October 9, 2015
Posted on Jun 28, 2010
By Mr. Fish
Lying down on the cool leather and looking up at the dark cab light on the ceiling, I sighed and closed my eyes and tried to imagine what I’d be doing if I was Angela Davis. Admittedly, I knew nothing about the woman beyond the picture of her in my grandparents’ basement, but, of course, I didn’t know anybody who really knew much about who their hero really was beyond the most trivial sort of personal information such as height and weight and, occasionally, batting average. My best friend JJ, for example, was a huge “Lassie” fan, and I could only imagine the army of PR guys hired to make sure that there were no pictures of the superstar collie published in Time, Life or Look where she was licking her own rear or shoving her nose into the crotch of a studio executive or eating the vomit of one of her stand-ins.
Still, despite the fact that I didn’t know who Angela Davis was, I felt as if I knew who her detractors were. I knew, for example, that there existed a portion of society that thought black people—Negroes they were called back then—were inferior to white people and that women were inferior to men and that black women were, therefore, inferiority squared, and what drew me to Davis was the complete self-assuredness that she seemed to exude from the center of that very specific hurricane of racial and sexual prejudice that was blowing loud and clear through American culture in 1973. Having both a best friend who was black and who incurred daily salutations of nigger and coon and Washington and a twin sister who could easily match every mental and physical feat that I was capable of, I knew that any notion that attempted to cast Negroes or girls into a subcategory of human being, besides being a baldfaced lie, was some kind of extreme cowardice; it had to be, for there was no accidental ignorance capable of being so completely blind to reality. It was the kind of dumbness that existed crouched inside the mind, behind closed eyes, cowering in between capped ears and behind a clothes-pinned nose sealed off from the unmistakable stench of happy smoke from a joyous and inevitable and all-consuming revolution. So much stupidity is deliberate; an attempt to avoid comparison with any fact that might denigrate the notion that any of us are objective participants in the world and that our observations are made cleanly through glass un-graffitied by any bogus or prejudiced ideology.
Looking at the Angela Davis poster in my grandparents’ basement, her face locked in something like a battle cry, I wished to be on the winning side of the argument using just the constant and unwavering statement of my own sex and skin color. I wanted to be a hero who existed contrary to stupidity; somebody who by simply living was the actual proof that the worst misconceptions held by the dimmest wits in society, many of them policymakers and architects of public opinion, were wrong. I wanted to believe that the truth was invincible. And it was.
And this is what it said: your opinion here.
An hour later I woke up to the sound of my grandparents talking on the back porch and having their lunch—as they did every day during the summer months when my grandfather wasn’t driving a school bus—of bacon, lettuce and tomato, their voices remarkably clear for having to travel through the wall of the garage and the body of the car and the fog of my grogginess.
“It wasn’t about her leg, exactly,” continued my grandmother, clarifying a point that had apparently entered my grandfather’s head hurriedly and half-dressed. “It was more about the universe in general.”
“Uh-huh,” he said, still confused.
“She said that she wished that she could wake up every day ... ,” she stopped herself, thinking. “No,” she went on, “every other day and the world would see her as somebody with one normal-sized leg and one extra long leg.”
“What do you mean?” He exhaled affectionate boredom like an ungrantable birthday wish and took a bite of his sandwich.
“You know, instead of thinking that her short leg was too short, people would think that her normal-sized leg was extra long.”
“No, just extra long.”
“Well, longer than the other one I mean.”
“What would be the difference?”
“Between too long and extra long? I don’t know, I guess just your point of view.”
“No, between one leg that’s too short and one leg that’s extra long?”
“Well, instead of just having pity for her, she figured that on the days when she had an extra-long leg people would be fascinated by her. You know, the idea being that people respect the concept of more a lot more than less.”
“Sure they do. What do you mean, they do?”
“Why not just wish for two normal-sized legs?”
“Oh, Eugene what?”
“She didn’t say that she wanted to be invisible.”
Somewhere in Chicago in the backseat of a black Ford Mercury sat Angela Davis looking out through the rain. Passing a crowded diner on her way from O’Hare International Airport, she sighed and leaned back against the upholstery and, looking up at the dark cab light on the ceiling, she closed her eyes and wished that she were invisible.
Living her dream, I was.
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