Wednesday, August 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Street by Ann Petry, excerpt three)

from The Street by Ann Petry:

She got off the train, thinking that she never felt really human until she reached Harlem and thus got away from the hostility in the eyes of the white women who stared at her on the downtown streets and in the subway. Escaped from the openly appraising looks of the white men whose eyes seemed to go through her clothing to her long brown legs. On the trains their eyes came at her furtively from behind newspapers, or half-concealed under hatbrims or partly shielded by their hands. And there was a warm, moist look about their eyes that made her want to run.

These other folks feel the same way, she thought—that once they are freed from the contempt in the eyes of the downtown world, they instantly become individuals. Up here they are no long creatures labeled simply “colored” and therefore all alike. She noticed that once the crowd walked the length of the platform and started up the stairs towards the street, it expanded in size. The same people who had made themselves small on the train, even on the platform, suddenly grew so large they could hardly get up the stairs to the street together. She reached the street at the very end of the crowd and stood watching them as they scattered in all directions, laughing and talking to each other.

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