I spent the morning with my friend Meghan at a local market near the heart of my city. This market is an intersection point of skin tone, slang, and socioeconomic status. Here, the white suburban mamas with tight black curls mingle with the darker-hued tenement dwellers boasting braided manes. Vendors, side by side, sell blackened barbecue chicken and pesticide free lacinato kale.
An older gentleman approached Meghan and me as we ate lunch. “You girls come here often?” he asked, wrinkles in the corners of his eyes seizing up into a grin, “I been coming here since 1960.” He wore a ballcap embroidered with a US flag. He sat down. “You ever been to Washington Park? Derelicts over there, drug addicts, people with mental problems,” he continued, “Lots of Vietnam Vets. Lots of those guys came back from that war with mental problems. About 100,000 killed themselves. I was watching this one guy, got about $700 in his hand, cash, from his monthly disability check. A man who looked like President Obama stole it all from him, then he had to live for a month with nothin’. Makes me sad.” Silence then, Meghan bit into her sandwich. “Well,” I said, chewing on how to diplomatically ask what exactly about the thief reminded him of President Obama. The market buzzed around us. The man cleared his throat. The conversation ended.
On my way home, over the cracked city blocks, I tried to look directly into people’s eyes as we passed each other on the street. Two women laughed with each other, so hard they were almost falling over. A man in a red and navy striped shirt tried to sell a woman some high-heeled shoes stacked on a card table. People negotiated the prices of pirated CD’s and DVD’s, their covers printed on laserjets in someone’s basement. I thought about copyrights and war. And how warm weather makes us all smile, and the vacant buildings sing a bit.