Today I was at the store in line. A stocky black man with an instrument in a case on his back is in front of me. The woman behind me asks him
– What kind of instrument is that?
– Electric guitar.
-Yeah? My dad had a Gibson.
– Oh yeah. This isn’t a Gibson. (Reaches front of the line.) I’ll have a pack of cigarettes.
– the woman – Oh he had a (some other kind) also. And I have a (whatever)…
– Yeah, I have a one of those. Those are good guitars…
– (Korean shopkeeper) What brand sir?
– (exasperated) I come in here all the time – you should know what brand. Look, I’m black, I’m different. The only one. Black from Jamaica. Huh. You know me.
-woman behind me – He just can’t remember the brand, that’s OK. He has so many kinds…
The shopkeeper puts the right pack of cigrarettes in front of the guitar man. He totally did know the brand. Guitar man pays, and leaves, waving at the woman.
I was busy ignoring everyone, which is what we do in the city. But starting to smile at this exchange. I loved the way this musician asserted himself, and insisted that he is black and it matters, and that the shopkeeper should acknowledge his existence, that he’s seen him many times before in fact. We’re all so busy pretending everyone is the same, while hiding how we really feel about them.