Winston - Two parts - Part One

All that winter I got up at 5:45 a.m. and left to open the kitchen. The Mendacious Kitchen was the only place I felt relaxed. When I got in I made myself porridge and ate it. I chopped vegetables. I wore a white paper hat over my greasy hair. I did my work well and I listened to Winston.

Winston told me he had grown up in Washington DC. He laughed - a high pitched laugh that trilled sardonically. People said this city was tough, but Winston said that living in Washington was like living in the ocean - big fish ate the little fish just for walking down the road. It was hard, especially for someone like him who was Black but looked white. Winston was a little chubby, liquid-eyed, curly-haired, a smattering of beard, an unplaceable accent, olive skin. Early on, gently relishing my confusion, he'd asked me what race I thought he was. People always struggled to locate him racially and plumped quite often for Portuguese.

Winston had moved to Chicago as a teenager and joined a gang. I couldn't tell if he was amused by my gullibility or just by my astonishment as he told me stories of gun-slinging in the streets - standing facing other gangs, guns blazing. His gang name was Will Kill. Winston always wished he'd been named Die Hard. When I asked why, he said he thought the name Die Hard meant that you would be hard to kill.

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