Two Fold Skin
The young, cocky, word-sure boy is gone now.
He's been replaced two-fold times,
cell by cell.
All that's left of him are memories.
Though you had no way of knowing,
it was the first time he ever felt like he belonged,
and he'd found his place,
so he made sure every one else stayed in theirs.
He was the one who'd say things no one else would say,
who'd harass, berate, belittle, mock
anyone who didn't conform to his notion
of being the big cheese in the Burger King kitchen;
the go-to guy for odd jobs that needed doing.
Not with his size, he'd bully.
How could he?
Barely six feet tall and maybe one fifty.
and awkwardly uncomfortable.
He'd bully with his words.
Given his background,
you would think that
he would've been more sensitive to how different you were in looks only
and, how much like the rest of them you were.
He should've known better.
Instead, he joked with you,
asked how things were going for you, African-American,
and your lilly white Anglo wife.
"How do you stop 5 black guys from raping a white woman?"
Never mind the obvious offense.
That was not the point,
though it was.
"You throw 'em a basketball,"
though you weren't a basketball player.
He was, but he told the joke anyway
to let you know he didn't see you as African-American,
or so he rationalized.
How many other jokes did other people tell you:
the only African-American employee,
at a Burger King in the suburbs?
The total population of minorities:
not ten percent.
Not that he was from the streets,
or other stereotypes of why some people aren't racist and others are.
From the south-an easy stereotype-some might've said he was racist.
His family had, at one time, a live-in maid named Lizzy Tee:
his blue-blood grandmother's maid for 40 years.
Yet, he was also from the rural south,
where the lines blurred a bit,
and Curtis and Johnny called him their “best friend.”
He mocked you at the same time
he dated an African-American,
but he didn't tell her these jokes.
Maybe it wasn't about the color of your skin?
Maybe it was more about your gender, your personality, your competence
and he used your skin color just to keep you down;
to let you know your place?
I don't even know, anymore.
It's that kid, that punk, that mouthy, arrogant,
unapologetic word-sure jerk
who inhabited this body,
who's cells have been replaced
now two-fold times.
But the memories never go away,
there are some cells that will never be replaced.
They remember, grieve, regret,
but never go away.
October 18, 2005