It Takes All Kinds, iii

It Takes All Kinds, iii

This scene opens in a public restroom in a park in Seattle.

(What can I say?—I had to pee. Everyone pees. And sometimes that has to happen in a public restroom. It’s a weird fact that I feel compelled to note that I was just peeing and not up to any shenanigans a la Larry Craig or George Michael.)

In this bathroom there’s a urinal and a stall. The stall is closed but a backpack and a water bottle are on the floor in front of the urinal. I step around both, unzip my fly and start peeing. From the stall I hear grumbling, none of which I can understand except for this one word, which is clearly repeated three separate but distinct times:

Nigger!

The voice is muffled enough that I can’t discern the race of the man uttering it, but I’m aware that this contextual clue isn’t really that important. What’s essential is that the repetition of this specific word likely does not bode well. I become a little tense. The voice gets tenser. I think that I should probably leave. I also know that I still have to pee more. Biology wins out, and I remain. The voice continues muttering.

I zip up my pants right as the stall door opens. Out steps a 30-something black guy in ratty pants, worn sneakers, and a bright white tank top. We look at each other. He eyes me over then glances at his backpack; noticing that it hasn’t been touched, he smiles widely at me and says,

People here are so nice! They so nice!

I say, Uh-huh.

He steps past me toward the basin and begins to wash his hands and arms and underarms and head in the sink. He doesn’t stop talking:

I’m always expecting people…. I been all over, you know. Lots of states. Lots of ’em. And some people… But the people here they so nice.

I nod.

I mean, I been to Texas, to North Carolina, to Arizona, to Arkansas, to California…

I brace myself for a Forrest Gump litany but he stops and dries his face on his clean white shirt.

I was expecting you to be sneaky, he holds up a finger beside his head as he looks me in the face. That’s what it was. I was expecting you to be sneaky because I’m always being sneaky. That’s the thing: I’m always being sneaky so I think everyone else is gonna be sneaky.

Yeah, I say. I say this not because I understand him but because there was a space and I needed to fill it.

But you not. You not being sneaky. You just being you, and that’s not sneaky. You just being nice.

I get him now, and so I smile. He smiles back at me and adjusts his t-shirt, which because it’s wet is now sticking tightly to his stomach.

How do I look? he asks.

Great, I say as I cock my head and evaluate him. And he did look great: he was a handsome guy with a wide happy smile and big strong arms.

He picks up his bag and water bottle from the floor. He looks at me.

God bless you, he says.

I think that’s a nice thing to wish on someone. If it’s possible I’ll certainly take it, and I share the same sentiment with him. He waves and steps out the bathroom door.

When I come out a moment later he is gone—Poof!, like Casper, just disappeared into the park, one with the trees and grasses and squirrels and the light shimmering off the lake. It really was the best way for things to end.

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