White Vans

The day it happened, I couldn’t buy respite in my home with two articles due, essays to grade, kids to shuttle, and a mountain of clothes to wash.  I sequestered myself in the bathroom. While seated on the toilet, I discovered I was the second choice for a coveted newswriting position, according to the letter that attempted to tidy up rejection on an upswing. “If he can’t…then you…” Meanwhile, my daughter banged on the door, alerting me to an urgent call. It was my husband informing me I needed to add picking up the kids from their summer activities. 

I needed to escape and yearned for time to take my morning walk for peace. Still sequestered, I listened to the boys play soccer in the hallway separating the living and family rooms with the bathroom in between. The door shuddered; a loud thud followed. “Sorry, Mom,” the boys shouted. 

“It’s okay,” I assured, my words getting lost in their bustle. 

“Goal,” they screamed. 

Hours later, the day fizzled to an end with the next day’s list of carpools, projects, tasks, and deadlines swimming my brain’s channels. Sometime after 11:00 p.m., my house quieted. I still needed to decompress, so I dressed in baggy attire, mussed my locs, grabbed my Walkman and left my home, looking homeless. As the door closed behind me, my husband’s warning to take the dog ricocheted off the back of my head. I wasn’t worried. Nothing much happened in our neighborhood, a bedroom community that rolled up every night about 7:00 p.m. I wound through cul-de-sac protected blocks and surged deeper into the neighborhood until a tiny voice urged me to switch my course and return home. 

I wasn’t alone.  A white van trailed me. I reversed my direction and sped down the street. The driver matched my pace. Could this be happening? I look homeless, and I’m black living in an integrated neighborhood where not everyone is happy about the variance. If I run to a neighbor’s house, will they help me? I pushed past my doubts, rushed toward a lighted porch, and banged on the door, pleading for help. Seemingly reading my mind, the driver pulled to the curb,  lowered his window, and observed. Seeing this, I pounded the door, faster and harder. As I waited, I squeezed my eyes shut as scenes flashed by of the boys punching the walls for karate practice, my daughter singing with a phone cradled to her ear, my husband beckoning me away from my desk to cuddle, my students crowding my personal space to beg for extensions. The door opened, and the white van rolled away. And, even after my neighbors safely swept me into their home, even when my husband picked me up and I was home, even as I watched the gentle rise and fall of my children’s chests as they slumbered, I craved a return to the sense of safety and assurance I’d always felt before the white van drained it away.

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