Blacks and Whites | Pushing the Wave

Blacks and Whites

Story, 5 April 2023
by L.A. Davenport

From the collection Dear Lucifer and Other Stories

Rainy London
Rainy London
I forgot to tell you. Last week I saw a woman when I was queuing in the post office. I’m not sure why I was there, I don’t think I was posting anything.

Anyway, the woman, she had Tourette's syndrome. She didn’t swear or anything like that. She just became extremely frustrated with herself. She screamed and shouted, but tried so hard to contain herself that the screams and shouts came out as yelps and barks, like a pained dog.

I was sorry for her. She was aged around forty-five and trendily dressed in a padded black coat. She seemed successful, confident almost, in her own way. But her face was pale white, tired and haunted. She caught no one’s eye, and her body was tense, as if ready to spring. She must have been living with her condition all her life, containing it, explaining it, dreading it. She must be so tired of her barks and yelps.

Others in the queue were less sympathetic. A black man and a white woman, both middle-aged, sniggered and rolled their eyes at her outbursts. It made me angry and I wanted to say something. But I didn’t. The woman was clearly capable of looking after herself and I wouldn’t have wanted to patronise her. She’d probably had enough of that.

At one point, I became distracted by my own thoughts. And then a position at a counter became free and, when I looked up, she had gone. The black man and white woman still talked, but no longer about her. They had been brought together by their prejudice. They were conjoined in shamefulness.

I thought about all of this today, while I was out running. As the woman, her dark hair, quivering voice and padded overcoat, returned to my mind, I passed branches, decomposed leaves, churned earth and yellow, matted grass. I don’t know why I thought of her. Maybe I was simply turning over recent events, as if in a dream.

As I ran on, I saw a long, deep puddle that reflected perfectly the white clouds overhead. And all around it were rooks, heavy and silent, occasionally dipping their beaks into the water.

They watched me pass, and I saw the ready spring in their legs and the slight opening of their wings, just in case I should step over. I wished I could have reassured them, told them that I would never do them any harm. But how could I convince them that I wasn’t like all the rest?

So I ran on, with only the memory of the suspicion in their eyes.

© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Blacks and Whites | Pushing the Wave