All the talls in the office were standing around the water cooler, sharing some interestings. The smarts had a meeting with the leaders about the tidys cleaning the desks midday. The funny tall kept making jokes about the lonely stinky, and the talls all laughed because we’re also all observants. The lighthearteds played music while we all worked, and it’s sound was enriching behind the loud buzz of all we represented. The lazy switched the channel to see the beautiful breaking the news story. She handed the interested over to the serious, who was live at the scene. A white had shot a black in Missouri, and the black had died. And then we all looked around, and we weren’t so tall anymore. We weren’t interesting, smart, tidy, funny, observant, or serious. And we certainly weren’t live at the scene. We were just blacks and whites, trapped in a box, like so many crayons. And the music sounded flat, because that was all we heard. And our vibrant colors faded, because that was all we saw.
“What did I do, Mom? Just tell me! If I didn’t do anything, why are you acting like this?”
Mom looked up from the table. “Acting like what?”
I closed my eyes for a moment and failed at regaining my composure. “Nothing, Mom. It’s just that I thought all of this shit would stop once I got a mortgage of my own. I thought our family would sort of just grow out of this thing we’ve got going. I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know what it is.”
She glanced sideways, as though considering the consequences of speaking honestly. Her breaths drew more slowly. “I thought you were going to stop dating that Jewish girl.”
The room inflated and deflated synchronously, and I found myself chuckling at the impossibility of settling our differences.
“Margaret was always treated well. Very well, as I recall. She always sat at the table, just like the rest of us.” My jolly great-uncle relaxed around mother’s little kitchen table.
“Oh, yeah.” My grandmother smiled, remembering her early childhood friend. “She was a real nice lady. I just don’t see what the fuss is over. Black is black and white is white, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Slavery was wrong; I’m not sayin’ that it wasn’t. I just mean, there’s no use in mixing people when they don’t want to be mixed.”
I kneaded the bread as I listened in on my family’s childhood memories, somewhat intrigued by the idea of another world existing in the very same spot as mine. My heart swelled with compassion, not for Margaret, but for my family. They would very likely come to the end of their lives without ever truly knowing themselves or the world they lived in. I wondered what unknowingly dark things I missed in myself; what misconceptions I must overlook.
I searched for a way to shift the uncomfortable conversation, but my sister broke in first.
“Has anyone heard anything about the floods they’ve been having in Colorado?”