Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twenty for Twenty: Number 1.

I will set a timer for twenty minutes. Then I will write. 
When the timer goes off, I will stop. 
That's it. That's all.


Magical places.

"Where you from?" I asked as I unfastened his gown to place my stethoscope on his chest.

"Opelika," he replied. "You probably ain't never even heard of it."

"Opelika, Alabama. Lee County."

His eyes widened when I said that. You could tell it was the last thing he expected me to say. "You don't even sound like you from Alabama."

"I'm not. I'm from California but I went to school in Tuskegee."

"Macon County," he responded. We both chuckled.

I pressed the diaphragm of my scope into his chest and instinctively he knew it was a drill to be quiet. As soon as I lifted it off of him, he spoke again. "What made you come all the way out to Alabama for school?"

"Oh, my whole family went to Tuskegee. And I knew I'd have to leave California. I'd always wanted to attend a historically black college so knew I'd have to at least go to Texas."

He squinted one eye and gave one nod. Then he pressed his hands down and sat up in the bed to lean forward. I listened to his lungs as he took big, deep breaths.

"I got a question," he said when I finished listening. "What makes somebody pick a historically black college anyway? Like, maybe me being a white guy and all, you know, that might sound like a dumb question. But I always wondered what the appeal was."

I paused for a moment to see if he was serious. He was. I pursed my lips and gave the question some thought. "I knew it was like a magical world. And that it was different than the real world."

He looked confused. I decided to go on.

"Like. . . . I had visited colleges back home. And I had also been with my parents to historically black colleges. And . .  . I don't know. It was just this special little slice of the world where you could be exactly yourself and then all of this culture surrounding you, too. It's hard to explain."

"A place to be comfortable?"

"Kind of. I mean. . .I guess the thing is. . . . a place where you get very comfortable in your own skin. While growing up, too. I knew that's what happens at an HBCU. I knew because of my parents and my friends' parents. Oh, and Spike Lee."

"Spike Lee?"

"Yeah. He'd just put out the movie 'School Daze' when I was a junior in high school. I was sold after that."

"I never saw that movie. Maybe I would've gone to one if I had seen it."

"Ha. Maybe you would have." We both smiled.

"I did like the TV show about the black college. The one with Will Smith's wife. Or Lenny Kravitz' wife, I think. Which one of them was it?"

"It was both of them."


I got to the end of his examination and sat on the end of his bedside chair. He asked a few questions about his hospitalization and I did my best to answer them. And that was that.  I shook his hand and prepared to leave.

"Hey doc? One last question--how far is Tuskegee from Opelika?"

"Maybe 30 minutes?"

"Hmmm. I think I'm on go there and see it next time I'm home."

"You really should."

"Can't believe I lived so close to a magical place and never went to see it."

That made my face light up. "You know? It's never too late."

And he gave me a bright grin with a thumbs up. I returned the gesture and left the room.

And that was it.

Not sure what made me think so much about this exchange. I guess he made me think about how we are often right next to people and places where there is magic happening. . . . but because of our cultural differences or believing our comfort zones don't align, we miss it all. By allowing just a few glimpses of ourselves to one another, the magic is shared.




  1. And it was even more magical growing up there in the 1950/60's, where all of our role models looked exactly like us. As children, we knew that the only limits we had were the ones we placed on ourselves and that we could do/be anything we dreamed of.

  2. I just love your writing style! Thank you for sharing your 20 minutes!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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