Quan writes that he’s in love. Her name is Liberty Ayers and she’s gorgeous, though she told Quan off for checking her out. She’s the case manager’s intern, so Quan can’t ask her to marry him. But talking to her makes Quan wonder how things might’ve turned out had he met her instead of Trey at 13. She’s Trey’s age, 19, and attends Emory University. But as a kid, she was a troublemaker. She was locked up for the first time at 12 and for the third time at 14 after stealing a car. According to her, though, serving 12 months for that offense was the best thing that happened to her.
Liberty shows Quan that it’s possible to come from troubled beginnings but still find conventional success—the kind of life that would make Quan’s Daddy proud. But in order to do this, Quan is beginning to suspect, it’s necessary to meet the right people. At the time that Quan met Trey, Trey was 15—and apparently, Trey wasn’t the type of person Quan should’ve been hanging out with. Liberty also suggests that under certain circumstances, prison can change people for the better, as it did her.
Liberty met someone who wouldn’t let her “bury her bright spots.” And all this has Quan wondering what might have been. Quan and Trey met at the police station and when they were both released, Trey sought Quan out. Even though Quan knew he was trouble, he started hanging out with Trey. After talking to Liberty, he knows why: she talked about how people are driven to do things so that others know they exist. In middle and high school, influences are extra important—and that’s the time that Quan lost both Daddy and Ms. Mays. Trey wasn’t a good influence, but he “saw” Quan. Now, Quan wonders if his life would’ve ended up different had he made a positive connection instead of meeting Trey. Quan adds that Doc has really grown on him, and he wishes he’d met Doc sooner.
Liberty met a mentor who took the time and energy to encourage her. Looking back, Quan can see that he lost Daddy and Ms. Mays—the two people who supported and encouraged him—at a crucial point in his development. He can see now that without a “positive connection,” there wasn’t really any way for him to do any better. Trey was the first one to acknowledge Quan’s existence and make him feel like he mattered, so Quan understandably felt compelled to follow him. But as Quan makes these connections, he starts to put together how he could move forward after prison. He now knows that positive connections will be essential.