December 28th, 2014
Reading The New Jim Crow on the flight from Tucson to Las Vegas. With the plane descending, the white woman beside me asks about it. “The prison industrial complex, “ I say, “Ferguson,” and “mass incarceration,” she seems interested. The white woman next to her also seems interested. Both say that they are definitely going to read it. The woman in the aisle seat leans in and lowers her voice to a whisper when she says “black people,” then brings her voice back to its usual volume to finish the sentence. She gives me her drink voucher. I already had one. I thank her. I see her once more in the women’s restroom. She says again that she is definitely going to read it. Again, I say thank you.
Boarding the connecting flight to Oakland. Empty middle seat between a black man and a black woman; I think of Claudia Rankine’s poem on the perpetually empty seat beside the black man on public transit. I sit down in the seat.
The woman has driven AC Transit buses in Oakland for 35 years. She asks if I am from Oakland. “No, I say, “Virginia. Just outside DC.” I ask if she wants a drink voucher, that I have an extra one. She does. He is wearing headphones, grey track pants, grey hoodie. I reach up to the comfort panel above me; i loosen an aperture and cool stale air streams against the palm of my hand.
I tire of my own dialogic realism. How much is not said in speaking.
We sit quietly in the context of our shared colonial history.
We arrive in Oakland.
This morning before leaving, you loaned me The Address Book by Sophie Calle. “It is on you to remember to return it,” you say leaning across the table, “I will not remind you.”