No Cream

written by Nakeysha Roberts Washington

First Published in Wisconsin’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction

It is his blackness. He stops at the tables. His deep voice lifts slightly above a whisper, “Sir, do you have some change?” At another table, “Spare change?”

A woman, whose face Time has yet to fissure, poignantly sits. She is regal. Her skin is a creamy caramel. Her hair is a perfectly couiffured pepper gray fro. As he approaches her and presents his request, she stops and grips her face with her left hand, takes a deep sigh while she drags her hand down the length of her face. She opens her momentarily closed eyes as her hand passes them. She turns to him as irritated as I am with his requests. She felt it too. She utters something inaudible. He turns away sans receipt of that which is to deliver his salvation.

He leaves without making it to me. I sit in the corner just out of reach, tense throughout my shoulders, wishing the entire two minutes of his presence for the possibility to make people disappear. Blaming him.

He is outing us. We are inseparable. His blackness —the illumination my own. I wasn’t ashamed before he came. I wasn’t even conscious. I was just a shadow in the shadowy corner. Shrinking into myself, I feel relief when he does not come to me. Maybe he knows.

It is our blackness, entangled, indivisible, undeniable, and pronounced. The part of ourselves that insists that it is never hidden. It is our blackness, dark and bitter as the straight black coffee that I intermittently sip.