It is an understandable question though an unwelcome one.
Matthew had first seen the words Free Brill Hallowell written on the wall of a stairwell on Temple's campus four years ago and, after having passed it daily for a semester, became infatuated with the sentence. He didn't know who Brill Hallowell was or how and why he had lost his freedom, but he enjoyed and propagated the mystery. Matthew took to writing the message on any blank surface he could find, a champion for the cause of Brill, whoever he was. Eventually he reduced the message to the shorter and far catchier Free Brill or occasionally, when feeling whimsical, Brill Lives.
Matthew turns around and cautiously places his Sharpie on his ear. The girl's tone was not accusatory and she did not appear to be a figure of any disciplinary authority, so Matthew had only to contend with embarrassment as opposed to embarrassment and fear. Best of all, the girl had beads in her hair and a girl with beads in her hair is generally receptive to Brill.
"He's a Sudanese man who was arrested after stabbing two Chechnyan soldiers that were attempting to kill him and rape his wife," Matthew says, "It was obviously self-defense but the government is trying to make an example of him. They did a story about him in City Paper a few weeks ago, maybe you read it."
It wasn't until recently that Matthew got down to business and actually found out who Brill Hallowell was. Information was strewn in little bits across the internet but Matthew gathered them and unlocked the mystery of Brill. He is, in fact, a jerk. A high school kid who got sent to reform school after hitting his principal with a chair. Of course by the time Matthew knew this, what he was doing wasn't really about Brill anyway.
"Oh wow," the girl says, admiring the four-foot tall Sharpie letters. She takes a sip of her coffee and continues down the steps. She turns back to give Matthew a fight-the-power fist which Matthew stoically returns.
Matthew returns to his work - spreading the word of Brill, whatever that is.