Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 17

Monday, April 29

As a result of last night’s game, I’m in. I’m among friends. To push the idea of myself as a foreign visitor, I’d say that last night I was given a green card.

In my first year in Atlanta, I learned how to behave like a proper foreigner. To be quiet and watch without observing too much. To refrain from comparing anything: experiences, traditions, even views —even the color of the sky, to New York. In Atlanta, a popular bumper sticker read “We don’t care how they do it in New York.” It was understandable. Here is a culture no one from the outside cares to understand. A civilization, as the lady wrote, gone with the wind. But not quite. What remains of a culture so dependent on hypocrisy? An economy based first on cotton and the slave trade and then on tobacco. It is laughable to think that an international airport, a large soda company and the introduction of air conditioning could change all that. (And the peaches?) I moved South without realizing any of this, of course. Without realizing who I was or that who I was was where I was from.

In Tuscaloosa among natives of an even older and smaller society, I watched with deliberate patience and was rewarded: Kate and I have plans for shopping, and I will be joining Billie “soon” for a drive to the “Dismals,” a series of Indian caves about an hour’s drive north.

And when the game ended I found them all quite tactful. After the old ladies evaporated into their airless bedrooms, and Professor Sergeant disappeared with Juniper for a long walk, Kate, looking resigned, dragged Jacob home. He was drunk but more cheerful. He had won, beating Peter in a head-to-head poison chase that kept them both away from the bar.

Billie and Allen closed their door leaving Peter and me in possession of the night. We pulled up stakes and hoops, collected the balls, which I wiped clean before replacing in the wooden box where they lived. And when he kissed me goodnight, I’m fairly sure not a single neighbor was watching. I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t have mattered if any had been watching.

No comments: