Obama ’08!!

As he walked away from the liquor store, his heart was pounding and he felt hot all over. He noticed the sick, numb sensation that comes over you when you come inches away from something horrific — unneeded adrenaline being wasted on making you feel completely miserable. As he sipped his Red Bull with his left hand, his right hand found itself feeling his back pocket to make sure his wallet was still in its proper place.

“Ridiculous, “ he thought to himself. “Even if they had snatched your wallet, don’t you think you would have noticed?” Besides, money wasn’t what they were after. The snaggletoothed man had been very clear. The volume of his voice compensated for the stoic, angry silence of his sunglassed compatriot. He had just finished purchasing his drink, and was waiting out front for his friends to purchase their beers outside the store, when Snaggletooth beckoned him from the corner of the building with a “Hey!”

Now, Tubby had always thought of himself as a fair man. Sure, he had grown up in the suburbs, where the accepted solution to poverty was to avoid eye contact at all costs, but he was educated. He understood all the socioeconomic factors that forced blacks into the same cycle of poverty — generation after generation. But he wasn’t stupid. This area wasn’t exactly known for its tip-o’-the-hat neighborliness. Prostitutes, drug dealers and all varieties of vagrants congregated regularly at the gates of the park behind the liquor store. Maybe if he just ignored him, he would leave him alone.

“Hey!…….hey!”

“What’s up?”, said Tubby, trying his best to look genuinely concerned and hard at the same time, cupping his hand to his ear. “Put your game face on,” he thought to himself. Sunglasses was standing just behind the corner of the building to the right of Snaggletooth.

“We just tryin’ to get some beer. Can y’help us out?”

Against his deep-seated inclinations, Tubby made eye contact with Snaggletooth. He was dressed modestly with a t-shirt and slacks and a plain blue baseball cap. He looked at Tubby with a wide-eyed steadfastness, his arms forming a horseshoe with his shoulder-line. He was well-built, caramel-skinned, and could easily do some damage with his fists. Tubby knew in his heart that, had he answered Snaggletooth’s beckon, Sunglasses would have sprung from around the corner and mugged his ass five times before he hit the ground. Tubby was seriously debating whether or not to give these guys some money. “I don’t owe these fuckers anything. They don’t know me — I don’t know them. For all they know I was barely able to scrape up enough change for this Red Bull and pack of cigs.”

The absurdity of this line of reasoning was as obvious as his protruding belly. He was white. Tubby knew it. Sunglasses knew it. Muffintop, Platform Flipflops, And Mini Jeanskirt across the parking lot knew it.

“Sorry,” murmured Tubby, shaking his head with a reluctant chagrin.

A pause.

“Why not?”, queried Snaggletooth.

What the fuck? Did this man really just ask Tubby to justify his not buying booze for a stranger? If he can’t buy liquor in that store, it’s his own fault for getting caught stealing! Tubby works for his money, so these good-for-nothing scumbags can go fuck themselves!

“Why not!?”, Snaggletooth asked again. Sunglasses emerged from behind the building, striking the same resolute horseshoe shoulder stance. He could feel them staring holes into him.

Tubby’s friends had finished purchasing their beer and they prepared to walk back to the house. Sunglasses and Snaggletooth were hunched — standing in the path between Tubby and safety not but 10 yards away.

“This is it,” thought Tubby. “I’m going to get mugged in downtown Riverside on August 7, 2008. I fucking knew this was going to happen. Why do black people have to be so aggressive!? And how dare they ask me why I won’t give them something for nothing!?……Just a couple more feet now. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make eye contact. Just don’t make eye contact.” Their eyes were turning his skin into swiss cheese now. He could feel their glare. The mixture of Tubby’s white man’s guilt and their frustrated resentment hung heavy in the air.  Tubby passed directly between Sunglasses on the left, Snaggletooth on the right. Above all, Tubby did not want them to know he was scared. He could practically feel his adrenal glands burning, his heart picked up another couple of bps’. “Remembre to aim for the eyes. If you gouge out their fucking bugged-out eyes, they won’t be able to do shit. Oh, and run like hell. ……Just a couple more steps. Just a couple more steps. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make fucking eye contact. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not their fault they’re poor, but you don’t owe them anything.”

He was alive. He walked in silence back to the house, hung back on the front porch, and lit a much-needed cigarette. A white man with a long, white beard passed by the front of the house with a German Shepherd on a leash.

“How’re you doing?”, Whitey said.

“Good, thanks,” Tubby said with utter sincerity.

Before turning the corner to Tubby’s left, Whitey stopped in his tracks and began walking back.

“Could I trouble you for a cigarette?”

Tubby hesitated for a moment. “Sure.”

“Thanks, man. I wasn’t going to ask but then I thought, ‘Why not?’”

“No problem”, he said — extending his open pack of Marlboro Lights.

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