I started this short piece years ago in a writing class, my final quarter of college at PSU to be exact. This came out of a picture exercise. I pulled out the photo of an African American man. He looked to be in his 30’s. He was standing in front of a chalk board, and he wore a checkered light blue shirt tucked into tan pants. He was smiling, and his eyes were directed downward as if he was talking to an audience,most likely students. At the time, I was also taking a course about the Harlem Renaissance; one of my favorite literary time periods, and movements. We had been given a series of exercises, and slowly over time I built and created the character Lewis. This is a short bit from a larger story.
Lewis kept his eyes to the road. It had snowed earlier in the day, and now a wet slush was falling. He was mesmerized by the slush as it gathered in heavy piles on his windshield wiper, and then slowly pushed away with a single swoosh. It was a dark night even with the snow. The moon had become hidden behind thin clouds leaving only his headlights to guide them home. Yet, they were not going home. He sighed heavily at the thought of having to see Clare’s parents. He sighed heavily at having had seen Rachel. He felt tired like he needed a long vacation. Lewis hated going to Clare’s parents. He knew they were judging him. They had been judging him since the first time he ever came to take her out on a date. He could feel their eyes on his skin examining his heritage, sentencing the lines in his face that told the stories of his absent father, and poor mother. He could feel them burning through his pocket book, and reading his bank account. Tsking to themselves to their affluent friends. He knew no matter how much money he made or how successful he became he would never be good enough for their little girl.
They were old money. During the Harlem Renaissance their family did not worry themselves of the need for white patronage. They bought their own art; they hosted affluent parties with the select blacks, and whites of the elite New York scene; Zora Neal Hurston, Claude Mckay, and other great black artists walked over their hardwood floors. He had heard that even the legendary Josephine Baker had been to a cocktail party in the house before her return to Paris. They were part of a secret few, and they did not want their daughter slumming around with this dark skinned fatherless boy from the projects. This thought angered him. It always angered him; he had never imagined that this would be an obstacle in his life. He wanted to turn the car around and never return. He wanted to push Clare out of the passenger seat and onto the driveway leaving her and her parents’ money behind. He could leave the kids in the downy beds with the maids who came in with the morning breakfast. He would never be able to give them those things. He felt his fingers tighten around the steering wheel.