Monday, July 3, 2017

The Wait

I started the day at the post office. A sixtysomething woman in line greeted me with a warm smile as I came in. She blushed a little as she explained that everything about me reminded her very much of her brother, dead some years now. She missed him terribly, and seeing me come through the door brought on a rush of happy memories. "That's why I smiled at you like that," she told me. Neither of us acknowledged that I’m white and he wasn't.

A few minutes later, the older black man behind me in line noticed the stooped, burly white man behind him was leaning heavily on a cane for support; he was damp with sweat and breathing hard from walking in the heat. He insisted the man move ahead of him to speed his wait. Inspired by the first man’s kindness, I encouraged the struggling man to move ahead of me, too. The man behind me went on to extend the same courtesy to the Syrian mother and daughter in hijab who had now moved into place behind him, because they were holding large boxes that looked heavy. They shared friendly smiles and thanked him, but by then the line was moving, and they said they’d wait their turn. A pleasant conversation had struck up between the woman who'd initially greeted me and the white lady in front of her, who was about the same age. They were strangers, but joked gently about their husbands like a pair of old friends. I almost had to remind myself I was in a slow line—at the post office!—on a sweltering July day. It was hard not to be affected by the graciousness and goodwill in the room.

Outside, I passed a woman in a crisp black T-shirt. The silkscreened image wasn't a rapper or pop star, but an elegant portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois, an American who famously said, “I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying, through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.” I told her I liked her shirt.

America’s still here, if you’re looking.

Text and photo © 2017 Wyatt Doyle

Wyatt Doyle's latest book, I Need Real Tuxedo and a Top Hat!, is available now from New Texture. Buy it HERE.