Last night I took the dog out for his nightly shit so that I could be reminded of my place in the universe. The homeowner’s association had apparently voted to replace the grass that my dog normally fertilized with some sort of turf, and it was taking Sebastian a bit of getting used to. Normally he was quick. He could pee and poop and have me back in the house in under five minutes, but with the turf, he was inspecting things a bit more.
I wore a black wife beater, some camouflage shorts, and some fresh Adidas that I don’t get to wear often. It was cold. It was ten o’clock.
Sebastian and I were accosted by our overly gregarious, middle-aged neighbor with his unfriendly Jack Russell Terrier, “There’s your friend girl” the space invader encouraged. I noticed that he decided to wear shoes this time. Maybe because it was late. But, he did have on that same creepy Hawaiian shirt! Where in the hell do they even sell those?
I gave Sebastian and the Jack Russell sufficient dog-ass sniffing time, and there was no incident this time. Finally Sebastian found a spot that was worthy of his shit.
Just as I picked up his load, a demure woman whom I’d seen in distance walking toward me was upon us asking in a quivering voice, “Can I just talk to you for a minute?” My mind raced. I thought of my kids. I kicked myself for not having brought my phone. I imagined this modest looking white woman yelling rape or screaming, and as “help” arrived to see her stabbing my lifeless body, everyone understood her preemptive strike because, after all, negrophobia is a legitimate legal defense, and besides, I’m 6’4″ and wearing camouflage and black on a dark night with my dark skin wearing dark Adidas walking a dog that is half black. I lamented having decided to wear my contacts instead of my glasses, which made me seem more approachable and soft. I was terrified of her. She was a full foot shorter than me, and I was terrified of her.
I kept my distance, remained stoic, and agreed to give her a minute. She started crying. She cried a sentence or two, and after having her repeat herself, I understood that she had failed to make good on some opportunity to uphold her spiritual beliefs. In fact, her exact words were, “I fucked up. I had an opportunity to do good, and I didn’t.” Now at this point, I thought I was a gonner! I thought for sure that I would never see my children again. I thought I would be stabbed to death in this gated community. I thought this emotionally distraught white woman would shoot me, and I would be blamed for being in a well-to-do community in the first place.
As she cried real tears, fear gripped my heart. I didn’t know what to do, so I asked her what her spiritual belief system was. I figured if she was a Christian or Muslim or Catholic, I could maybe stitch together something that sounded like it was in the Bible or Quran. No luck. “I’m a Tibetan Buddhist.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t know much about Buddhism, but I’m sure there isn’t a group of people sitting in a room awaiting your arrival so that they can judge you and tell you how poorly you performed on some spiritual task.”
“Well, no it doesn’t work like that.” (sniffles with tears streaming)
“The fact that you’re crying, though, I think is a good thing. To me that suggests that you have real conviction about your beliefs. Your contrition symbolizes that you have integrity about your beliefs, and that’s a good thing. That means you take this seriously, and you should.” Now right about here is when her eyes opened wide, and she looked at me as if I was delivering some amazing Word. She nodded as I spoke. “My suggestion is that you not spend much time beating yourself up. You recognize that you didn’t handle this situation the best way you could, and it hurts you. That’s a good thing. Now, move on from that, but don’t beat yourself up. You want to be moving forward from a place of positivity. It’s unproductive to try to move on from negativity. That’s something I’ve learned irrespective of one’s belief system.” She nodded in agreement and cracked a small smile. “What’s your name?”
“Ashley.” (this is a pseudonym since this lady turned out to be my neighbor!)
“My name is Sundjata.” We shook hands, and my fears subsided just a bit–not enough though. “Well look Ashley, I’d love to chat with you a little more, but I have my baby in the house, and I have to get back in the house.”
“Oh okay. No problem. Yeah. You have to take care of that.”
We started walking (awkwardly) in the same direction, and it turns out that this woman, Ashley, who I’d never seen before, is my very close neighbor.
I don’t know that there’s a lesson or a moral or anything like that. I will say that I was shocked that this woman was willing to talk to me. I suppose a la Charles Ramsey, I should’ve known something was wrong when a little pretty white woman came crying to my arms. I’m not the most approachable-looking brotha, and I wasn’t dressed in an approachable manner. I’m just glad that I had a jewel to drop. I hope my positive outlook was of use. I like to think it was.
This is my real life. I simply couldn’t make this stuff up.