Richard’s childhood friend Cherie talks about Richard’s first day at Oakland High. He didn’t attend the school until their junior year, but the two had grown up in the same apartment complex and they were “inseparable, even though they went to different schools.” Still, it has been more than a year since Cherie has seen Richard, and a lot has happened since then. The year before was “terrible,” and “they are still broken; maybe they’d never be fixed again.”
Cherie’s reference to the “terrible” year before and the “broken” state it has left them in is a product of Oakland’s economic inequality. For Cherie, a resident living in the poverty of East Oakland, the past year has been riddled with crime, incarceration, and death; however, if Cherie lived in the wealthy neighborhoods of the hills, her experiences would likely be much different.
“[Richard] gets on my nerves but I love him to death,” Cherie says. “He is my friend. I don’t know what I would do without him.” Richard has a light complexion, Cherie explains, and lots of people think he is “mixed.” He is constantly joking around, even when it is not appropriate. “You don’t want to be bothered,” Cherie says, “he’ll just keep talking to you, keep playing, to the point where you’ll cuss him out and he’ll still be laughing.”
Cherie’s description of Richard’s playfulness implies that his prank on Sasha was just that—a prank, albeit an ill-informed one—and that he never intended to physically harm them. This description also suggests that Richard is an equal opportunity harasser, which also makes it easier to forgive his attack on Sasha. If Richard jokes with everyone, that makes his prank on Sasha less discriminatory.
Cherie also points out that Richard is shy around those he doesn’t know. He falls to “the background” becoming “just a pair of hazel eyes watching everything go down.” However, she says, if you are Richard’s friend, “then you are family to him,” and he will “be loyal until the sun quits rising in the east.”
Richard’s hazel eyes are mentioned several times throughout The 57 Bus. Frequently viewed as the window to the soul, Richard’s eyes suggest that he is an inherently good person who has made an adolescent mistake, not a depraved individual who should spend the rest of their life in prison.