To the black man in the blue van on the road when I was walking

flower-43jonsullivan.publicdomTo the black man in the blue van on  the road when I was walking. This is an apology. I was walking and looking at the big houses. I was listening to a tape of a novel about a serial killer by the Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø. I was thinking about  being a white woman in the United States. I was thinking if I was a young black male, I probably wouldn’t walk around in this neighborhood simply for the  pleasure of doing it. And I definitely wouldn’t stop to examine the houses, set back in their enormous yards.  It’s a quiet walk. I hardly ever see people. I see the mother deer and her twins. I see trees, flowers, woods. I saw a van parked up ahead and I moved to the other side of the road. I’m sorry. Fear is a liar. I know this, and yet.  Several years ago a woman was pushed into a van here and murdered. This is the kind of information females file away. I pulled out one of my ear buds, so I could hear. There was no one around but the blue van and me. I looked as I passed by, hoping for a female. I looked carefully, turning my head, squinting. A young black man was trying to look like he didn’t see me staring at him or notice the way I hurried past. He was looking at a map, but I didn’t stop to help. He was a gender to me. I was probably a race to him. A man looking at a map, a woman on a walk. Stuck with all that history and context.

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