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Under a Red Hood
Friday Night, May 12 2017

I arrive at the bus stop irritated with hauling the purple butterfly pattern umbrella my roommate’s girl left behind last year, for, in this two day stretch of near continual rain, the drops abated for my 16 minute stroll down over the ridge, over the asphalt entombed trail that once would have made sense, to this wide-medianed parkway sunk in what would have been a flood basin, the stream now trickling below the asphalt plain.

Two cars, a late 70s American muscle car and a late model rice-burner, thunder by at around ninety as I reach the corner. The 40% reduction in Harm City traffic, the near absence of pedestrians and the standing down of the police force, have made sections of Northeast Baltimore into a street racing paradise.

Here, 15 feet in from the corner, stands a young man in jacket, over a hooded red sweatshirt that keeps his head somewhat dry. He is in his mid-20s, five feet four inches, well-built in a slight way and highly civilized—not gay, but materially aloof from the kind of brutality I have dedicated myself to. He is the latest in the few remaining young black men in the area still taking the bus at night, who has sought this lonely stop rather than risk being at the criminal nexus of Parkville and Hamilton, the corner of Northern Parkway and Harford Road, which looms low and mist-shrouded just over a half mile to our west.

He regards me nervously and I stay back at the corner, not wanting to threaten him but also not wanting to act friendly, for this draws third party predation, when the old and the weak—us two, together—seek shelter in each other’s presence. This kid has walked the distance between us and the dreaded crossroads to stand here, between a street light and a weeping tree.

I busy myself with watching our foot approaches while he looks out for the soon to come bus.

A heavy foot creaks a board across the street and I look up to see a very large black man in his thirties, wearing a t-shirt against the chill, lighting a cigarette on a raised porch across the street.

There are only us three, and the pattering mist, halfway between fog and rain.

The man watches us, and as if catching a signal to partake of death, my distant companion lights up his own smoke, then looks at me, and steps off thirty more feet toward the sign.

By the time his smoke is done, the bus face shines ahead as it picks up no one at the transfer point.

The man across the street heads inside.

The bus rolls up.

As I wait for the young man to board—which I do always, in deference to the towering egos of the rampant man-children I have long shared the transit routes with—he steps back and motions for me to go ahead.

Astounded, having met a human being on the dark streets of this dying city, I reflect that it must be the rain.

White in the Savage Night: A Politically Incorrect Life In Words: 2016

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