Saturday, March 12, 2016


Thanks to bad health and poverty, my social life has taken a turn for the better.

I’ve reached the age at which the body starts to fall apart. Nothing life-threatening (yet), only ailments that become painful if left untreated. If they were life-threatening – if, for example, my cancer returned – I wouldn’t do anything about it. I’d welcome death, but minor problems I attend to. I want to die in order to escape a painful life; but while I remain alive, I don’t want to live in physical pain as well, so I spend more and more of my time visiting doctors.

Now that I’m poor, the only doctors I can afford are those who run walk-in clinics catering to low income patients. They're mostly in the inner city, and that’s where I’ve been going.

These doctors are all black, and their patients are all black. I’m always the only white person in a waiting room full of blacks, and I’m always amazed by how comfortable I feel among them.

Instead of sitting quietly and avoiding each others’ eyes, as white people do in a suburban doctor’s waiting room, these people are eager to talk, using any pretext to start a conversation not only with each other, but with me. They always take care to include me in their conversations. 

I’ve been wondering, during the last couple of weeks, why I feel so comfortable being the only white person among all these blacks when so many white policemen, strong and healthy men half my age, are so terrified by the sight of a black man that they shoot and kill him out of fear for their lives. Of course young people, black or white, are often filled with rage because they don’t have what they think they deserve – and those who have the most think they deserve everything – while the black people in the waiting room with me are my age, resigned as I am to the fact that no one gets what s/he deserves.

Perhaps I like these people because the doctors’ offices are close to the neighborhood where I grew up. They would be my neighbors if I hadn’t left them behind.

After visiting a doctor yesterday, I decided to drive through the old neighborhood and see how it had changed. 

It was silent and deserted. The houses were in ruins, charred and blackened by fires probably deliberately set. Surely it's the worst slum in a city of slums. But it was beautiful. The grass was waist high, full of wild flowers, and the tree branches met overhead, enclosing everything in green shadows. It was like being deep in a forest. If this is the city dying, I hope I die as peacefully.

No comments:

Post a Comment