- Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I told Hezekiah I wanted to live in Potomac or Chevy Chase or North Bethesda, someplace with cachet, where people had money and minded their own business. I didn’t know this for a fact, of course—that they minded their own business—but it sounded good and gave me one more reason to tick off in favor of living there. If I had had my druthers, I wouldn’t have lived anywhere near the D.C. metropolitan area. But if we had to be there, the where had to be Montgomery County, Maryland.
Montgomery County had seasoned money and grand old homes—or, in Potomac, breathtakingly newer homes. Exquisite shopping. And neighbors who would be concerned mostly with themselves and, perhaps, the fleeting question of how another black family amassed enough nickels to break bread among them. They wouldn’t get to know me, I wouldn’t get to know them. And we would revel, the neighbors and I, in perpetual aloofness.
I definitely did not want to live in Prince George’s County—no matter how many new communities somebody built and called “exclusive.” No matter how many black executives made it their home, as the realtor was fond of sharing. P.G. with bells on was still P.G. Step outside the luxury home, tip past the golf course, and the love affair ends. No cosmopolitan breeze for miles. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. And worse?black folk everywhere who’ve worked hard and long enough to buy a few thousand square feet, who are happy to be around other black folk with a few thousand square feet, and who—I could just see it—would think it a wonderful thing to knock on the doors of said black folk and get to know them. I wanted no part of it and told Hezekiah so.
Well, I told him everything except the part about the neighbors because he would have scoffed. Hezekiah is a people person. In our former neighborhood outside Chicago, he knew everyone on our block, and many who resided two and three blocks over. He took walks, not as a form of exercise—he keeps his six-foot-two body fit with regular basketball runs and weight lifting—but to catch up with whomever was out and about. If he’d had his way, we would have had rolling dinner invitations starting up our side of the street and going down the other. I know because he suggested it once. And he must have known it was a long shot because when I suggested he might be crazy, he left it alone.
It’s not that I don’t like to get to know people. Well. I won’t sugarcoat. I’m not a fan of people. For the first half of my life, I cared about them too much—what they thought of me, why they thought what they thought of me. I cared about the words they said to me and would sometimes count them after an encounter to see if I could use up ten fingers. Often I needed only two. Usually it was, “Hi, Treva.” On a good day, five. “Hi, Treva, how are you?”
These rude people would treat me like that when they were in my home, or I was in theirs. They were peers and parents of peers, long-standing members of my parents’ social circle. We saw each other regularly at this function or that. And I ached for real interaction and inclusion. From time to time I’d rehearse in my head how I might turn those five words into a conversation; it seldom worked in reality. If I said, “Fine, how are you?” I got a “Fine” over the shoulder. If I planted myself where conversation was flowing, it was worse. The laughter and banter would swirl all around me while my own interjections fell flat.
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