Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Things That Divide Us


Dekek had once been a morning customer at the deli, one of the the green t-shirted men from Marathon Moving Company. They came in each morning for eggs and bacon on rolls. I greeted them all, but I confess, I never noticed Derek any more than the rest of them.

They were there the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict, too. That morning everyone had an opinion, and no one could leave without offering one. When it came to my turn, I said guilty, even as I recognized it as a test on race, not abuse.

Years passed. When Ernesto left, I boycotted the deli. Then word came that someone new had bought the business. I went to visit.

A man I vaguely recognized stood at the cash register. I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Derek. "You don't remember me? From Marathon?"

"You remember me?"

"I would never forget you. You were the girl who thought O.J. was guilty."

I shook my head, amazed he would have stored that casual moment, as if he had lifted the image of that day out of the stop bath and into the fixer for preserving forever. I looked back at him, unwilling once again to let go of the challenge. "Do you still think he's innocent?"

Years had passed and more evidence had come to light. He smiled. "Guilty with extenuating circumstances."

I smiled back. I didn't know him well enough to tell him about my own marital abuse. Besides, I had survived.

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