I powered up the hill, appreciating my strong legs and body. It was a wonderful Seattle day; bright sun and crisp air. I had decided to take the train to SeaTac Airport — an invigorating walk. Drawing a big breath was as refreshing as a drink of cool water. I was consciously grateful for my robust health. Turning a corner, I headed up a steep slope. I felt the rush of my strength; I could walk up these hills for a year. Not bad for an old lady.
I realized I didn’t know which way to turn next. I’ve always been one of the directionally impaired, with a dazzling gift for getting lost. I stopped, got out my mobile, and breathed a prayer of thanks to the gods of engineering and space technology. GPS is a gift to the perennially direction-impaired. I stood, mid-sidewalk, studying my phone when I noticed two tall Black men approaching. They were laughing, deep in joyous conversation. They spotted me. I was a 65 year old white woman holding a mobile phone with no other people in sight.
In a powerful moment of grief and horror, I realized I posed a threat to them. It was a terrible feeling; I froze. Then I made a decision. They continued to approach; I touched the arm of one and said, “I just want you to know I’m not reporting you for existing. I’m using my GPS.” I know — touching without permission. I readily plead guilty with one caveat; it was my mother-heart that made me do it. I ached at the concept that they may have seen me as the worst kind of threat — a white woman who maliciously uses her privilege to endanger Blacks lives.
They burst into uproarious laughter; it was a wonderful moment, but it shouldn’t have been funny. It should have been bizarre like “the clocks in your back are annoying me.” It was funny for its excruciating truth. A truth 400 years in the making.
We chatted for a bit and they asked where I was headed. Harold slid the heavy bag off my shoulder, taking it as if it were no weightier than a paper bag. Marcus offered the crook of his arm and they marched me to the train station like two fine young men properly escorting their grandmother. I have never felt safer than between these two strangers who were likely a foot taller than I, talking and laughing and making the walk impossibly short.