A middle-aged woman sits down on the park bench next to me, resting her shopping bags on the ground. She’s wearing a straw sun hat and has a bohemian East Village look about her, with her canvas vest and flowy floral skirt and strappy sandals. She looks at me and asks, very politely, if I might have an extra cigarette for her.
“I was just at the grocery store,” she says after lighting up and taking a drag. “This woman, she was African-American, she gestured for me to go ahead of her in line. I guess I figured she was still shopping. But then after I thanked her and got ahead of her and started putting my things on the conveyor, she looked at her watch and said, ‘It’s almost tea time where you come from, anyway.’ ”
A confused look flashes across the woman’s face.
“I told her, I’ve never been more than 35 miles from Manhattan! She seemed surprised when I said that. Do you believe that? I’m really not sure what she meant by that.”
She takes a puff of her cigarette, shaking her head.
“I was just telling my friend this on the phone, and she asked me if the lady was Jamaican. I’m not sure though.”