Friday, April 23, 2010

The room smells of a combination of sweat and pool chalk. I think about my need for air and glance toward a small window. Through the layer of grime I can just barely make out the iron bars. A feeling of claustrophobia sets in. The room is stark, painted cream brick with a cement floor. An old pool table is the only distraction from the reality of where I am and who I am with. Inside my core I suppress the fear that I told myself I would not feel. I am a minority. I am white. I am female. But, I belong here. As I knock one in, my confidence builds. Nervous laughter and arbitrary conversations can't eliminate the uncertainty of my choices but I must take a stand. Countless things could go wrong and as I focus on the little white ball in front of me, peripheral movement transpires within the corners of the room. The focus of my partner is not on the game. Instead it has moved to the shift in the atmosphere. What originated as an uncomfortable gathering has transformed into a tense realization that I have absolutely no control. My partner approaches with uneasy smile. "You need to be goin." "What?" I ask, feeling a combination of stupidity and fear. "Do it now- you ain't gonna wanna be here for this." "umm, okay," I reply as I contemplate what to do.

I knock hard on the door so it can be unlocked. Unsure about what to say to the guard, I head immediately for the bathroom. I lock the door and exhale while fighting back the tears. I can't cry- they will know. I hear a scuffle and the guards incoherent voices. The jangle of keys coupled with yelling authority trying to gain control. As the hall empties, I slip through to main desk where I quickly sign my name. The buzzer sounds and I exit the center without regret but full of emotion. The security of my car takes hold and as I crank the heat the tears flow freely down my face. My blurred vision leads me down the deserted night road to the highway. I pull over and take a deep breath finally feeling safe as the roar of cars speed past. Safe from the naivete of my idealistic beliefs of the power I could not hold.

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