Monday, October 25, 2010

White and Black and Yellow

"I need to go to the bathroom."

Innocuous words, unless spoken, say, on a full elevator, or in the middle of rush-hour traffic, or especially on the subway, as they were that day.

The subway car rumbled to a stop, but not their stop.

"Can you hold it?" she asked.

"Yes." But the brown eyes looking up at her seemed just a wee bit desperate.

The train started up again. Two more stops. Hopefully there would be some place with a public toilet aboveground, some building that had a big neon sign flashing "TOILET! TOILET!"

The train lurched to a stop, and they jumped up out of their seats to make their way out of the train, out of the station. Stairs up and up and up to a street in Brooklyn, just like any other street in Brooklyn.

There were no flashing neon signs.

"I really need to go," he said.

There was a furniture shop, a bakery, and a small grocery. The grocery looked the most promising.

They stepped in, "Do you have a restroom?" she asked the man behind the counter. "He really needs to go." She pointed to the small gingerbread boy dancing next to her.

He smiled at them, took out a key, and led the way to the back of the store. A trap door leading down to a basement was opened, and another man stood by it, talking on the phone, making an order.

"I got four of them," he said.

"Four? Why'd you get four? We only need two a week," their rescuer said.

"Two then. We'll just get two," he said into the phone.

The man on the phone got out of the way, and the first man put the trapdoor down, and unlocked a door behind it. A mop stood propped in a bucket in front of a toilet in a bathroom smaller than a broom closet.

While the gingerbread boy found relief in the small bathroom, she waited with her older gingerbread boy.

"Why'd you let them back there?" she overheard the man who had been on the phone ask the other one.

"They're white."

She heard only snippets more: black man and shoot and white people, though she can't say what order they came in as she was still musing on the first bit.

They're white?

She never really thinks about her skin color, except in terms of skin cancer awareness. She only thinks she has people-colored skin. Isn't that enough? Doesn't he have people-colored skin, too? And the man on the phone? Isn't he people-colored?

Once, she worked at the Madame Walker Theater Center, a theater honoring African-American work. When she was hired, she thought she would be the token white girl, but when she left, she felt like part of the family--a large family of people.

And now? She feels sad that anyone would treat her differently because she's white, that anyone would treat the gingerbread boy differently because of the color of his skin, not the level of his desperation.

On their way back to the front of the store, she opened a refrigerator case and picked out a carton of orange juice. They could meet over orange juice: darker than her skin, lighter than his.

"Thanks," she said, paying in cash, as the gingerbread boys waved good-bye, unaware of what really just happened.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

Every Sunday night, she makes a list. Two lists, actually. One: groceries. Two: menu. She didn't do that this week, and now she has a refrigerator full of food needing attention, and a freezer full of food uselessly frozen.Note: thaw sirloin. Make beef and mushroom soup. What's the plan, Stan?

She has a double batch of applesauce out on the porch awaiting attention, because she forgot about it yesterday. It wasn't on her list of things to do. Note: can applesauce

Why is it that she is so dependent upon her lists? Note: mail packages. Buy stamps. Pick up box at post office. Pick up letters with insufficient postage. Why can't she remember even the most rudimentary tasks? Laundry. Laundry. Laundry. Oh, and dishes, too. Are they not important? Why is it that she has to schedule in things like exercise? Emails to send? Volunteering? She was lucky that her brain came through yesterday because she forgot she was supposed to be in her son's classroom. Of course, the brain only gave her fifteen minute's notice and she was still in her pajamas when she remembered... Still. She made it, even if slightly disheveled.

Is it just that she's over-scheduled? Bring guitar to shop to have string replaced. Is it that everyone in the Gingerbread House is over-scheduled? Make a snack to share at the pack meeting tonight. It makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.

She thinks of the palindrome, "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!" She loves plans. Plans make her feel comfortable. They give her a fence and a boundary, a place to start. A man, a plan, a canal, Panama! If you start with a plan, you can accomplish great things. Is that what it teaches us? Or is it that in moving forward, you eventually return to exactly where you were before, just like a boomerang? A man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Right in the middle is the 'c,' rolling around. If it rolls back far enough, it turns into a 'u,' a nice cushy spot for a nap. Or a place to write a list.

Skip the canning, and bring applesauce for a snack at the pack meeting.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The National Virus Service

Since it is the beginning of the cold season, she decides that she will name her colds, just like the National Weather Service names tropical storms and hurricanes. It seems appropriate, does it not?

Virus #1 should be named Adam--Adam being the first man and all--but she's partial to Abel. Virus Adam. Hm. Virus Abel. 'B' comes before 'D', so if we're going strictly alphabetical, we'll have to stick with Virus Abel. Next year she can start with Adam.

She offered to name virus #2 after her sister, Beth. Her sister suggested that she name the virus Bertram. She said it had a much more nasally sound to it than Beth. Truly, though, she suspects that her sister never got over being named after the March sister who dies in Little Women. The problem with Bertram, of course, is that it's a boy name. Abel's a boy name, and the pattern is boy-girl-boy-girl, isn't it? So she needs a girl name.

Bathsheba. That's a good one. Sneeze-sounding, if ever a name could sound like a sneeze.

She'll have to wait for virus #3 to rear its ugly head before committing to a name. Feel out its personality, so to speak. Carlyle? Canute? Cassius?