A few summer’s back, three friends were at my house. We had supper together and sat around commenting on the comfortable, warm summer weather when Jessica said it was perfect for a run. Jennifer thought she might enjoy running too. Since I don’t run but was glad for their company, I volunteered to ride my bike alongside them. That left our friend Britni. She doesn’t run either. As we only had one bike, and as she is a national champion unicyclist, Britni agreed to ride her unicycle as part of this outing. Fortunately for us, national champion unicyclists keep a unicycle in the trunk of their car just in case a situation like this comes up.
So we headed out. I live in a reasonably safe neighborhood. People mostly look out for each other. In the summer, porches are crowded with neighbors smoking or talking or having a drink together, watching people go by. The occasional loud muffler or kids being noisy in the playground across the street, but nothing too extreme.
We must have stood out. Two runners, a slow biker, and a unicyclist. People would laugh right out loud when we passed their porch. Normally when a woman is yelled at from a porch as she passes by, it’s uncomfortable. You don’t know what the yeller’s intentions are and you can’t help being afraid. But we weren’t afraid that night. All we heard was surprised laughter at the unusual sight. And there was some pointing, but that seemed fair considering the unicycle.
After a few blocks something changed. We turned onto 19th Street, where the sidewalk on one side of the street was dark from the shade of old trees. A black man was lurking in the dark space, peeking his head around a large tree. We could catch glimpses of him when the breeze moved the leaves on the trees and let a little light in. He was watching us. He wore baggy jeans, big shoes, an oversized basketball jersey layered on an oversized white t-shirt. I kept my eye on him because he made me nervous. I heard him yell something, so I looked his way, willing him not to pick up on my fear. When he yelled again, I thought I heard my name. Thinking I recognized him, I squinted his direction and said, “Marcus?”
Marcus is a friend of mine. He was a member our church’s youth group and a talented volunteer at a local after school program. He’s warm and kind, gracious and intelligent. Marcus is a gifted musician and is remarkable with children. What a relief to see him.
“Aw man, Celia,” he said back to me with just as much relief as I had. “I’m glad to see you. I was getting ready to run. I thought a mob of crazy white people were after me.”
What’s This Story Mean?
Two people in the exact same situation can interpret what’s happening in very different ways. It’s worth the time and effort to ask, “What do you think is happening here?”
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