I, at 23, drove, late at night, to help Him, a friend.
I barely knew Him really, a friend of a friend.
My Black Friend.
He needed money, He said, for His brother’s cold medicine.
So I drove downtown at eleven at night with the only money I had in my wallet,
I drove to the middle of the worst part of the projects in Savannah, Georgia,
A place where, I had been told by my family, skinny white boys like me were hated.
With twelve dollars.
I was going to help Him, my black friend, with my twelve dollars.
I was his missionary.
As I drove slowly on his street, looking for Him or His brother,
They surrounded my car,
Seven dark giants of the ghetto, defenders of their properties:
Two on each side, two in front of me, one behind.
I would die here.
And inside They would find no drugs,
No money, nothing of my whiteness but twelve dollars.
And for twelve dollars and a mission I would die.
They roared at me to roll the window down,
And I refused.
“I can hear you fine from here.”
Even my words sounded pasty, pale.
The shouts were louder.
I could hear the kettle being stirred
And the chants beginning.
I silently awaited the attack,
My grip turned white on the black leather wheel.
Was this all my life was to be?
My light was darkness, and oh, how great my darkness was.
Then the water parted.
As suddenly as They had appeared,
They backed away,
Opening like a railway guard,
Willing to let me pass.
To find my friend,
To give Him my money.
I never saw Him after that night.
Was the money used for cold medicine?
Was His brother even sick?
Did He even have a brother?
Were They my enemies?
Were They warning me?
Did They want my money?
Or my white blood?
I will never know the truth about that night.
I will never know the sides or the boundaries.
I will never be able to divide the gray
Into shades of black and white.
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