I left karaoke early tonight and
walked out to my van at 1:23 am,
alone in a parking lot behind two closed bars,
Ned Peppers and Hank's Hole in the Wall.
As I pressed my key fob and unlocked
my driver's side door, a young black woman --
maybe 25 .... maybe 30 ....
walked around my van from the other side
and when she saw me she
held up her hands
like she was surrendering to the sheriff in an old-time western,
and she said, "Don't worry. I ain't a thief.
I ain't gonna rob you."
At the same time I opened my mouth to say,
But instead I said, "OK?"
She walked by me with her hands raised
high above her shoulders.
I said, "Why did you say that to me?"
She said, "Because I'm black, and you're
a white woman."
I said, "Sweetie, I never thought you were going to rob me."
She put her hands down
only after she had passed me.
I wanted to say, "I feel vulnerable too.
I have to be careful too,
but not because you're black,
and not because you're a black woman.
You are not my boogie man ....
and I am not your boogie man."
But I didn't say anything else,
and she didn't say anything else.
I got into my van and put my head on the steering wheel
for just a second.
And she walked on down the alley toward 5th Street.
And then I drove home.
I'm not sure which of us felt worse:
she because I might think she was a thief because
of her brown skin ....
or me because she thought I
would think she was a thief because of my white skin.