Friday, June 7, 2019

the last book I ever read (If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, excerpt two)

from If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin:

It was the Sunday morning street. Our streets have days, and even hours. Where I was born, and where my baby will be born, you look down the street and you can almost see what’s happening in the house: like, say, Saturday, at three in the afternoon, is a very bad hour. The kids are home from school. The men are home from work. You’d think that this might be a very happy get together, but it isn’t. The kids see the men. The men see the kids. And this drives the women, who are cooking and cleaning and straightening hair and who see what men won’t see, almost crazy. You can see it in the streets, you can hear it in the way the women yell for their children. You can see it in the way they come down out of the house—in a rush, like a storm—and slap the children and drag them upstairs, you can hear it in the child, you can see it in the way the men, ignoring all this, stand together in front of a railing, sit together in the barbershop pass a bottle between them, walk to the corner to the bar, tease the girl behind the bar, fight with each other, and get very busy, later, with their vines. Saturday afternoon is like a cloud hanging over, it’s like waiting for a storm to break.

But, on Sunday mornings the clouds have lifted, the storm has done its damage and gone. No matter what the damage was, everybody’s clean now. The women have somehow managed to get it all together, to hold everything together. So, here everybody is, cleaned, scrubbed, brushed, and greased. Later, they’re going to eat ham hocks or chitterlings or fried or roasted chicken, with yams and rice and greens or cornbread or biscuits. They’re going to come home and fall out and be friendly: and some men wash their cars, on Sundays, more carefully than they wash their foreskins. Walking down the street that Sunday morning, with Fonny walking beside me like a prisoner and Mrs. Hunt on the other side of me, like a queen making great strides into the kingdom, was like walking through a fair. But now I think that it was only Fonny—who didn’t say a word—that made it seem like a fair.

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