Quan writes to Justyce that he’s not in a god place. He found out something about his sister when Mama came. Quan knows he’ll be working on his “unresolved ‘mommy-issue’ shit” with Tay for weeks to come, but what Mama said was so bad that Quan had a panic attack on the way back to his cell. In short, Quan’s crew is helping Mama out. He was surprised to learn this, since he thought they’d abandoned him. He can’t ignore that Justyce is the only person who’s ever written to him in prison, not that he can imagine any of his Black Jihad friends actually writing a letter. But the silence is hard to deal with.
Now, Quan has to grapple with the different ways his friends have shown him support. Both Black Jihad and Justyce have shown him support—Justyce by writing, and Black Jihad by stepping in when Quan can’t. But given what Quan has learned while in prison, Quan sees that there might be more value in Justyce’s continued contact than in Black Jihad’s choice to step up only now.
Quan feels so messed up that they’re taking care of his family when he can’t. He transcribes a stanza from a Jason Reynolds poem (courtesy of Doc) that has stuck with him. It’s about needing rest, but it reminded Quan of what it felt like to have support from guys who were there, even when Mama wasn’t. Now, all Quan can think about is that it seems like he has to go back.
After learning about Black Jihad’s support, Quan may be moving back to thinking that he can only connect with guys who share his background of poverty and violence. He seems to suggest that he owes the people with whom he shares that background more than he owes someone like Justyce.
A real man would pay his debts and show appreciation through words and deeds. Quan thinks he owes them that kind of loyalty and then some, but what is he supposed to do? He still has felonies on his record; nobody will employ him and nobody will pay for his college education. In any case, though, Quan can’t walk away from his crew. He knows too much. It’s like in Catch-22. He has no choice but to go back, so the only way to stay out of the gang is to stay here. But he accrues more debt to the gang the longer he stays in prison. It’s a no-win situation, just like the rest of Quan’s life.
Here, Quan suggests that he doesn’t really have a choice in life. It’s not that he doesn’t have enough in common with Justyce—it’s that, in terms of finances, he certainly owes the gang more, since they’re taking care of Mama. And for that matter, the plea deal might start to look better in this moment. Accepting it and going to prison would mean that Quan won’t have to go back to Black Jihad, even if it means he’ll be even more in debt to them when he gets out.