Detroit

 

The attendant always opens the window of her booth when I pull into the parking lot downtown where I have a monthly pass. We chat for a minute about the day ahead. Today, when I pulled in, my mind was distracted with all the things I had to do when I got into work. I pulled past the booth not thinking and parked. When I got out I saw her walking across the lot towards me in the rain.

“Hey baby you ok?”, she said when she caught up to me. “I’m fine, just a lot on my mind”, I replied.

“Well, you look like you need a hug”, she proclaimed, grabbed me tight and embraced me.

Later in the day I took my bi-weekly trip to the bank to deposit my paycheck. The teller asked how my holiday was, as I did her’s. She said that her son was visiting until Sunday. She was sad that he was leaving so soon and talked about moving closer to him. The only thing holding her back was leaving her city.

“The people here are more friendly. We are more welcoming. More real.“, she said.

On Thanksgiving morning, I pulled into the gas station by my house to get gas and buy a pack of smokes. When I walked in the owner had my Camels waiting for me, as always, and said they were on him today. “Thank you for being such a good customer.”, he said. This is the same gas station that, when we had the big blackout, gave away everything in their coolers to us, their neighbors. He could have easily raised the prices.

We welcome guests with open arms, look out for each other, body and soul, and share the weight of our collective struggle. Often we lift ourselves and each other up. Celebrate. Dance. Drink. Create. We play hard. Maybe we understand more than most that the world around us can be a perilous place and there is no guarantee, especially in the rougher areas in our city, that we will live to see tomorrow.

We are an imperfect lot. We have our problems, big and small, as a community, as people. We have a lot to work on.

I am a white gay transplant from a small town in Michigan. Making this my home almost three decades ago. The parking lot attendant and bank teller are African-American women born and raised in Detroit. The gas station owner’s family are Middle Eastern immigrants. Race, orientation, sexual identity and religion is what separates us on the outside to some, but on the inside we are Detroit.