The Space Between the Girl and the Curb

The car approached, but she didn’t flinch. She smiled.

20 feet.

10 feet.

She didn’t budge.

The driver started to slow. He moved into the next lane to avoid her.

She stared at him as he drove past. He refused to return her eye contact, but she could tell he was angry. Angry because he knew she had won. He knew she had beat him.

All day strangers watched her with suspicion, waiting for her to act out, waiting for her to fulfill the stereotypes in their minds. They saw the color of her skin, and the quality of her cloths, and they thought they knew her. Too poor, too young, too black to be any good.

And she was powerless. Powerless to change their minds. Powerless to show them the strength she had inside. Powerless to direct how others perceived her.

But here, in the street, waiting at the bus stop after school, she had the power.Here she was a rock. She was a wall. She was a mountain that demanded to be seen. Nothing could mess with her. Nothing could tell her what to do. For ten minutes, the world that ignored her would be forced to take notice, to accommodate her, to bend to her will.

Another car approached, and she didn’t move.

She joked with her friends on the corner.

20 feet.

She laughed loudly about something a teacher had said.

15 feet.

This one came faster. She watched it from the corner of her eye. Its speed made her heart flutter, but she remained cool on the outside, as if she cared about nothing at all. The world of the privileged, in their fast cars would notice her. They would move around her.

10 feet.

The car didn’t slow.

James called from the curb, “Better move girl! You gonna get hit.” Then he laughed. He understood the game. He knew.

The driver looked up from his iPhone and began to slow. She was triumphant again.

That space, the four feet between her and the curb, that space was hers.

At home she was crap. At home her mom was always at work. At home her father was nowhere.

At school she was a prisoner, lectured by people doing what they could to get paid.

But here…

In this four feet of space…

Here, she was the queen, the one with all the power. Here the world moved around her. One car at a time.

Another car approached.

She was a rock. She was a wall. She was a mountain that would not be moved.

And once again, the car bent to her will.

And she laughed.

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