EXT. POPULAR COFFEE SHOP NEAR CAMPUS
A white man quietly leans against the iron fence of the coffee shop patio, near the main entrance. You, young black woman, and your Latina friend are walking up the sidewalk, chatting away as y’all head to well-known coffee chain. As you two get closer to the man, maybe 3-5 feet away, he begins to spew hate from his mouth loudly.
Fuckin nigger. You can’t take my quarter. [inaudible] cunt [inaudible]
What the fuck? Who is he talking to?
What the actual fuck. I can only assume he was directing that towards me since he was silent up until I got close to him then went quiet again once we were past.
Your body stiffens and heart pounds. You do not turn your face towards him because you have no idea how he’ll react. You’ve already quickly calculated that by the silence and whiteness of pedestrians waiting at the bus stop that these are not your allies, and you and your friend should not be forced to take down one white man. You do not engage with him. The whole moment lasts maybe 5 seconds, maybe 7, no more than 10 or 15. You were less than 5 feet away when he said you couldn’t take his quarter, his obviously metaphorical quarter. You wondered what specific stereotype he held about you without knowing you. Did he assume you were a graduate student? Doubtful. Did he believe you were the “welfare queen” folks wrote about in the past? Did he believe you were taking someone else’s job, their quarter, that you didn’t deserve? Did he believe you an immigrant taking the higher education seat and employment of a deserving white woman, or more likely a white man like him? Who did he think you were the moment he felt empowered to demean you in front of 10 or more strangers waiting at the bus stop right in front of him? In what society do you live?
Your friend locks arms with you as you two continue up the street.
It is only 4:45. The sun has not yet set.
Are you okay?
I’ll be fine.
It’s okay if you’re not. I’m here for you.
You want me to go back with a weapon? Maybe we can get a knife from Starbucks.
I’m sure they only have plastic knives, and we don’t know what he may have on him.
You are standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change so you can safely walk. Safety is a social construct, right?
INT. WOMEN’S BATHROOM STALL AT SCHOOL
You are sitting on plastic sheet-covered public toilet, silently crying, alone and afraid, staring at a yellow stall door. You blow your nose and wipe your eyes with single-ply toilet tissue, the same kind your granny buys from Walgreens back home. You wish you were home. You don’t want to be here. You don’t want to live here.
INT. YOUR APARTMENT
Rain lightly falls outside. You clean your tub. You consider making tuna noodle casserole, just to use the milk before it goes bad, but you haven’t started the process yet. You found the basic recipe online, just to make sure you remembered it. You consider making what one friend called a “hearty Midwestern meal”- cream of mushroom over chicken breast with white rice. You could finish off the milk with that too, but is one can of soup enough to cook both? Doesn’t matter since you haven’t attempted to cook anything yet. You’re not sure that you’re actually hungry, but you know you should eat since your last meal was around 2:00 this afternoon.
You decide that at the least you will take a bath, use a bath bomb you bought from an awesome black woman at the mercardo in November, you might burn the sage bundle that your friend made for you, and you will allow yourself to dissociate despite how often you fight it. Your anxious, depressed, trauma-ed self deserves to dissociate in the comfort of your own place instead of in public. Just this once, you do not have to be in your body and the world does not have to feel real.
Special shout out to my friend for being there with me, for keeping me on my feet when I felt sick to my stomach and afraid as we continued to walk up the street today, and for being much stronger than me on most days and a positive light in my life. Now I shall listen to a favorite Tupac jam.