I used to drive to Detroit every morning to get to Wayne State…
The lotto and party stores signs blind me…I can barely see them with their bright lights they merge into the sun for me. The man walking with a cane and a ripped up blue hoodie smiles at everyone every morning. He doesn’t ask for money.
I should give him money, but I can barely pay my tuition. But I bought a lip gloss the other day, a peachy shiny color that makes my lips look lush. I could have given those three dollars to this man. I bet he wouldn’t buy lip gloss.
I drive down Woodward while playing U2, in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, I listen to the whitest music on earth. Now Sheryl Crow is playing as I watch little black girls in uniforms enter an all-girls school in a church-like building.
I am one of those girls, sitting in the back seat of a bus, wondering if boys will ever like me, if I will ever be popular, if there will ever be a time where I am heard. I’m not black I’m not white, I’m brown I guess, I guess I’m not sure where I fit in, if I will ever fit in.
I am that woman with the funky hair, her different colored braids going down her back as she stands at a bus stop, wearing a brown fanny pack on her waist. The man next to her is smoking and wearing a Tigers baseball cap. I want to give them a ride so they don’t have to take the bus.
I wish we lived in a time where that would be OK, a time before rampant serial killers and a society that mistrusts most people. I could pick these people at the bus stop up and they would most likely not kill me, rob me, or even disrespect me. I bet they would be grateful. I bet they are nice.
However, I would never do a thing like that. I’m not that brave. I am small. Like a worm, I travel this road, Woodward. I don’t know if I belong here if I am worthy of its diverse and eclectic beauty. If my Japanese car and Indian ass should be allowed to travel these parts.
Why should I not be allowed you ask? Because I didn’t give money to that nice old man, and didn’t pick up those people at the bus stop. Because I didn’t care, because I still don’t care enough to do anything for anyone. All I do is listen to my tunes, Elton John is playing now.
Candle in the Wind. It seems to me I lived my life like a candle in the wind. Never knowing who to cling to when the rain comes in. The rain. It’s not raining today, in fact, it’s sunny and 60 degrees. Life is good. So why can’t I be happy just driving on Woodward?
Because I’m complicated, happiness does not come easy to complex people. I’m not saying I’m too sophisticated to be happy, I’m saying I don’t know shit, but I do know how to twist that shit up. Maybe I’m twisted and I complicate everything.
A blackbird perches on the street light in front of me. It is green, it’s time to go. But I don’t want to go, I want to stare at that bird. I want to know that bird. I am your friend, I want to say. We are real, both of us. And we must both go when it is green.
The bird flies away as I drive away. I don’t stop enough, on Woodward Avenue. I don’t take in the sites like I should. This is history, life is history later on. Always, we are making history. I want some wine on this drive. Too bad I don’t drink and drive.
I should have brought a snack, as Aerosmith sings “Janie’s Got a Gun,” on the radio, and I don’t have a gun. I wonder how many people on Woodward are walking around with a gun. They tell me this is a shady part of town. They say Detroit is wicked, that it might even kill you.
I’d rather die of Detroit than Cancer or another deadly disease. If I’m going to die anyways, one day, I might as well die here. I want to talk to these people. So what if some of them are on drugs, and some have guns? Most of these people are just like me, they are sad inside. They know about loss.
So finally I find a parking space in the lot next to my classroom. I walk out of my car, lock the doors, in case any of the vagrants I am supposed to be afraid of, want to steal from me. But what if they want me, my body. How do I lock my body?
I think about that as I cross the street when the sign says I can walk. I follow small rules so I won’t get run over by a car. I smile at the man wearing a red a backpack with a bald head and wiry glasses. He looks intelligent. Maybe if I hang out here enough, I will be smart too.
I belong here, I belong here on Woodward.