Archive for July, 2009

in the projects

It’s a late, quiet Saturday night. The heat hasn’t quite broken yet. I’m crossing the courtyard, passing people leaning back on the benches in the darkness left by the busted streetlamps. They’re just forms in the night, murmuring. From a bench I’ve just passed, a man hisses softly and says, “You don’t know me anymore?” I stop. It’s the wrong voice, but that’s Dealer’s line. This one speaks with a little dust of malice, nothing like Dealer’s sweetness, the way you can hear his smile from behind your back.

It’s the bind of living here. If I don’t turn around and let him flirt with me, I’m a bitch, and it’s not just me, but I’m a bitch on behalf of every white girl who crosses his path without seeing him. If I turn around, there’s an invitation in the gesture that I don’t mean at all, that doesn’t feel safe in the deep darkness of the listless night.

So I do what I always do. I turn around. “Do I know you?” I ask, walking toward him and his boys on the bench, leaning forward to squint at his face.

“I’m Jimmy,” he says. “Come on. Don’t you know me?” But he can’t keep the grin down. He’s just marking time in the night.

“You’re not Jimmy,” I say, laughing now. “I never saw you before in my life.”

He taps his feet and his hand forms a thumbs-up gun, he cocks and shoots. “I gotcha though,” he says. “Didn’t I now?”

“You sure did.” I’m turning back toward home now. “Have a good night.”

“That’s right girl, you just sashay on home now,” he says, and one of his friends whistles long and low.