I offload and limp slowly across the street, cane in hand and nowhere do I see my tormentress.
Months ago, as I strode arrogantly past this spot—an aggression vector, three blocks form a police station where pedestrians are routinely mobbed by thugs by day and night, to the point where none of the users of the four intersecting bus lines will wait here for their connect after dark, where three homeless families have been driven into the woods by nocturnal hunters—a stalwart African woman with a prim and proper, even strident British accent attempted to befriend me, to seek my protection from the predatory local negroes, I walked coldly by and she recoiled as if struck.
Each succeeding night the pain and hurt on her face as I walked by her and she attempted to stand at once in and out of the street, fearful of the trap that the bus shelter posed, the hurt on her face showed more stridently, eventually hardening to a stentorian scorn. As I walked through the shadowed lot to her back she would follow me with her wide indicting eyes daring me to turn and meet the gaze of the lone woman I was consigning to the thugish wolves of the night.
Our passing in mutual disdain—her for the man who was behaving less manly than a white men ought in his own country, caring only for his own skin and not spreading the white daddy umbrella to protect her, and me for an outsider who didn’t have a man of her own to guard her by night—continued, I grew weaker and weaker, until two weeks ago I could barely cross the street to the stop, no question of me walking into the night where I would be less exposed to attack.
Seeing me thus, she did not smirk but permitted her face to widen in a matronly expression of concern. “Good ev-en-ing, sir. The bus will be here shortly. You may sit and I’ll keep watch.”
I snarled under my breath and limped as far away from her as I might and leaned against a pole.
When the bus pulled around the bend, the bus I had oft outwalked to me destination, she turned to motion for me to board first and I glared into her face, to which she smiled warmly, “But of course not, sir—you are a gentleman.”
I boarded behind her and she stood in the aisle offering me the handicapped seat and I ground my teeth, to which she smiled, ”Of course not, sir,” and took the cushy seat herself as I hung unto the pole grimacing, leaning on the cane.
Night after night, she has greeted me warmly at the stop with her wide smile and beautiful brown cheeks, “Good ev-en-ing, sir! It is so nice to see you!” to which I have nodded impatiently, biding the night until I shall be able to walk to work under my own power and leave her behind—avoiding conversation and attachment. Her demeanor changes when I come to agonizing rest at the stop. I am so angry at my weakness and infirmity that I cannot conceal my rage against this sick world, forever grinding my teeth at every hoodrat that glances my way, part of me hoping that this is the end of my days—a Dindu face relieved of teeth with this stick made of Jacksonian stuff and I persecuted by the hated state and media.
My hate for Baltimore glowers with every crooked step, for every moment I must lean. She hums baby songs under her breath, bounces on her heels, stays close to the stop, unafraid of being trapped in the dark U described by its structure where many a man, woman and boy have been shoved and stomped and stabbed by mobs of Dindus—blood, piss and spit staining the interior.
She catches me adjusting the scabbard of my knife, making sure the seating on the bus has not turned the edge inward and she nods silently to me, her eyes glittering like the Devil’s own Daughter. She communicates so much more with her eyes than with her words as I snarl, lean and bide my time against the pole, the young men who happen by walking in a hesitant arc around the stop, stepping into the gutter and going on their way with a minimum of discussion, her humming her “I got me a mean white daddy” tune under her breath.
Then, finally, two nights ago, I arrive at the stop—the two young bucks with me at the door having called in pickups that stand waiting, idling Japanese cars, dashing off from the ”banking” zone, not a young man willing to risk what this woman, who seems to be a housekeeping staffer at the hospital at the end of the #4 line, has risked every night, white daddy or not—mostly not.
Joyfully I see she is not there, my bus has arrived late. Her bus has gone. I will creep the mile and a half over the next hour and a half to work, not being tempted by laziness or pain to wait for the ride, but taking the next step in my rehabilitation. I grinned my solitary grin as I walked past the bus shelter to my left to look once over my right shoulder for an approaching bus [this is the very stop where 15 people used to gather six years ago, now a deserted trap, the stop where Officer ManFriendly harassed me in 2011] before hobbling on my way and from its darkest recess I am startled to here, “Good ev-en-ing, Sir! It is so nice to see you.”
I look with a sneering start to my left and she stands there, now visible thanks to the whites of her teeth and eyes.
“Hey,” I grumbled as I limped past her to lean on the pole in the spattering rain.
Walking and working and lifting are still great feats, but this past Saturday I hit the bag with stick and hand—with this very hickory T-cane—and the fire in my hip gone, the exploding foot unfelt, my power whole, my timing and mobility still at competition level—like I’m a toddler out of the ring and vicious trial-horse in it. I’m a walking hoodrat trap. I was shocked to find that I could fight and move in that way as good as ever when merely crossing the street is agony.
When the stride returns, when the goal I am inching towards with every shift is hit and I can walk this stretch with crisp ease, what will I do with this woman then?
Will I leave her to stand those ten minutes, vulnerable and alone, her pained eyes cursing me as I walk into the night that I care for so much more than her?
Or will I rise-up from my three legs to two to be the Whiteman that she seems to want desperately to believe I am?
Will I stand there for ten minutes before going on my way?
It is difficult to be mistaken for some pious creature of tribal legend when you’re just a lonely savage that wants to stay that way and the halfdead boy within holds the same dead heroes up in his mind as she does.