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JAMES BALDWIN

“It’s going to be rough on old Sonny,” he said. We reached the sub­ way station. “This is your station?” he asked. I nodded. I took one step down. “Damn!” he said, suddenly. I looked up at him. He grinned again. “Damn it if I didn’t leave all my money home. You ain’t got a dollar on you, have you? Just for a couple of days, is all.”

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“It’s going to be rough on old Sonny,” he said. We reached the sub­ way station. “This is your station?” he asked. I nodded. I took one step down. “Damn!” he said, suddenly. I looked up at him. He grinned again. “Damn it if I didn’t leave all my money home. You ain’t got a dollar on you, have you? Just for a couple of days, is all.”
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All at once something inside gave and threatened to come pouring out of me. I didn’t hate him any more. I felt that in another moment I’d start crying like a child.

“Sure,” I said. “Don’t sweat.” I looked in my wallet and didn’t have a dollar, I only had a five. “Here,” I said. “That hold you?”

He didn’t look at it—he didn’t want to look at it. A terrible, closed look came over his face, as though he were keeping the number on the bill a secret from him and me. “Thanks,” he said, and now he was dy­ ing to see me go. “Don’t worry about Sonny. Maybe I’ll write him or something.”

“Sure,” I said. “You do that. So long.” “Be seeing you,” he said. I went on down the steps.

And I didn’t write Sonny or send him anything for a long time. When I finally did, it was just after my little girl died, he wrote me back a letter which made me feel like a bastard.

Here’s what he said:

D ear brother,

You d o n ’t know how m uch I needed to hear from you. I w anted to

w rite you m any a tim e b u t I dug h o w m uch I m u s t have h u r t you and

so I d id n ’t w rite. But now I feel like a m an w ho’s been try in g to climb

up o u t o f som e deep, real deep an d funky hole an d ju s t saw the sun up

there, outside. 1 go t to g e t outside.

I can’t tell you m uch about how I got here. I m ean I d on’t know

how to tell you. I guess I was afraid o f som eth ing o r I w as try ing to

escape from som eth ing an d you know I have never been very strong

in the head (smile). I ’m glad M am a and D addy are dead and can’t see

w hat’s happened to the ir son and I sw ear i f I ’d know n w hat I was doing

L w ould never have h u r t you so, you and a lo t o f o the r fine people who

were nice to m e and w ho believed in me.

I d o n ’t w ant you to th in k it had an y th ing to do w ith m e being a

m usician. I t’s m ore th an that. O r maybe less th a n tha t. I can’t get any­

th in g stra ight in m y head dow n here and I tr y n o t to th in k about w h at’s

“s o n n y ’s b l u e s ”

going to happen to m e w hen I get outside again. Som etim e I th in k

I’m going to flip and never get outside an d som etim e I th in k I ’ll come

straight back. I te ll yo u one th in g , though , I ’d rather blow m y brains

out than go th rough th is again. B ut th a t’s w hat th e y all say so they tell

me. I f I tell you w hen I ’m com ing to N ew York and if you could m eet

me, I sure w ould appreciate it. Give m y love to Isabel and the kids and

I was sure sorry to hear about little Gracie. I w ish I could be like M am a

and say the L o rd ’s w ill be done, b u t I don’t know it seem s to m e tha t

trouble is the one th in g th a t never does get stopped and I don’t know

w hat good it does to blam e it on the Lord. B ut maybe it does som e

good if you believe it. Your brother,

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