I drive speeds to make color disappear and cops
never pull me over. Buy me drinks
and turn me loose at three am;
they never notice. Never catch me. Blow hard
into some tube—I’ve seen it,
haven’t been asked, ever. I loiter
in malls, linger too long outside
some convenience store; play music loud
along the strip, midnight, trying to hook up
with some woman
both of us hold up traffic. Officers
never suggest we move along, never notice
my brake lights are out-- all they see is white
and polished chrome. Old women walk ahead
home from the grocery relaxed, worry-free.
Clerks at night don’t eyeball me up aisles
I can pump then pay
I can try it on
I can move through the mob, wander
unsupervised. Understand how unimaginable to question me
when I ask for change without buying a blessed thing.
I am armed with my ancestry; I am a card carrying Caucasian. I am
unnoticeable on 95 North; this marks me as Everyman.
If someone asks me for the time, she asks
“that man," Not “that white man.” I have never been “othered.”
White is a given. I am never modified.
I am hardly ever described at all.
I have always been allowed to make eye contact. I could
always curse and complain. If I say “I know what it’s like,” I am
most likely lying. If I say “I can’t breathe,” I am given oxygen. I am white.
With five volumes of essays about subjects ranging from teaching to traveling through Russia and Prague, Bob's writing has appeared in multiple journals including Southern Humanities Review, Kestrel, Barely South, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many others, including three essays noted in Best American Essays. He is a professor of arts and humanities in Virginia Beach, Virginia.