Marie on a Walk

a short story by Yetunde Bronson

Marie. Flower of the Projects. Crown jewel of the downtrod-
den. The Blueprint of Black Beauty in caps. Dig it. Walking back

from her job on the whiter side of town, where people can’t
help but smile for thinking of all the money they have. She
stops briefly to adjust her short, short skirt before stretching
those long, dark legs back to the black side.

Marie crosses against the light, pausing traffic in both direc-
tions during the hot and hectic hours of the afternoon. She is

oblivious, her eyes forward and shoulders straight, her stride
uninterrupted. Tall and slender, she is the pride of the projects,
the owner of every brother’s heart in a 10 block radius.
“Cold blooded,” says Zeke, budding basketball star, who is
leaning against the fence surrounding the playground. He says
it to himself, but he is co-signed by Jimmie ‘Bones’ Garcia, who
stops panhandling to watch Marie walk past.
She passes the playground, heading up the block towards the
projects, where she lives with her three younger sisters – each
of them a different, beautiful version of their mother’s face. A
chorus of hoots, whistles follows her around the corner.
Past the squad car on the corner, where officers smudge her
with filthy gazes, sweat trickling underneath their collars. Their
hips grinding into the seat. A woman’s voice squawks out of
the radio; Marie turns slowly towards the sound, then turns
and keeps walking.
She passes the Simmons girls as they divide the contents of a
crumpled, brown paper bag.
“These are mine.”
“Nuh uh. Those are grape. You didn’t buy any grape. You
bought the red ones.”

They fall silent as Marie walks past, staring with naked ado-
ration. Their voices, normally harsh and nasal slick-talk, soften

with reverence. They lean their heads toward each other, afro
puffs touching. Stage whispering, they dismantle her from top
to bottom, picking apart her hidden flaws and scattering them
on the street like jacks. They hurl insults at the back of her stiff
neck as she passes – daggers that leave shallow wounds that
smell like grape.
Past a group of loose-jointed brothers clothed in

browns and greys; they fade into the griminess of the store-
front, until one of them moves – shifting his weight from one

loose leg to the other, he spits a “say, Mama,” to her. His voice
carries over traffic, past the hissing twins, and right into her
ear – a venomous sound that turns her head towards a smooth
black face of a felon-in-training.
Towards the housing projects Marie walks, unscathed.
Down hills and detours. Her long legs never still. Her eyes
straight ahead.
Towards home.

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