital right now cause he's too damn old be smoking
that mess. He bout 70.”
Wow! Once more I was amazed at William’s courage and
compassion, even in a dangerous situation like that. I told her to
have him to call me and I was glad he was alright. She said he
was working extra shifts, maybe that’s why I hadn’t heard from him.
I knew he was saving every dime to buy a home for his son.
I called a couple more times and she said William got my messages,
but he never returned my call. Between work and moving to a larger
home, I hadn’t checked on William for a while.
That's the difference between men friends and women friends;
women know where and what their friends are up to all the time.
Men love their friends too, but they assume everything is fine and
they'll see 'em when they see 'em.
It had been a while, I was getting worried, so I drove to the
rooming house to give him my new number and address.
When I got there, the owner said he wasn’t there anymore. I asked
where he had moved too. “Dear, William didn’t move. William is dead.”
The wind went right out of me, my knees buckled and I sat down
hard on the cement steps! She told me what happened.
My friend had succumb to the very enemy he had fought against;
Crack. He started selling crack to get money to buy a home, then
he started smoking it, got addicted...
One night, he snuck in a man’s room to steal his money. He got
the money and was crawling out when the man heard a sound,
woke up and turned the lamp on. There was William, on all fours,
like a dog, with the money hanging out of his mouth.
The man was old Larry, the one he saved from getting killed last
year. Larry said William apologized and started crying like a baby,
saying he was in the same situation Larry was in before. The drug
dealers would kill him if he didn’t come up with the money he owed
them. Larry let William have the money.
It wasn’t long before William owed the dealers even more money.
Last month, as he sat on the steps with his son and lady friend,
a car pulled up and stopped. A man got out, didn’t say a word,
pointed a rifle at William and shot him several times, right in front
of his son. Got back in the car and drove off.
William died instantly, with his blood spattered all over his son’s
face and clothes. The woman tried to pull the boy away but he
was in shock and didn’t move until the paramedics took him away
to be checked. Thankfully he hadn’t been shot.
When I realized my friend had been killed on those very steps, I
jumped up like I had been hit! She said his son was with his mom
in North Carolina now, so she didn’t know how he was doing.
Drugs can turn the nicest person into a monster. It takes the life
of the user, dealers and everyone around them. By the time we
hear about someone getting killed or killing over drugs, that’s the
end of it. You never hear about what kind of person they were,
before the drugs took control.
Well, my friend William was a good man. He certainly loved his son
and took very good care of him, when he was in his right mind.
That’s what I remember the most; how much he loved his son.
His eyes lit up when he looked at his son. They always held hands.
They were father, son and best friends too.
He did good things for a lot of people in that area, but the greatest
thing he did, was love unconditionally...when he was in his right mind.