I Have A Story To Tell
“Excuse me Ladies….” Travel Story Woman inserts herself between PP and Sandy, who’s been narrating her own update to PP about who is kidnapping Erica Kane.
The other women between the rows of lockers are all standing, sitting, squatting in various stages of dressing before getting kicked out of the Downtown Oakland Y: DL sits on a stool next to PP playing with her lotion top; Susie tugs at peach colored tights between Death Hacks; Modest Vietnamese Woman struggles to put on her clothes under her towel without anyone glimpsing her private parts.
TSW stares at PP pointedly for a few moments, her seriousness exuding what? Daring? Frustration? Insanity?
PP’s not sure; her Imposition was so startling. And as DL commented later, TSW’s interruption of Sandy’s monologue violated some sort of unwritten locker room code of conduct. If women were talking, let them talk. Don’t interrupt.
Esp. if the conversation revolved around soap opera.
And so the abruptness of her ‘Imposition’ takes PP by surprise. Where had she come from? Earlier, PP, DL and Sandy had all been listening to TSW’s rambling cross country train travel saga in the Utopia Sauna, then DL had left, then Sandy, then PP. After all it was 9:45, and the place was closing up in its usual obnoxious way.
“Attention all members and guests: the Downtown Oakland Y will be closing in 30 minutes.... Attention all members and guests the Downtown Oakland Y will be closing in 20 minutes…. Attention all Members and Guests…..” The countdown had already commenced 15 minutes ago when PP had left Utopia.
So, now when TSW physically inserts herself between PP and Sandy, the effect is not exactly threatening, but it is intense.
PP has to wonder what was up with her lately? Why did she seem to be attracting intense situations at the Y? First the Some Attitude Sauna Woman. Next Killing Children Sauna Family. And now?
But then again, maybe it wasn’t her. Maybe TSW just had a story to tell.
Or maybe she was just ‘crackers’ as DL had commented later.
“I haven’t finished telling my story,” TSW continues, “so if you don’t mind?”
Sandy jumps in, the leader of the locker room women. “No, of course not. Please continue.”
PP breathes a sigh of relief. She’d been tempted to do what? Tell her no I don’t want to hear the end of your story. Cuz to be honest, PP thought that the story had already ended.
Or that it would never end. Meeting TSW in the showers after leaving Utopia, she’d cornered PP again, continuing the train travel ramble. PP had nodded and said something about the circularity of the story and TSW had nodded, given PP that crazed too long stare and said, “Yes, ma’am, 360 degrees.”
And that had been that.
“I was stuck in Reno without money and I tried to buy me a ticket and you know they wouldn't sell me a ticket without a driver’s license.”
“You’re kidding!!” PP exclaims. ““They wouldn’t take your money for a ticket?”
She stares at PP intensely for a moment, then shakes her head. “I’m a black woman. If a white person wanted to buy a ticket then I’m sure it’d be no problem.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” PP agrees, “I’m blond. I’m sure they’d sell me a ticket no questions asked.”
TSW nods, “That’s right. My mommy keeps telling me to come back to France. She don’t get what I go through here in this country being black.”
PP nods, “No, I can’t imagine,” And she can’t. From all of the stories she’s heard over the years from her students, the women at the Y, various friends—it’s hell to be black in America.
“Go on,” Sandy interrupts, sensing the sensitivity of the situation? “What did you do?”
TSW grins slowly, so pleased with herself now, “I stowed away!” she giggles.
“You’re kidding!” PP exclaims.
“Nope. What the hell else was I supposed to do?”
“I dunno. How’d you do it?”
“Well, when the conductor was going down the aisles asking for everyone’s tickets, I just made my way up to the restaurant car and when he was finished I just made my way back.”
“Wow,” PP shakes her head. “That’s astounding!”
“Yes, it was,” she agrees. “But like I said, what was I gonna do? I had no other way to get back home.”
Sandy nods now as does DL and PP. It was quite a story. “A story of Social Consciousness,” Sandy proclaims after TSW left. “For our day. The present day.”
PP is confused. Is Sandy referring to TSW’s story of Racist Travel Hell? Or was she back in Pine Valley, commenting upon Erica’s celebrity kidnapping?
It could be either, but PP chooses the former since it is the one most recently narrated. For this is the most astonishing part of the story. That this kind of story still happens today. In the 21st century.
It is alive and well in America.