You Don't Belong
It was cold, bitingly cold. My nose was red and sore from the wind assaulting it. Every breath I took fogged my glasses. Ice and snow covered the roofs of houses and some unplowed streets. The sky was grey. And silence blasted in my ears. Ever so often, I could hear a car pass, scattered footsteps, or children playing in the distance. I walked through the quiet, seemingly abandoned streets of Brewerytown, and felt an overwhelming force pushing me to leave. I wanted to pick up the tripod and camera, and run. However, this feeling was not brought on by fear or apprehension but discomfort and despondency. I couldn’t leave. I stared at my feet as I walked, counting my footsteps and slabs of concrete hoping to be greeted by a smiling face willing to be interviewed. But time and time again instead of a smile or even eye contact, I was avoided, scoffed at, and told some variation of, “You don’t belong here. Go back to where you’re from.” I was uninvited. I tried to look at myself as the people I encountered had. I thought to myself, “I’m wearing sweatpants, old sneakers, an oversized white coat, and I’m black just like them. How did they know I didn’t belong? Why do they see me as an outsider? Why am I uninvited?”
I continued to walk, avoiding the ice. I passed abandoned house after abandoned house, then stopped. I looked to my right and saw a porch flooded with teddy bears of every shape, size, and color. There were so many stuffed animals I wondered how the occupants maneuvered around them when they left the house. Then a wave of nausea washed through my body with the realization that the people who lived there had recently lost a child. I played out different scenarios in my mind. The street’s ice melted, the sun was bright, and children played loudly in the street while adults joked and laughed on the corner, when a black Cadillac raced by opening fire on the crowd. Shouts filled the air, people dropped to the ground, children ran behind cars. The shooters had missed their target, and there lying in a pool of blood was the lone causality, a child. The screams were replaced with wails and cries. I shock my head pushing my day-mare to the back of my head, and walked onward. The poverty and sadness surrounding me was not a reality I had ever lived in. It was obvious by my face alone. I had no permanent tear stains, no frown lines, my skin was not tough and raw from the constant struggle of life. How could I not have seen the blatant differences between myself and them? Our realities were different. I was an outsider … I am uninvited.