gets the Black Person stamp, Aaron Douglas,
not the French Person stamp, Marcel Duchamp,
and absolutely not the Southwestern American Person stamp,
I recognized the literary and racial implication of the name on the label and
I was proud. “Toni Morrison,” I said, and
the Six White Women (S.W.W.) around me scoffed, “Someone else
who won’t come.” But not because she’s Black—
because she’s importantIMPORTANTsuperimportant.
And maybe a little because she’s black. I’ll bet this is
a White Person Event (W.P.E.) but I’m just the intern so I’ll find out
on July 17th, the exact birthday of a man I lived with in Harlem,
a Black Place, but who now lives in
Pismo Beach, California, a Racially Indeterminate Place (R.I.P.) (to me,
as I’ve never been there), along with everyone else.
Carrie, a White Woman, is not the Boss of Me but she’s
also not not the Boss of Me, and she asked me to reduce
the static in between the pages of labels for affixing
to invitations, including the Toni Morrison label and
her royal highness, so-and-so Princess of Jordan(!). Her label
reads: H.R.H., an acronym I was unaware of
until today because I have very low status and knowledge
for a White Person. Carrie, aforementioned White Woman,
has medium status and knowledge for anyone or anything.
While he was scouting City Hall as a possible location for SHOOTING,
she chatted up Spike Lee, who she described as “small and wearing a paper suit.”
He asked about a bronze bust of a robed man and she explained:
ROMAN-INFLUENCED FASHION. “Good story, Carrie.”
“Good job, Carrie,” (said the S.W.W.) Then she asked me to walk to the
THE ART DECO POST OFFICE BUILDING
with a black man.
A BLACK MAN
who, like her, works for the city.
The black man (NOT SPIKE LEE) picks up things from one city office and brings them
to another city office, and it’s part of a program for what Carrie called
“limited” people. I misunderstood and thought she was speaking of a
limited class of mail, which may or may not exist just as limited people
may or may not exist. Then I understood and I said, “I understand,” and
then, OH, I KNOW THE ART DECO BUILDING OF WHICH YOU ARE SPEAKING OF.
I am a white woman who occasionally works catered events
and the last catered event was the birthday party of a 75-year-old
FORMER CEO. OF A COMPANY(!) who was also a man.
Two different white people (of high status and indeterminate knowledge)
said, “Where are you from?” as I offered them very small crab cakes
and endive leaves with TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF BEET, PINE NUT, AND CHEESE.
I said, “Massachusetts,” and they said, “Oh,
So I am a white woman, and a vaguely Eastern European woman,
accompanying a “limited” black man, Ronald (NOT SPIKE LEE),
and a large dolly on which sits a single filing box of invitations
including one on its way to Toni Morrison via the
Art Deco post office Building. And they (Carrie) were worried about
Ronald putting the invitations in the wrong mail slot, but they
needn’t have worried and they needn’t have tasked me with
accompanying Ronald as he knew the exact door on which to bang to
get a woman to open the door and allow him to pour
Toni Morrison’s invitation STRAIGHT into a cart full of MAIL.
And I wasn’t allowed entrance. And I was to SHUT the door,
the ART DECO DOOR, and I was to wait for Ronald OUTSIDE
the door (GET OUT OF HERE!!!!) (OKAY!!!! I’M SORRY!!!)
(GET OUT!!!) (BUT I’M WITH HIM . . .?) (GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I am a white person and I know the difference
between white people stamps and black people stamps and
Art Deco and Not Art Deco and Ronald and Carrie and me and Carrie
and Toni Morrison and Carrie and Massachusetts and Carrie and
CEOs and catering staff and invitations and important things
Seven white women sit in a conference room, and—
just kidding I know all about Pismo Beach, California. It’s
the setting of every Toni Morrison novel EVER and Spike Lee
scouts there every Labor Day weekend.
I’m going this way. Okay.
Thank you. Goodbye.
⊡ ⊡ ⊡
Maribeth Theroux is a poet and performer. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared Off-Broadway as Kelly Kapowski in Bayside! The Musical. Depending on when you read this, Maribeth either lives in New Jersey or Los Angeles. She tweets at @maribeththeroux.