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Reflections from Inside a Bathroom
Our country is falling to pieces, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. How can they hate us just because we’re different? We’ve lived side-by-side all these years. I don’t understand.
Thank God for good men. The Reverend – a black man – has hidden us here, endangering his own life. This bathroom is tiny, well-hidden and rarely used. The walls are stained, the sink is rusty and contains filthy yellow water, but I don’t think we care anymore.
I’ve been inside this place for barely a week, but I already fear for my sanity. There are ten of us here, so we take turns standing and moving about. I’m enjoying my few minutes of comfort while the other women sit on the floor, the tall holding the short in their laps.
This place stinks – badly. The Reverend’s youngest son apparently hasn’t used the bathroom yet, and we can’t flush our toilet until he does. The noise would betray us, you see. People already suspect that we’re hiding here, because they saw us come in, and not come out.
Poor Reverend. He’s a widower with half a dozen children and white women in his bathroom that he must worry about every minute. These are dark times for all of us.
And why? Because the black people want revenge for all the hurt our ancestors inflicted on them? I could understand that, but it doesn’t sound like a good enough reason for this… this pain they are causing. There is pain everywhere. It’s crawled into my chest, paralyzed my muscles into rock, until all I can do now is clutch my rosary and repeat the same words over and over again.
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
The pain has brought terror with it. I got here only a day after chaos erupted, but, oh, I saw so many horrors during that day. I think I realized that this was really happening the moment I saw the pharmacist – a kind, grandfatherly black man that was always polite to me – stick a pair of gardening scissors into one of my neighbors. How can such ugliness come from nice people? Because I know they are nice people. My best friend, Jennifer, has skin the color of rich coffee, and she is the nicest, most tolerant person I have ever met.
How did our world come to this? After the Holocaust, after the Rwanda genocide, after so many horrible things in our history, everyone swore that they would never forget. And now, it certainly seems that they have. This can’t be happening again. Are we all doomed to kill one another over ridiculous details like skin color and religious beliefs?
The Reverend has the radio on as loud as it will go in the next room. Though the sound of the man’s voice is muffled by the dresser strategically placed in front of the bathroom door, we can still make out his words. “The white have oppressed us for far too long. We have forgiven them time and time again. We have been naïve enough to believe that they accepted us as their equals. Every black man must fight for his freedom! It ends now! ”
I shudder, then try to bite back a sob as the speaker’s name is announced. It is Jennifer’s older brother, Richard – I grew up with him. How do you become bitter and resented enough to start killing people? What does it take?
I think it mustn’t take a lot for people to learn how to love causing pain.