By Adrainne Gray
After a late night flight from Chicago, we take an Uber from the airport to our empty house in Atlanta.
We arrive at our house, a cathedral without its members. The invisible waves of chants and prayers no longer seen in the sways of its inhabitants. The rooms are void of life and so, the sounds return to us without having rested on another.
The house not only lacks life but also the comforts of a home… a bed for instance. Regardless, we decide to squat here until we either leave on the 9th of August or accept the many offers to live with friends.
The reality is that we do not belong anymore, apparently, and I can’t help but to think that I, in particular, am not firmly planted in this place anymore.
Finally, as best I can, I fill, dress and fluff air mattresses for the night and I lie down in relief to be in a prostrate position after a long day of travel. The lights are on in the room where I lay waiting for Ben to brush his teeth so that I can use the sink.
I hear the running water, and the vigorous scrubbing as Ben brushes, and hacks and then the sound of a rhythmic rap on the door mingles with his dental routine. The water stops, and Ben approaches the front door. I remain still, listening for familiar possibilities when Ben opens the door.
Will it be our neighbor with substance abuse seeking a few dollars? Will it be our neighbors who work late-night shifts bringing us our mail? Or could it be young opportunists coming to push past Ben and rob us of the little we have? These are all possibilities in this familiar place.
I listen, and I can’t decide if I should remain still or jump up to greet our neighbor with Ben. I think, “I should keep listening.”
Ben is not inside the echoing frame of the house anymore. His voice is met with other life and I strain to listen for any rise in the words, signaling confrontation. I can only hear short restrained laughs, then garbled language. He is safe, we are safe, and I’ll go through the mail in the morning, I think.
I ask Ben which of our neighbors was there.
Ben says it wasn’t any of them, but rather our neighbors had called the police. Our neighbors reported that we didn’t live here anymore and the house should be empty, but there was activity inside.
Nervously, I asked Ben what happened. “Were the police hostile?”
“Oh, no! The cops shinned the light inside and saw me coming with my toothbrush in my hand, and told me why they were called and I pulled out my I.D. that shows this address.”
He said the four young, white cops apologized for disturbing him and complimented him on his bushy, gray mustache.
Ben solemnly acknowledges his white privilege.
I wondered what if I had answered the door… a black woman inside an empty house? Would they have believed that I was squatting in my own home? Would they have allowed me to find my purse inside for my I.D?
As I prepare to transition into a new country, a new culture — one that has its own prejudices, it is evident that I am no longer fully in this place, nor should I try to be. My neighbors know that I am “not suppose to be here,” and recent police violence toward black folks reminds me “that I am perpetually a stranger in my own town.”
My transition has begun to another place, to another cause, to another reality, to another cathedral.
It is time to go, for now.
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” Luke 9:51-56