Jacob Lawrence, "The Migration of the Negro No. 36" (1941)
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro No. 36. They arrived in great numbers into Chicago, the gateway of the West. (1941)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

December 1, 2002:

Chicago, November 1990. Cold: frosty streets. City bus shuttling you from airport to conference center where you'll spend three or four days near the lake.

You brought too much stuff. Bag of clothes, bag of books, bag of cameras. You try to shrink, but, you're taking up too much room in this crowded commuter space.

"Look at Mr. Ear-rang," says Street Tough #1. Body-length leather coat, caramel, natty with a white scarf. Big: muscles.

Street Tough #2 shoulders you. Wool coat, charcoal gray, natty with a white scarf, gold studs in both ears. Big. Bulky cell phone in his breast pocket.

"What's Mr. Ear-rang want with our neighborhood?," inquires Street Tough #2.

Mostly Mr. Ear-rang - that'll be you - wants to find the right stop. Unfortunately he's very tall, and to see out the window he has to bend over, which pushes him into his neighbors. He's had happier rides.

Bundle your bags together, brace for the chill, follow a young girl out the back door. Bags, bags, bags. A strap is tangled, something's come undone, you need more hands, the door's about to close.

Young girl, maybe fourteen, tall and graceful, strong cheekbones, light caramel skin, inexpensive brown winter coat. The moment happens in slow-motion, like cinematography, in soft focus, as her eyes meet yours and a lovely shy smile widens. She holds the door for you, simply to be kind, and nevermind the street toughs. You're moved, and delighted, and so surprised that you forget to say thank-you. Your grateful smile says it for you. The look you both exchange says, "We're just the same."

At the corner you turn in opposite directions, her toward the project, you away. But, after a few steps, you both look back at each other, smiling one last time.