Friend and I were on our way to a famous ice-cream joint called Fosselman’s in Alhambra.
It was still rush hour. Friend decided to cross downtown instead of taking the I-10 highway.
Lo and behold, he got us to the armpit of LA.
Congested rows of tents, makeshift camps with umbrellas as rooftops.
Men and women, meandered the street.
They were here. But they weren’t really here.
They weren’t depressed, depleted, or deprived….
But numbness, written all over their faces, mostly African-Americans.
I didn’t need to roll down the window of the BMW to smell the air they were breathing in.
My hand grabbing the leather door handle.
My back tight against the car seat.
I glanced over at my immaculate African-American friend behind the wheel.
My eyes screaming, “Get me outta here.”
“For a country as wealthy as ours, I still can’t figure how we have allowed this to happen. It’s a disgrace. Sorry”
Friend hit the gas.
Before we sped off, I caught sight of the street sign.
It reads: Wall St.
Saturday afternoon is my Grocery Day. I walk to Trader Joe’s in Westwood. I would pass this kind-faced woman with a tender voice, “Could you spare any change?”
Only a recent LA dweller in Fall 2015, I would stop and apologize because I only carried credit card.
Later I exchanged notes to quarters for laundry. But I found myself ignoring her with my bagful of changes… Or any homeless people I passed by.
I couldn’t spare any. Because I had nothing to spare. I was just a student, I reasoned.
But that’s a lie.
Here is the voice in my head barking back—
They’re fortunate enough to be born into this free country but they still let themselves descend to begging?
Your country won’t spare me. So why shall I spare you?