“I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.” (Mike Pence, on why he didn’t wear a mask to the Mao Clinic.)
That’s me, walking down Summer
Street, headed for Richmond
Street, dressed for a pandemic,
only my eyes to see and be seen:
61 year old white woman eyes.
It’s one of those almost-Spring days, trees
Daring to blossom, sky clear blue,
Bright, but chilly enough to warrant
This coat, this hood, these gloves. The streets
Empty and wide, I feel like an explorer in a new land,
Pandemic land, where viruses can lurk anywhere,
even on daffodil petals.
Barely a block to go and I see
him, having just turned or crossed;
nevertheless, he’s bearing down
on me. Hands deep in pockets, mask
high, just inches from his hood.
Only eyes to see and be seen:
30 – 40 year old black man eyes.
I recognize a fearful voice, mumbling
in the back of my head:
It’s time to cross, it says, though to cross
the road will take me out
of my way. I resist it. I maintain my course.
He’s about my height. Not quite
as spare. His mask is black, and
mine is white. As we approach each other
I recognize fear. Fear in his eyes. Fear of
me. Fear of all the things he thinks I see
when I see a man who looks like him.
Fear of all the things he knows
a woman who looks like me has the power to do.
The things he fears frighten me, too; they repulse me. I want to smile and say hello.
I summon up a smile, will it into my eyes
and face him, for those seconds it takes me
to pass him. All I can see is his anxiety,
diminishing. His eyes grow calm,
his shoulders slack, we share
a nod of gratitude, even
companionship, and then
we both continue on our way.