Walking Home


The rain came down fast and hard, the wind whipping it sideways as I walked across a parking lot toward University Drive. My jeans were soaked and my sweater glued to my body. The walk from campus to my apartment would be a long one.

A battered yellow station wagon pulled up beside me, and the driver rolled his window down. "Do you want a ride?" His face was friendly but not overly so.

"Are you a rapist?" I asked, immediately regretting the question.

"No, " he said, laughing. "I'm a corrections officer. I work at the prison."

He opened the door, and I dropped my wet backpack under the dash and climbed in. The car was old but clean. I noticed the man's own backpack on the back seat. He wasn't much older than I was.

If my grandmother had found out I'd accepted a ride from a strange man -- a strange black man, no less -- she'd have been furious. I wondered if I should be afraid. I'd always relied on my intuition to judge people, and it hadn't failed me so far, but eventually I was bound to make a mistake.

The man and I talked about school. He was studying for a criminal-justice degree during the day and working at the prison at night. When we arrived at my building, I thanked him and dashed off through the rain. I never saw the man again.

Twenty-five years later I am the adoptive mother of an African boy. As my son is growing older, I see the fearful way white strangers sometimes look at him, and I find myself wondering why that man ever stopped to help me. I understand now that he and I both took a leap of faith that day when we trusted each other.


This essay was previously published in The Sun.

3 comments:

  1. That was such a neat little jewel of an essay, totally unexpected in its turn!

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  2. Sometimes you just *know* they are safe ... or yes, you take that leap. At 20, thin and blonde I was stranded somewhere in Wyoming ... hundreds of cars passed by (including at least 2 state troopers). It was nearly midnight when I man stopped, checked over my car, drove me a 1/2-hour to the nearest gas station, bought oil and put it in my car, then followed me another hour to Cheyenne where a friend met me to follow the last hour home.

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  3. That is a nice story.I live in a town in Mississippi where it is 85 percent black and it is reversed racism here.I never realized how white I was until I was a teenager and an adult in this town.It's hard to be hated before anyone has every met you,I know.
    Oh,also.I won a giveaway here and I have emailed and left a comment but no one has answered me.
    I can't find the right email.I emailed one of you at another blog and left a comment where I was announced the winner. Hope to hear from someone soon.
    jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete

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