The autumn chill creeps into the blue-grey morning air as the season announces its presence. This world, at least, is a series of blocks and corridors, number streets and state avenues that loosely circumscribe a community of mostly black and brown families across town from new Camelot. It is a synergy of corner stores and bus stops and schools and salons. It is a mirror shard of the whole, both fragment and reflection.
Before the sun finds time to rise, there’s a boy flexing out the stiff sleeves of a new jacket. Little brother walks a step to the right and a step behind, never leaving the security of his brother’s shadow and wrapped in the warmth and familiar smells of the hand-me-down jacket. The zipper doesn’t work, so big brother snaps the buttons closed over it so little brother don’t complain. They both hate the walk to the bus – who likes going to school?-but sometimes their neighbor drives them in that shiny new Benz. It ain’t so bad then.
At the bus stop a mother frets over her daughter’s hair on the way to pre-school. It’s a losing battle. Life, death, taxes and her baby girl coming home with a fro. The young man beside them gets up when the elderly woman who works at a diner across town comes over. It’s as much politeness as fear: everyone knows about the Police Special she carries for safety on long walks home well after the sun has given up its vigil. She nods. She smiles. Eighty years worth of a hard life transmuted into the gold of joy radiate. Even in the desert, flowers bloom.
The bus approaches.
The driver has had this route everyday for years. Holidays, sick days. Even the day his own baby boy was born he put on the thick gloves and blue shirt and drove. Hundreds of thousands of miles. A legendary traveler circumnavigates the globe once in as many but did Magellan move as many men and women to and fro across the waves of time? Hundreds of conquistadores, big and small, Black and Brown and White, step aboard the noisy vessel daily and make their way to islands and familiar shores.
This is the World, and like there are good sides of it. There are also bad. There’s a man who drinks too much. smells like it. He rides until it’s time to buy more. There’s a woman somewhere in another world whose grief expands to fill the void he created, an absence long before he was kicked out. There’s others. There’s violent men and women. There are addicts. There’s dealers. Crooks and thieves, But they are the margins. Like in any place, most people at any given time are in the center.
Each world has a name. My world was the 64. It sometimes shared a space with the world inside the 63 and sometime I could see the faces of the women, men, children, children with children, who made up the manifest of the passing ship. Gravitic constants of narrow streets, the inertia of traffic jams. Traffic circles of elliptical orbits. People staring from the same glass bubbles into the same cold, howling world from which we had all taken refuge. Staring across the seas of silver stars, brake lights and traffic signals and bike reflectors, to our destinations. Bus stops or lonely ports back out in the world. Who knew the difference?
There are other worlds. I’ve forgotten the names of more than I remember. But the X2 and the A4 and the A2 and the 72 and the whatever, regardless of the name, are all the biggest fragments of the big bang of the universe once known as Chocolate City. Poor people, rich people, homeless people, in between–mostly Black–wayfarers of the stars flung out into the far reaches at the edges of known space. They are the bold. They are the brave, the intrepid. The gravity of work, of school, of the dream of life unfettered draws them in daily, like cosmic moths to a cosmic flame. But when it grows dark and cold they board ships and return. The universe ain’t always such a kind place for them.
Tomorrow the explorers set out again.