Friday, June 15, 2012

Potholes, 2.

The great thing about a stiff old-lady-hip is that I get to feel younger every day.

While I was injured, black people were saying the funniest things to me. Direct speech is a hilarious and lovely feature of African American Vernacular English. It took some years in Harlem to adjust to it, but during awkward furtive grocery store stare-and-averts back in the midwest last weekend, an unexpected trip, I realize that I much prefer the frankness.

Terence, my UPS guy (since I've lived at the same address for three years now, there are many familiar faces in the neighborhood) chided, "ESTHER! You get in a fight again?" A bike accident, I clarified. "With what, a rhino?! Damn."

And my favorite incident--a run-in at the corner deli with an older black woman, in a house dress and curlers. "Giiirrrrrlll, you gotta leave his broke ass." Let me tell you, the "No, no, it's not what you think" that I meant in reassurance was not what she wanted to hear. "Ohh honey child, you don't gotta cover up for him! You don't gotta put up widdat shit, y'heard? Now you run on home now and you think bout what I says. Mm-hmm!"

What laughing, coughing, and sneezing had in common: They hurt my hip. A lot. The other thing they had in common: They're involuntary. So as much as laughing hurt the last two weeks, I remember a long long season, of recent vintage, in which I did not laugh at all, and that hurt even more, even though sometimes it felt like nothing at all.

While I was getting discharged from the hospital that Sunday, my best friends' father was being pronounced braindead after a sudden and severe asthma attack a few days prior. Mercy bowed me. It's why I was home for those silent suburban stares that dared not ask, of the splotches and bruises on my face, what happened and if I was okay.

Lord, let me never pretend I've not seen. Sometimes asking real questions is awkward. But so was hanging naked on a cross, probably.

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