Aisle Shades

By: Jourdan Lobban

It was a scorching Saturday. I had to get my hair done no matter the cost.

But my Wawa regiment had to be satisfied first.

I had done the routine countless times: I’m in with my money, no hulking pocket book in the way, with a whole lot of determination on my face. Getting my sandwiches and sweet stuffs is what always mattered to me. I barely remember zipping past the chocolate skinned men with their animated hair textures, or that’s what I told myself as I waited in line at the touchscreen taking orders. I zipped through my first order and flew through my second one. With my two receipts, I weaved through two little black girls and their mama. I let my need to get to my hair appointment on time distract me from my surprise at seeing more black people in old Delaware now than I did when I was small and wearing little puffs like them.

Scanning through the isles of candies and cookies was always the challenge. Typically, the frequent consumer of Twizzlers and fruit snacks, it was with a heavy heart that I decided to abstain from such delicacies. The fact that there were no fruit snacks at the Wawa on Route 40 was a major influencer in my choice. Considering the massive heat pressing onto on all humankind that day and the upcoming agitation I would face at the hair salon, I settled for some Oreos and soft baked cookies that made my tongue swoon. But before I could circle all the way around the Cheetos and Lay’s potato chips, my eyes keyed in on a boy in my usual spot. He was turned to his right side, so he did not notice me inching forward every time he moved farther away. Just when I thought he would turn on the end opposite of me, he turned on to my direction. The boy, with his Hershey bar-colored hair and his hand covered in a Velcro cast was attempting to let me through to the other side. Me, the girl who could talk for the next millennium without breath, mostly looked down. While he actually made words come out of his mouth, your girl gave strained smiles and barely whispered “It’s fine” like she never even saw a boy. Before I could think of saying anything coherent such as “Hi”, he was gone and onto the register. It did not take me long for me to realize my social blunder before stomping my foot and saying something unladylike. Technically, it sounded more like “sheet” then whatever I thought at the time. My dad had not heard me, and I asked God to forgive me immediately of course. At least I could say I was safe in that department.

The boy was long gone by the time I went up to the register. With each click of the button on the machine processing my card, making forced chitchat with the uninterested cashier, and getting my bags in order, I played over and over my failure. Already his face was fading from my memory. I could only really remember his left hand, the one with the Velcro cast. More than likely he was an athlete on the last stages of his recovery. It was either that or it was just slightly sprained. Unfortunately, my knowledge about sports people could not serve me then since the opportunity had slipped through my sweaty fingers.

My mind cannot stop replaying the scenario. It is not because of his hair color or sprained hand and definitely not his athletic build. It comes from the revelation I had immediately after: not one time did I think he was a racist person. Nowhere in all of that awkward interacting with him did I think he was like some of the previous white boys I grew up with. In evaluating his face and build I never assumed him to be a white boy who only went for girls who paid for their tans. Nothing in me considered the fact that he was just a Caucasian male who only saw black girls as exotic fruit to pick, peel, and throw away after tasting some juices. For the first time in a long, super long while, I was not the Afro-American/Caribbean girl angry at the world for not making me the standard to be loved, worshiped and aspired to for the upcoming generations. Instead, I was just a girl who innocently did not know how to talk to a guy because of my nerves. In all its simplicity, it was a gentle and welcoming surprise. Even more so, it is a memory that warms me with hope in reclaiming the faith I had lost within myself and whatever blessings which come in the most unexpected shades and hues.

Categories: Essay, Travel

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