Josephine is my friend, and her friends are my friends because she says they are.
I am the lone White girl in an all-Black crowd, and I am the only one with a car and money for gas. I don't have a job but get an allowance. My friends think I'm joking when I tell them that. They say, "White folks spoil their kids." I can't argue the point.
After a school basketball game, I give rides home. My passengers are all girls because my mother makes me promise. She says, "No boys, or you can't have the car."
When I get to Josephine's house, the cops pull up behind me.
"Oh, crap! What did I do?" It's a serious question, but the girls laugh.
The policeman asks for my license, but I can't find it. "I brought the wrong purse. It's at home.""
The cop shakes his head. "Get out of the car."
That's when I cry.
Josephine's mother is already there, yelling at the cop. "This is a nice girl." She gets close to his face. "She isn't what you think she is."
He eases away from her, opens the door of the squad car, and orders me to get in. Josephine's mom runs to the other side of the car and jumps in next to me. "You ain't taking this girl down there alone."
People surround the car, so the cop rolls the window a crack and says, "Go on home." then inches his way through the crowd.
Noises in the bathroom wake me up. A nurse's aid comes out with the dirty towels. She wears a flower corsage for Mother's Day. "Good morning! So, what did you have last night?"
I feel sorry for how stupid she's about to feel.
She asks, "Did you have a boy or a girl?"
"I had a dead baby"
I watch long enough to see her face change, then turn away.
I want it to be night again. Every time I wake up crying, someone sings me back to sleep. Is it my girl? Does she already know words? Would she have been a singer like her daddy?
A month ago, I dreamed my baby was born too soon. She was perfect, but fit in my hand. Then she began to grow, and I couldn't find clothes fast enough to keep up. At the end of the dream, she was a young woman. She climbed a ladder to a platform and gave a speech. She spoke in English, but what she said was beyond what I could understand.
I thought the dream meant she was going to be smart.
Another nurse's aide brings breakfast. On the tray is a plastic flower vase in the shape of a baby shoe. She smiles. "The vase is a gift for Mother's Day."
I tell her to get it off my tray and suggest if she knows how to read, she might want to read my damned chart.
“Do you think I’m prejudiced?”
I ask George the question I have wanted to ask my Black friends, but never felt okay to ask.
Maybe it still isn’t.
George doesn’t answer. The long silence stings. If he didn’t think I was prejudiced, he would have immediately said, “No, of course not. How could you ever wonder about that?”
That’s what I wanted him to say, but his face is sad and thoughtful. I wish I could snatch the question back. I don’t want to hear the answer.
He finally says, “I’m so tired of White people asking that question. If you weren’t concerned about it, you wouldn’t ask.”