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Thursday, July 17, 2008
Lost: The Remains - chapter ten - "To Be Left Alone"
Lost: THE REMAINS
“To Be Left Alone”
I tried talking to Robert Wallice once. It made him uncomfortable. Me too.
I don't think he was a mean or hateful man. But he grew up in an area where everyone he went to school with and everyone he knew were white. And that was because most of those people liked it that way and the rest were born into it and never knew any other life.
We talked about That Word, but he refused to say it, even when I did. He said he hadn't said the N-word since he was a teenager. But his parents and his friends and even his teachers said it. Even his sweet old grandma said it. And he grew up saying it and thinking it too. Robert Wallice knew if he was going to get a job in a store waiting on the public he couldn't afford to be crippled by prejudice. He could meet a black man and talk to him, look him in the face, and not say that word. But he couldn't not think it.
And now suddenly his world consisted of 48 people, a group that included Blacks, Asians, an Iraqi, Latinos and a guy from India. There was no "majority" - whites were just the largest minority. And if you added the rest all together, the whites were outnumbered. And that made Robert Wallice very uncomfortable.
So he hiked about 300 yards up the North beach and pitched his pup tent and stayed away from every body else. It wasn't looking for trouble - he was looking to avoid it. Sometimes people hiked up the shore and talked to him, or tried to, and then hiked back.
Someone noticed one day that he was using some crude stone tools to scrape and chisel an old hollow log into a dugout canoe. That person related the fact to his friends and they all had a good laugh at Wallice's expense. Someone confronted him and told him he couldn't get off the island with a canoe. He said he knew it, that wasn't what it was for.
After a month or so he tested it to see it would float and it did. He paddled out a few hundred yards and then paddled back. His maiden voyage.
The next day he approached Genna and asked if she had any twine and pins. He politely asked George to help him roll an old mossy log over and he dug up some grubs. Then he paddled out into the ocean until he could hardly be seen from the shore. A few hours later he came back and approached the main group with a dozen fish. Chef Raezynski cleaned and cooked them and Robert ate with the group, and then left. Now they had two fishermen - Jin with his nets and Robert with his hook and line and little boat. He joined the group for meals when he caught something. On the days when the fish weren't biting, he stayed away. He never asked for any of Locke's boars or the stuff Genna the archer or George the trapper provided. And he always shared his catch - he ate his fill and didn't want the rest to go to waste. When the meal was done he tended to wander on back to his tent. He wasn't a campfire and sing-alongs kind of guy.
I asked him why that one time I talked with him. He said it was a barter system. He made his peace offering to the group and politely let it be known what he wanted in return.
To be left alone.
I’d end it there but one evening after a fish fry he approached Dr. Ranjimurtha about a pain in his lower left jaw and right then, with no preamble, appointment, waiting room ordeal or anesthetic, the dentist pulled one cracked and another badly decayed tooth that must have been causing Wallice intense pain. Not that having them yanked didn’t. Inflicting intense pain isn’t always the best way to make a friend, but when it puts an end to a week long toothache, it does.
No doubt if he’d had a choice Wallice probably would have approached Bernard. Though considering that Bernard was in a mixed marriage he probably would have been offended by the reason behind Wallice’s preference. As it happened, though, Wallice had his dental hygiene dilemma a week before Bernard returned to the group. And in spite of the pain involved, apparently Dr. Ranjimurtha’s charm and charisma and bedside manner was enough to win Wallice’s gratitude and trust.
After that, Robert Wallice still wasn’t exactly one of the crowd, but he was a little less aloof and stand offish then before. And, dare I say it, a little friendlier.