After a brief technical delay due to internet connectivity issues, we are resuming posting your stories again from Prague. Basic assumptions that people have about themselves and others are being challenged, and self-discovery is not always the pleasure it’s advertised to be. I will repeat the words of David Foster Wallace (who was actually paraphrasing one of his teachers): “Good writing should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.” We certainly have had evidence of that so far. I also feel compelled to remind everyone that I will not restrict commentary or censor stories, unless they are blatantly or overtly racist by intent. The story I am posting here will no doubt stir up a bit more controversy. I tend to side with Ice Cube, who, scolding Bill Marr on television for his gratuitous use of the word on his show, declared that only black people can use the N word, but I allow for it here and on a case by case basis if I think it is essential to the story. I apologize to all for whom the word continues to be offensive.
Let’s be the best people that we can be. Here is a story of peer pressure.
by Riley Sampson
“He talks about killing niggers and Jews.”
I lazily stirred my coffee, but I noticed Scottie wince, so I stopped. “I mean, it’s just talk.”
“But still, his anger was dragging me down. It made me pin my hate on others when I really just hated myself… Whenever we got into that, I needed alcohol to help me do it. I couldn’t say all that sober.”
“But you did.”
“Riley, you know me. I never meant any of that stuff,” he countered, “I was just going along with—”
“Scottie,” I said, “he’s not a Nazi only when he’s drunk. You can’t claim you were wasted every time we’d joke about ethnic cleansing.”
“Alcohol’s part of it.”
“Then why aren’t you an alcoholic?”
Scottie’s eyes refused to confront me, and in earnest, he relented something I’ve still failed to recognize. “You have passion—drive, and aspirations, and stuff. Until I find something like you have—and I know this sounds ridiculous—I don’t think I can be around Foster anymore.”
“That’s fair, I suppose…”
“Then could you do me a favor?” he asked me, “Tell Foster it’s my parents. That they’re grounding me for the drinking. I don’t want him to know this is all on my own volition.”
“Why?” I quirked, “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Honestly, I just don’t know what he’ll do.”
Honestly, Scottie is a coward.
Foster leaned over his mother’s bourgeois marble countertop. “That’s it?” The furl of his mouth disapproved—and violently, too.
I chuckled, watching him pour a tall glass of brandy. “So it would seem.”
“Wow,” he gaffed, “what a faggot.”
“It’s pretty annoying.”
“It’s very annoying.”
With a conceded stare, Foster ushered me towards the balcony. “Here,” he invited, “I wanna smoke,” and once outside, he flicked on a lighter and kissed his cigarette to the flame. “Though I guess we should’ve seen this coming.”
“Remember how he’d always blow us off for that nigger Jessica?” he said lowly through a smoky sigh, “and, God, she wasn’t even hot, though I guess that’d be impossible anyways.”
When Foster took another drag, I added, “She ended up cucking him too,” and, lounging against the balustrades, I considered whether my comment was constructive.
“Fuck. That’s right.” He lugged down some liquor, and then, in husky irritation: “This is why we need to kill them.”
“Personal experience isn’t an argument,” and thus, I had elicited my test.
When Foster rebutted me with studies of race and IQ, historical precedent, and a list of my favorite writers and scientists—all white, of course—I wondered why I didn’t care. Scottie had told me I was full of passion—that I had the momentum to escape Foster’s pull—but there I sat, mere feet away, so thoroughly passionless I was unable to compliment or condemn anything he said.
So, at some point I said “nigger” to make Foster laugh, and when I did, he told me to shut up because the neighbors were black.