Outside of his window, Tyrese could see his family hauling the Christmas tree into the house. It was a week before Christmas and Finals had already ended for Tyrese. “Tyrese, come downstairs and help us decorate the tree”, his mother called out. “No thanks, I’m not in the mood this year”, he answered gloomingly, still staring out of his bedroom window. Tyrese began to see another vision: a flashback from his childhood. It was his 18 year old brother, Dustin. In the vision, Tyrese saw guns firing, soldiers marching, and smoke everywhere. He could practically hear the sounds of screaming, shooting, and explosions. In the midst of the chaos, however, he also saw a military aircraft with a white chief on board. He remembered his mother breaking down in tears as the chief hauled his brother, Dustin, away. Uttering profanity and many racial slurs, the chief castigated Dustin: “Listen to me, you signed up for the Draft, so you come with us.” Desperately, their mother cried out, “Please don’t take him away! He’s not ready for the Vietnam War, he’s going to be killed”! “I will kill him right here and now if you interfere with us! Now, BACK UP!”, ordered the chief as he hauled the anxious Dustin away.
A few minutes later. Tyrese’s mother walked into his bedroom, eggnog in hand. “Are you okay, honey?”, she asked, offering him some eggnog. “You did not want to come with us to pick out a Christmas tree this year, nor did you want to decorate it. You didn’t even create a wishlist this year. What am I supposed to tell Santa Claus?!”, she continued, jocularly. “Very funny”, responded Tyrese with a weak smile on his face. “Mama, there’s only one thing I could ask for this year: and that’s to see Dustin again. I want to feel assured he is safe and comfortable. Remember that day?” “I know, son, I know. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, I’m sure he is fighting his heart out. Cheer up though! It’s almost Christmas!” After a few moments of silence, his mother continued, more gravely, “Listen, I know times are difficult but try not to think about it, as will I. This is America, the most equal nation on earth. I’m sure you could find somebody who you could express your thoughts to, but don’t let it bother you, okay.”, she said as she kissed him good night and shut the bedroom light off.
The next morning, Tyrese donned his sweater, boots, and jacket. “Where are you heading off to?” asked Tyrese’s mother. “I’m going into the city to find out information about Dustin. Maybe there are government records or a locator in the city. I really want to see my brother again”, Tyrese replied. “That’s very sweet of you. Good luck and stay safe. Call us so we know you’re okay. Take care!”, said his mother and father as Tyrese took off. The city was littered with many white Americans who gave Tyrese awkward stares as he passed by. One group of white kids were whispering to each other, laughing while pointing at Tyrese. While he felt uncomfortable, Tyrese knew he had more important matters to attend to. Lo and behold, he had, in fact, came across a government office building. Maybe he could ascertain information about Dustin there?
When he entered the building, he was greeted with quite an optimistic event. A white man was seen leaving the office with a pleased look on his face. He had called his wife on his cellphone saying, “Honey, I have some good news. The government office was nice enough to provide an extra Christmas bonus from my job. Now we have $2800 instead of $2000 saved for our Christmas shopping. Isn’t that great?!” He continued, “The worker there was so cordial, too. He kept insisting we take the extra money.” That’s wonderful, Tyrese thought to himself. If they are really as friendly as he claims, they will definitely aid me in my troubles as well. Feeling elated, Tyrese waited on line for his turn to speak to the workers.
Standing in front of him was a Black woman and another white man. When the woman had entered the office, Tyrese could hear her say words such as “Food stamps” and “poverty.” though it was rather muffled as the office door was closed. However, the office worker’s voice came in much louder: “I’m sorry to say we cannot help you out on this.”, said the worker. “As I’m sure you can understand, we must reserve money and supplies for the upper class, so we cannot provide you with extra money. Go get a job or something.” After the black woman was dismissed, Tyrese saw her sitting on the bench with tears in her eyes, leaving him perplexed. “Next”, called the office worker. “Oh good, only one person away from hopefully seeing Dustin again”, Tyrese said to himself. When the office door closed, Tyrese overheard words such as “rich” and “Upper class”. In the end, the office worker seemed much more placid and affable in his voice: “Of course we can lend you some extra money!” the office worker said. “We will send you a check in the mail in less than a week. Come again!” This left Tyrese even more puzzled. Why would the worker be so unsympathetic towards the impoverished woman, yet so understanding towards the rich white man?
“Next!” called the worker. Excitingly, Tyrese walked into the office. “Hey, how are you? You may call be Mr. Wilson. How may I help you?” “Hi, Mr. Wilson, my name is Tyrese. My brother Dustin had been taken away to fight in the Vietnam War a few years back, and I was hoping you had government records of him. I wanted to see if I could reunite with him for Christmas this year. Is he safe? I’m very nervous about him.” Mr. Wilson slowly nodded his head and replied, “Okay, I will be right back. Don’t go anywhere.” At this point, Tyrese’s anxiety was through the roof. He knew this was his best opportunity to see his brother again. What if there were no government records of Dustin at all? What if he was dead? Will he ever reunite with him?
Behind the door, laughter could be heard in the room Mr. Wilson was in. One of the workers said, “Tell your patient that we’re sending his brother another plate of fried chicken”, causing more laughter to erupt. “What a damn agitator this Tyrese man is. Maybe he needs some fried chicken himself. Hahahah!”, said another worker. “Hey, Bill do you ‘see’ any records?!” Mr. Wilson said, jokingly. After a few minutes of laughing, Mr. Wilson ceased the outrage saying, “Shush, let me get back to this deadbeat! I’ll just tell him we have no records. Don’t say a word, anybody!”
Mr. Wilson cleared his throat and returned to Tyrese. “Sir, I’m very sorry”, he said gravely, “but it doesn’t look like we will be able to reunite you and your brother.” Keeping his composure, Tyrese stated, “But I don’t truly think you looked. I heard you called me an ‘agitator’. You said you would send him fried chicken and then started laughing. What’s that all about?!” “Absolutely not”, said Mr. Wilson, “we would never use such derogatory remarks towards such a struggling man. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “To be honest,I don’t believe your’e taking my problem seriously at all. So I will go elsewhere. Thanks anyway”, said Tyrese as he walked out of the building.
On the bench outside, the Black woman from earlier was seen crying her eyes out. Tyrese sat next to her and, he too, began to tear up. “Now I will never see Dustin again”, he said to himself as he started bawling. The woman next to her, noticing Tyrese in a similar state as her, asked him, “Who is Dustin?” After Tyrese settled down, he said to her, “He is my brother. I was separated from him in the Vietnam War and I have not seen him since. I really wanted to reunite with him for Christmas. That’s all I ask for this year.” “It’s corrupt, isn’t it?” the woman noted. “That you live in a society where you feel like you’re alone in your struggles. I don’t feel equal as the others in a nation of equality. My name is Simone, by the way. I know exactly how you feel.” “Hi, Simone, my name is Tyrese. I appreciate your sympathy. I heard you were denied money?” “Yes,” said Simone. “I am an impoverished mother with 5 children. I cannot support my family on these food stamps so I begged for a little extra money. But they don’t care. It’s almost as if society wants us to struggle with our lives, you know what I mean?” “I know exactly what you mean, Simone,” said Tyrese. “I felt that way when I was told my brother and I could use some fried chicken. They did not at all take my situation seriously. I feel totally alone.” Simonne began to tear up, not because of her own personal problems, but because of Tyrese’s. His cell phone began to ring. “That’s my parents. They’re worried about me and it’s getting late. I better head home, but it was nice meeting you.” “Take care, my friend” said Simoone.
As soon as Tyrese was out of sight, fury began to arise in Simone’s face. She had marched back into the office building and consulted Mr. Wilson. “Excuse me?!” she ordered him, “but who the hell do you think you are?!” “I’m sorry Ma’am, but you need to wait in line to-” Simoone cut him off immediately, “No, listen to me. Who do you think you are, talking to my friend Tyrese like that?!” “:Listen, mind your own business okay you little-” “No!”, she said indignantly, “My friend needed help and you dismissed him completely! You call yourselves a successful business?! You call yourselves a nation of equality?! A real nation follows through with their statements, not teases others! A real nation of equality sympathizes with all people, not just specific people and classes you favor! Real equality creates true quality in a person, but you just can’t understand that. You messed up…and you can’t fix it. That’s all, Merry Christmas!” His jaw open, Simone stormed away from the office building and out of his life. A few moments after, Mr. Wilson walked back into the room with his employees. “Everybody, I think we made a mistake. Let’s start searching for Tyrese’s brother. You, start investigating the records. You, start conducting research. The day is still young!”
The next morning at Tyrese’s house, it was Christmas Eve and the whole house was decorated with garland and ornaments.There were Christmas cookies and eggnog set on the table. “This is gonna be the greatest Christmas ever!” Tyrese’s father said, quite buzzed. Tyrese still looked upset. His mother confronted him again, “Cheer up, Tyrese. I know Christmas is not the same and it may never be. But I am just as upset as you are. Come and have some gingerbread cookies!” All of a sudden, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it”, said Tyrese.
When he opened the door, standing in front of him was a familiar figure. He had dark skin, the family eyes, the family nose. Tyrese began to tear up. “Dustin, it’s you!”. Dustin began to tear up as well, and the two embraced each other for about 10 minutes. “Mama! Papa! Dustin is back!” Quickly, Tyrese’s parents came in and they began to cry. “Dustin, we were so worried about you!” they said. “You got so muscular, too!” Dustin began to laugh. “Well, that’s what so many years in the army does to you!” he said, smiling. “Oh, Dustin, I’m so relieved to know that you’re safe!”, Tyrese said, tearing up once again. “Come on, let’s sing some Christmas carols!” As the whole family began to sing their third round of “I’ll be home for Christmas”, a magical figure appeared in the window. It was Simoone and, as she vanished away, she could be heard saying, “Happy holidays, Tyrese!”