I initially met Bragi, and Mimir through mutual acquaintances. At some point we began frequently hanging out together. Though the three of us were in our early 20's at the time, I was a couple or so years older than both of them.
Bragi was brash, humorous, and often loud. His approach to the world was about as methodical as a drunk bull in a china shop. He held a great reverence for all things rap, and hip-hop. For him the art was almost like a religion, and Tupac was its prophet.
Mimir was more reserved, leisurely, and viewed the world with a sort laid back cynicism. He was rarely disappointed by bad news, or negativity, because he did not expect much from people. He spent most of his time playing video games, watching television, and working out.
Bragi, and Mimir were the type of young guys who had a great deal of potential, but were weighed down by history, negative aspects of culture, and their own disbelief in their capabilities. Large portions of their days were often spent leisurely smoking blunts, playing video games, and listening to music. I found myself in the strange position of trying to make sure they attended the classes they signed up for at the local community college. Surprisingly, I was able to motivate them far more times than not. Mimir was eying the Navy more, and more. Bragi was uncertain what to do with himself, leaving a hint of sad frustration that occasionally surfaced when we discussed the future.
Admittedly, they were both often involved in some rather questionable activities. Mimir had a part time job, but made the frayed ends meet by selling weed. Bragi did the same, but also sold a few harder drugs. Such left me frequently worried about the both of them. It is lamentably easy for young Black men, and women to find themselves snared within the nearly inescapably tangle that is the U.S Prison System, even for the most minor offenses. I sometimes feared one, or perhaps even both of them, could meet such a fate.
It was an extremely hot afternoon that day we sat in Mimir's apartment. The front room was left mostly dim due to a majority the curtains, and shades being drawn shut. Only a single window, with an old, large fan, somehow wedged into place in front of it, was left open to provide air. Surprisingly, such methods helped in keeping his apartment rather cool. Bragi, and I, sat across from one another at a circular glass table in the kitchen. Just across from us, Mimir was watching television from a large black couch.
“Are you sure you're Black?” Bragi asked with feigned skepticism as he continued unloading the tin of domino pieces.
“Not sure where this is going. But seeing as there is nothing else to do, I'll bite. why do you ask?” I replied.
“How can dislike most soul foods, and not know how to play dominoes, but still call yourself Black?” He continued which caused Mimir to chuckle from where he continued channel surfing.
“My mistake. I had no idea I was genetically predispose to such things. I promise to get right on top of it.” I picked up a few of the domino pieces, and glanced over them with little interests.
“Now you know, nigga.” Bragi smirked.
“So, you want me to call you a dumbass before, or after you go writing your groundbreaking thesis on this topic?” I inquired politely before unscrewing the top of the large, dark brandy bottle, then partially filling both our glasses.
“Haha fuck you.” Bragi laughed and began arranging the pieces. “You'll thank me after you learn how to play. Dominoes is fun as hell.”
“Funny,” I examined one of the pieces. “I was thinking it looks quite the opposite.”
“What? Why would so many people love playing if its boring?” Bragi challenged.
“Lack of imagination, and other games to play?” I responded.
“Just shut up, and listen. You'll see.” Bragi promised confidentially.
“Right.” I began making a small house with five of the dominoes. “This is actually more like something a teacher, or parent would have a kid do in order to disguise they were just learning math.”
“So, what's the problem? You love all that book shit.” Bragi said.
“Yeah, but I absolutely loath math.” I explained.
“Hey, did either of you know there were dolphins that live in fresh water?” Mimir suddenly called out with noticeable excitement.
“What? You a damn lie. All dolphins live in the ocean.” Bragi called back in disbelief.
“Dude on the television just said it. Their even showing footage of them right now.” Mimir pointed indignantly at the television with his remote.
“Its true. They live in rivers in the amazon.” I added while still toying with a few dominoes. “I think their called Pink Dolphins, or Amazon River Dolphins-- or something.”
“Yeah. That is just what the dude filming this said.” Mimir confirmed. “That's weird, right? Who the fuck would have thought there are dolphins in the amazon.”
“How in hell did you know that?” Bragi asked me curiously.
“Because while you bastards were busy watching BET, I was actually reading books.” I replied over my drink, causing them to both laugh.
“What the fuck ever.” Bragi laughed and began setting up the pieces. “I've never watched BET past a couple of videos. All the shit on that channel is so goddamn stupid.”
Bragi continued trying to demonstrate the apparent greatness that was dominoes, and though I gave it a chance, I held little to no interests in the game. I honestly could not find the appeal then, or now. I would have probably had more fun building houses with the pieces. I glanced up from our game when I noticed music had been playing on the television for a while.
“Is that BET?” I asked.
“Yeah.”Mimir nodded. “Why?”
“Weren't we just talking about not watching BET?” Bragi remarked, and craned his neck towards the television.
“I literally only stopped here a couple of minutes ago to hear a few song.” Mimir replied defensively.
“Bullshit you did. It has been at least 20 minutes.” Bragi said.
“Fine. Whatever. I'm changing the channel now.” Mimir held the control up in a way so we could both see him actively looking for something new. “There! Here's some muthafuckas running from the cops. You both happy back there?”
“Isn't that SPIKE TV?” I asked suspiciously.
“Come on, find something else. I hate cops.” Bragi smirked. “The fuckin show, and the occupation.”
“Yeah. Why?” Mimir asked.
“So, you basically just left a channel that cater to dumb Black guys, in order to go to a channel that cater to dumb White guys.” I asked.
“That shit is true.” Bragi nodded in agreement. “The only difference BET and Spike, is that Spike is just dumb in a White sort of way.”
“There really isn't any pleasing you assholes.” Mimir began channel surfing again.
There was a tentative knock at the door. I would have mostly ignored it had I not noticed Bragi, and Mimir's reaction. While not dramatically so, they both seemed to grow pensive. With an exchanged look, Bragi stood to answer the door, and Mimir dramatically lowered the volume on the television.
After a brief glance through the peephole, Bragi unlocked, and opened the door. “Sup?” He asked the unseen figure.
“Hey. We talked about getting that thing off of you.” A young man replied.
“Come in.” Bragi opened the door to allow the young man entry. He was a fair-skinned, Asian kid that looked to be just shy of his 20's. A little taller than average, he wore a baggy t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. It was clear he felt nervous.
“Hold up a sec.” Bragi instructed before departing to the back of the apartment.
This left a sort of awkward silence. The kid slipped his hands into his pocket, and shifted a bit on his feet. He intentionally avoided looking over at me. Mimir went back to channel surfing but I doubt he was really focused much on the television at that point. I did not like the situation but I kept such to myself. Instead, I toyed with the dominoes, and nursed my drink, while keeping a subtle watch on what was developing. Somehow I was not terribly shocked when Bragi returned wearing a pair of gloves, and carrying a large handgun.
“You know how to use this?” Bragi asked the kid as he approached.
“Yeah. I mean-- sort of.” The kid eagerly nodded.
“Remember, the laser sight works like this.” Bragi stopped next to the kid, held out the empty firearm towards the far wall, then squeezed something on the handle that painted a small red dot on the plaster.
“That's fucking awesome.” The kid laughed nervously.
“Yeah. Something like that.” Bragi nodded tentatively and stepped back. “This works for you?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.” The kid exchanged a few bills for the gun. He looked the weapon over with a mixture of excitement and caution. For a moment I found myself wondering who this kid was, and what was going on in his life that left him feeling like he needed a gun. Then I reminded myself I did not want to know.
“If shit goes down, remember to keep in mind what we talked about.” Bragi added more seriously.
“I found it.” The kid nodded eagerly. “We done?”
“Looks like.” Bragi nodded. “Take easy out there.”
“Thanks. You don't know how much I needed this.” After an exchanged fist bump with Bragi, the kid shoved the handgun down into the front of his jeans, pulled the door open, and left.
Then the volume of the television returned to normal, and Bragi returned to the table. I looked between both of them, weighing if I wanted to ask any questions, or keep myself well within the honest range of plausible dependability.
“Moving into weapons trafficking, are we?” I finally asked Bragi.
“Come on, brotha. Don't preach.” Bragi replied before taking off his gloves, and picking up his glass.
“Not going to. Just saying those are some pretty heavy charges if you get caught.” I began toying with the dominoes I was still trying to make sense of.
“It's a one time thing.” Bragi shrugged. “I had one, he needed one, so we set up a deal. Shit gets hot out there sometimes. Who am I to judge why he needs a piece? Maybe he has beef. Or maybe someone has beef with him.” He took a swallow from his drink then began arranging the pieces again. “Either way, its none of my business.”
“I guess.” I nodded. “Just be careful not to get caught up in something ugly, you know?”
“Yeah. It's cool.” Bragi waved off my concerns. “Anyway, back to trying to help you be sort of Black.”
“I bet this is how Harriet Tubman got her start. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I replied causing Mimir to laugh.
The three of us continued hanging out together for at least a couple or so years longer. Then, like many instances, our paths through life eventually led us each in different directions. At the time of this writing, Mimir is married, has two children, and lives nearly halfway across the U.S. The last I heard of Bragi, he had been in and out of jail a couple of times. I have not spoken to either in years. But I still occasionally think of both of them. I always hope they are living good lives.