Black and White

I was sitting outside the coffee shop, kitty-corner to the antique shop where a saxophone crooned over the loudspeaker.
It was the only patch of sunlight along the block of tall buildings, upon the telephone pole and the bike rack, and I had plunked a chair down on the sidewalk, pulled out a yellow Legal Pad, and was attempting to scribble down some thoughts from the past few days.

A curvy woman in a sparkly, cream-colored sweater came out the side door of the coffee shop and lit a cigarette.

The placidity of my few precious hours before work was shattered as she began to talk over the phone with another woman named Ellen.

I wondered if she would notice that I was the only person outside, realize the effort I made to hunker down in this spot of sunlight, and take her conversation further up the sidewalk, but she paced back and forth, three, four feet from me.

A sentence in my head escaped, my pen stalling on the paper.

She was talking, loudly, as if to get my attention, about her work in the community for women of color, how a better world can be achieved if communities can teach the individual persons, white and black, to work together.

I wondered if she would notice the tear tracks on my face. The first thing God prompted me to do, I scribbled.

“We need to help the whites have a better understanding–”

…was to give up the understanding…

“Because only then can we move past that huge barrier and start a new world.”

…because in that is an implied lie that with the understanding the pain will be lessened.

But having all the pieces of your life in place, or being able to string together all the moments where something dislodged in someone else, or finally filling in the gaps in your half-caffeinated memory, the dots and dashes like morse code for all the words you mistranslated, would never make up for the way we cannot safeguard our hearts from being hurt.

Lack of understanding is not the barrier to a new world, sister, but a lack of ability to love perfectly in this world.

And love is not as black and white as understanding.


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