Tall, Dark and Handsome

by J. G. Knox

Last night, Leroy rolls over, brushes my hand as he did the day I first saw him. He wakes me. Snoring, dreaming, he puts his arm around me. He touched me. I married him. Half conscious, opening an eye, I look at him and drift back to sleep, dreaming of us. 
My college roommate, Mary and I on our first paid campaign: buttons, yard signs and hats, we are going to change the world. 
The congressman has this wonderful speech. He repeats it at every stop, every rally and every picnic for the next three months. He says it with a promising smile. Everything is promising, wonderful, exciting.
Leroy is experienced, a third-year law student and a veteran campaigner.
In line behind me at the cafeteria, brushing my hand, reaching for the potato salad, he touches me. Electricity. He materializes. I see him. I have thoughts about him, look and smile at him. He smiles back. 
Joining Mary at our table, I say, “I don’t remember seeing him before.” 
Mary says, “They’re invisible.”
“Invisible,” I say.
She says, “Invisible people, they wait tables, pick and grow food. They support light poles and door frames in their part of town---we don’t see them. They’re invisible.”
I say, “He’s not invisible. He’s a graduate student, not a waiter, doorman or servant. He’s one of us, a party organizer.”
I nibble a bite of my potato salad; four tables away, Leroy nibbles his. He didn’t take any meat. Is he a vegetarian? He’s a vegetarian!
Mary says, “He’s not one of us, Sarah. He’s one of them!” 
I say, “He’s one of us! And he doesn’t eat meat. I don’t eat meat.”
He’s cute. Cute doesn’t define him. He is handsome: tall, dark and handsome.
Mary agrees with the dark part. 
“They don’t look handsome to me. I like white meat,” she says.
Mary, being a carnivore, is picky about meat.
I, being a vegetarian, don’t want to eat him---maybe a little lip nibbling. Lip nibbling would be nice.
She says, “Sarah, you don’t like him! Do you know what getting involved with one of them can mean?”
“He’s not a meat eater, Mary. He’s a vegetarian!”
She says, “What if you begin to think of him as something more than cute? What happens if you think of him as something more than handsome? What happens if you fall in love with him?”
I think of him kissing me, broad lips smothering mine.
“Are you listening to me, Sarah?”
“Yes, you said what happens if I fall in love with him.”
She says, “Well?”
“It could happen.”
“With a black man!” 
“Yes, with a black man, a vegetarian black man.”
Mary says, “That’s dangerous talk! You don’t want to fall in love with a black man. People kill black men who fall in love with white women---sometimes the white woman, too.”
“That was a long time ago,” I say.
“You take a back road sitting beside him in the wrong county, Sarah. See what happens.”
“It could happen with a white man, Mary. Do you think it would be any safer with Saul in his Volkswagen bus?”
“It’s not the same, Sarah, and you know it. People can’t tell a Jew from a Greek without asking.”
I imagine him kissing me again.
“Seriously, I like him,” I say.
“Seriously, I think you’re crazy!”
“You’re old enough to know the way the world works. A white girl can be a trophy to a black man, but can he take her home? Can you go to Harlem and meet his Momma and Daddy? Can you take him home to meet yours?”
Are his parents vegetarian? If they are not my Mother would be cool about it, but my Dad?
“I hadn’t thought about that.” 
I think about him kissing me again. We will work our way through it, our parents and all. Even if they eat meat, everything will be all right. We’ll be vegetarian. 
I say, “I understand the way it was, Mary, but---”
“No buts about it. OK, right now you can date him, marry him if you want, but do you know what the future holds?”
“Does anybody?”
Mary says, “You took sociology. Humans are tribal. Good times, like now, we tolerate differences. Times get hard. Food gets scarce. People become tribal and favor their own. They will be eating the pork roast, and you will be eating the chitterlings?”
Yuck, chitterlings, I don’t think they even make vegetarian chitterlings. I say, “I think we’re past all that, judging by color, and pork roast and chitterlings are the same thing, meat.”
“Really, you go on thinking that. What about children?”
“I’m thinking about his lips right now.”
She says, “Think about children.”
I say, “Good point. Prejudice will continue until we can marry and have children with people outside our tribe, outside our race. Eighty percent of Greeks marry non-Greeks in America. Is anyone prejudiced against Greeks?”
Mary says, “Turks, and he’s not Greek!”
“He’s American. Leroy’s great, great grandfather was President of the Confederate States of America.”
“A legitimate grandfather?”
“A proven one.” 
She says, “What if you love him, marry him and have his baby?”
“Time off work, breast feeding and changing diapers. Would it be different with a white man?”
Mary says, “The baby would be different. He wouldn’t be white. Half black is black. Do you want your baby waiting tables, picking cotton and eating chitterlings?”
I say, “Our daughter will be President of the United States, and she won’t eat pork!”
Thursday, the next day, we walk precincts, Leroy walks one; I walk another. Finishing early I go back to headquarters to make phone calls. He makes phone calls. I talk to voters---and listen to him… 
He’s nibbling my lips!
Leroy says, “Honey, wake up. We’ve got to go vote.”
Our daughter’s first time on the ballot, we can’t be late.