Why I Was Late Today, And Will Probably Always Be Late As A Black Woman

I hate him for making me hate myself again.
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My father begged me to never take the bus

And like 1950 something

All the negroes are sitting at the back of this one

Coincidence, I am sure

But one of us negroes is drunk and loud and vulgar

He boasts about his time in jail

And this negro throws the other N word around like a Jim Crow boomerang

And I feel my skin get hot

All that melanin

Absorbing the sun but

Still reflecting off each other

It’s blinding such that we become indistinguishable to others

And I fear that the beige ears and blue eyes in front of me are thinking we are all drunk and loud and vulgar

My brown eyes catch the brown eyes of the sister next to me as we confide in each other

Our silent shame

We know they hate him

I think they hate us

I start to hate myself

And I too hate him for making me hate myself again

I think

And suddenly

Like he could hear my thoughts

this stranger decides to direct his drunk, loud, vulgar self at me

I politely decline his conversation

Several times

The way all women have rehearsed the structured improvisation of harassment

That always ends in insults and FUs

He says I am a stereotypical black woman

I wonder about stereotypical kettles and pots

And just as his harsh words escalate, the world stops

Or just the bus

(I’m still not sure)

As the driver comes back to find out what the problem is

And this drunk and loud and vulgar man who has been annoying everyone

But only really bothering me

Stands up

Grabs his only weapon:

his clothed black cock

To defend his right to talk to me

Who has declined this conversation

The driver walks away

Back to the front of the bus

And finally his drunk and loud and vulgar brain figures it out:

His place on the food chain

This white woman is pulling the Trump card

She is restoring Law and Order

And as we wait for the police

On the side of the highway

This drunk and loud and vulgar man

Quiets down and sobers up

To apologize and beg this stereotypical black woman for mercy

He asks me to tell them we don’t have a problem

He calls me babe

I make him say my name

He tells me his life will be messed up if he doesn’t get to where he’s going

I know that I will be messed up if he ends up in cuffs

Or in a coffin

Because of this night

This night that reminds me of how much I hate being black and a woman

This curse

I give him my phone to call his family

I remind him to pray

I comfort this man who has cursed me and everyone who looks like me

And when three cop cars show up

I walk through the aisle of blue eyes

As they burn through my melanin

skin peeling off to reveal a layer of redboned privilege

My summer tan disappears and I codeswitch

Into the type of girl who feels safe around boys in blue

And I try really really hard to make this black life matter before they make the kind of judgement that cannot be undone

And after they put him in the back of one of three cop cars that showed up in response to one drunk, loud, vulgar man

Of color

One of the boys in blue asks me again if I knew this man

I tell them again that I don’t but perhaps at this point I do

I feel like Peter denying the Son of God before his crucifixion

The cop looks at me in disbelief and says “then why did you get off the bus with him?”

And I want to say because Trayvon,

because Mike,

because Eric,

because Philando,

because Alton

because... He is drunk and loved and vulnerable and his life matters

And I forgive him

But this character I am playing doesn’t talk like that

So I upwardly inflect “I just wanted you to have all the information”

And I leave the boys in blue to join the blue eyes on the bus

We take off and I pretend that we are headed to the same destination

And maybe we are but somehow I always find myself lost

Delayed at these invisible intersections

This piece originally appeared in Athena Talks, a Medium publication.

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