People here roll the windows down and turn the music up while they idle by the store, Kendrick Lamar fades into some old school Fugees doing “Killing Me Softly.” We buy our popsicles at the corner store from a guy named Habib, who calls us both baby. My daughter goes to school with a majority of kids who are poor and brown, and she says the pledge of allegiance in Spanish (but only every other day).
The building where I work also houses a gay bar, a Mexican restaurant, and the print shop of a community arts organization. Various styles of Mexican music compete with Techno and the OomPah beat of the print presses, and the cacophony bubbles up through our floors. On election day, I bought a small coffee (for $4.00!) from a guy who in my memory has a small waxed moustache. The more your coffee costs, the slower your barista moves. As I crossed the alley back to work, a drag queen from the gay bar in the downstairs of my work building rasped: “Honey, you want to smoke some marijuana?” I politely declined, and she (I’m assuming that is the correct pronoun as this person was at the time in full drag) replied, “Sorry baby, I’m just so nervous!”
We ride the bus. Riders are many colors and they speak many languages. We riders work together so that the system can work for us. People shift as one for a man in a wheelchair, decide who will move for the lady with the cane, hoist kids and packages onto laps as the seats fill. One day LB had a horrible coughing fit after we ran for the bus, and the driver offered to stop and run into Dunkin’ Donuts to get her a bottle of water. One night we stayed late at LB’s school for Animal Adventure night. Afterwards we walked to our bus stop, which is in a worn working class neighborhood, on a busy potholed road. It was rainy and the bus was late. The only other person waiting was a youngish black man with lots of bags. We waited and waited, and he didn’t seem to mind as LB encroached on his space as she leapt like a frog. He stepped away to smoke a cigarette and then moved back under the shelter. And, then he took two sharp steps toward us. My hand went automatically in front of LB, protecting her. He saw me, and motioned toward the roof of the bus shelter. He had been standing under a huge hole and the rain had gotten heavier-he had moved toward us to get out of the rain. I smiled at him-the smile of trying to ask for forgiveness. But I said only, “it’s really starting to rain, I hope the bus comes soon.” We are all in motion.
This is a city and cities hold poor people, and people with many different skin colors. We are a city that sits on indigenous land and indigenous people remain here, with the descendants of of white colonizers who fled here seeking religious freedom. We are a city dominated by immigrants, migrants, and refugees. I made a mental list of all the people LB I interact on a regular basis who were not born in the US:
many of our bus drivers
teachers and staff at LB’s school
LB’s fellow students
the man who fixes our copier
students at my work
workers at several of my favorite downtown restaurants
the bank teller who knows my name
several of my doctors
the owner of the place I go to get my eyebrows threaded
the owners of the dry cleaner I use
the guy who owns the Indian grocery
and friends of course
Without immigrants, migrants, and refugees our city would grind to a halt. The only thing we could count on is $4.00 coffees poured by guys with waxed moustaches. And, our life is good. We don’t have a lot, but we have enough. We don’t fear those who we know, even if they look different from us, speak different languages, and come from different places. And sometimes we do fear those we don’t know, because they look different and move different and sound different. But, when we stop, we know that fear breaks us. We must learn to know each other. Vulnerability must be our strength. Love must be our strength. We must move together.