Last night when I got home after an intense discussion of the Trayvon Martin case in this Portuguese conversation group I lead, there were these Black guys working on their stalled truck in the small parking lot kitty corner across from my garage and driveway.
After a while one of them came up to my back door to say the waterhose in the truck was definitely broken, and it was too late to go buy a new one, and there was no point getting an expensive tow at that hour. The parking lot does not allow overnight parking, so could they push the car into my driveway for the night? They would be back at 8 AM with a waterhose, fix the truck and drive it away.
I said yes, so they pushed the truck into my driveway, said thank you very much, and left in their other vehicle. I left before 8 AM and the truck was still there, but now I am home again and it is gone.
I suppose I could have alleged fear, shot them, and gotten away with it.
Some time ago I came home to find a white man collapsed next to the garage. I called the paramedics and they came and took him away.
A couple of days later he reappeared walking, to give me the day’s New York Times and a bag of oranges. “I am so glad you weren’t too scared to do something other than call the authorities,” he said. “It is really not a good idea to collapse in strangers’ yards, and it was really nice of you to call the paramedics.”
It was nice of him to come and thank me. And he had come in from offshore and gone to a party, and had collapsed because of a drug overdose, so he had been in an illegal state while in my yard. And I had insisted that paramedics come, not police; and this had been a good action because the man got medical care rather than get processed into Parish Prison and had who knows what happen or when. So in this situation I was very competent in a Haight-Ashbury kind of way.
But what was freakish about this particular event and that conversation was the subtext — he knew that if scared, I could have been within my rights to kill him.