Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good w/ the 'Hood: Characters

Okay, I guess this is really turning into a story. See Disclaimer.

I met Characters. I was waiting for the bus. I go into a storefront, not knowing what it sells. It has twenty tacky plastene handbags covered with dust. The proprietor is an old man white, white, brown eyes, horn-rimmed glasses, old white polyester cotton shirt, baggy pants, I think brown. He watches me. I'm trying to make friends.

"You're from the North, aren't you?" He sits back, a little mean-eyed. "I can tell, because you move too damned fast."
"Well, no," I say. "I was born in the South, and I moved here from Texas." He doesn't believe me. I add, stupidly, "My parents are both from the Midwest."

"Uh-huh." As if that explains everything he doesn't like about me. Okay, I'm not from here. I feel it now.

I was waiting for the bus. An elderly lady is now also waiting for the bus: white, white, happy eyes, flowered hat, flowered dress, sweet face. She grins at me.

"I'm a rebel," she said, exceedingly delighted. "Tell me, are you a Rebel?"
"Well, yes, ma'am," I said. "But not the way you mean." Still an idiot, I feel compelled to explain. "I would have been on the North's side, if it was the Civil War."

She literally lifted her skirt--okay, just two inches, not over her head--as if to keep my dust from mingling with her dust.  "Well," she huffed. "I don't b'lieve I like you." She went away. Not sharing the bus with me, or was she a ghost? I never saw her again. The old bastard either, and I looked for them. The store was abandoned.

At the local grocery, all the produce is rotting on the shelves. I pick through it carefully. A cashier in a Cleopatra hairstyle dumps it into the bag. I later learned that imaginative hair was one of the delights of RiverTown. I mean this. But at the moment, I feel like I'm on Mars.

I don't believe in ghosts--much. Or I don't think they're like Caspar, or the films. Years later, again on a bus, I saw a black woman in a tignon (that's a kerchief around the head) fishing in the mist along water of the city's biggest park. When I saw her, I knew she was a ghost. Or if not, she was still a character in touch with a past that was not open to me.

By then, I had accepted this. By then, I was just glad to be able to see.

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