Traveling a West Texas highway in a baby-blue Prius. The driver picked me up at the El Paso airport. He doesn’t talk much. He picks up writers all the time and drives them to another lonely desk. I can see Mexico from my side of the car. I want to know how people, given map authority, manage to draw a one-inch line in the sand, and the right side be Mexico and the left the United States, and to whom belongs the black line itself. The highway we are rolling on says jefferson davis. More evidence that the confederacy of hate stretches and has no borders. I’m thinking it should say barbara jordan instead. It’s a two-hour drive to the writing house where I will hole up for four weeks and work on another worm of an idea. There are a few cars on the road, storms rolling off in the distance like floating dice, and forests of pecan trees. I see her coming toward us. She is standing between me and Mexico on the side of the road with her thumb out. I have been looking for another Black person since I left South Carolina. I only need to see one. I always look for Black people no matter where I go in order to set my compass. Her thumb is larger than a moon pie. It is the only indication on her body that she needs anything from anybody. Her back is somber, straight. She looks like Barbara Jordan with dreads. She is as tall as the pecan trees just behind her and just as wide. Thick woolly hair, uncombed, like mine. She is a big broad girl, like me too. Wider though. Her skin, darker than mine, of a dark jeweled color. Jet. There is a bag of something at her feet, canvas, small. She is traveling light. There is nothing on her face but sun and Don’t fuck with me strung like a beauty queen’s sash across her chest. A wild Texas storm has moved in just behind her shoulders. I don’t think she knows it’s coming. Without thinking, I move my hand to the left to ask the driver, who has hardly spoken a word since we left the airport, Stop, please. Pick her up. I want to give her a ride. I’m from a place where nobody picks up Black girls, Gulliver-size, doll-size, no size, at least not in the light of day. At least not to take them where they want or wish to go. She doesn’t have a chance in all this sun with all that pretty jet beaming off of her. Everyone can see exactly who she is. He answers my hand even before my mouth opens: Can’t do it. I turn back all the way around in the baby- blue Prius to watch the back of her woolly celestial head grow smaller as we drive beyond. Eventually it turns into the size of the large button that I remember being on my favorite peacoat when I was a girl. I often needed something to rub in order to make my wish. I rub for that same button on my now woman’s jacket. Remembering well and touching there for all my power. I know what I am doing. He does not. I am dialing up my ancestors, asking them to send a car for another Black woman waiting on the side of the road. I want to make sure they have a limo available, one long and wide enough for her ancient black moon of a thumb.
Copyright © 2020 by Nikky Finney. Published 2020 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.