Friday Night in New York City

“You won’t kiss me because I’m a nigga.”

I’d been in the NYU Hospital E.R. for a couple of hours, pain radiating from my neck to my shoulder to my left arm. The cardiogram was fine, so they gave me some graham crackers, a valium, and two percosets, and waited. After an hour or so my body still hurt, but I didn’t care. So they sent me home.

As you can imagine, the evening seemed particularly fine, and I thought I’d walk for a while. That’s when this man came up, and asked me where First Avenue was. I told him, and he said, “You’re so beautiful—give me a kiss.” Clearly he was high too. I laughed and said no, and he said, “You won’t kiss me because I’m a nigga.” I had to think about that, it was so strange. I said, “No, I won’t kiss you because you’re a stranger.” Really, it was more complicated than that, but a further explanation seemed unnecessary. He said, “A nigga is worse than a stranger, right?”

Well, that stumped me. I mean, being dirty is worse than being a stranger—I think. (And being toothless doesn’t help.) Especially when you’re high, and the possibility of kissing a stranger becomes ever-so-slightly less remote. But the fact that he was black did not play a part in my decision not to kiss him. That issue was his.

I’m glad he’s not my boyfriend, this guy looking for directions (and love) on Second Avenue. Because if he were, we’d have to go into therapy around the fact that he feels so unlovable because he’s black. I’d have to think about my part in it, and I’d have to take some personal responsibility for it as well. Chances are that would take up many hours in therapy, and I don’t think we’d ever get to my part, which would have to do with not being able to talk to him about the fact that there’s validity in not wanting to kiss a drunk and toothless stranger, and, by the way, why am I ending up in the E.R. in the first place?

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