icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


I Write With a Pounding Heart

There are some days when I write all day. There are some days when I do not write at all except for entries in my journal which may take me up to two hours, so that is writing, too, of course. And then there are days when I have no time to write because I am teaching or traveling, and by the end of the day I am so full up with ideas and sentences that I feel as though I will explode. This is especially true if I witness injustice of any kind. It’s because of my background and I have accepted it.

Yesterday was such a day. I took the subway from the gentrified enclave where I live in upper Manhattan to 135th street in the heart of Harlem. I am in search of a lap swimming pool, one that I can afford, or my insurance company will pay for. The Harlem YMCA was on the list, an obvious choice, I thought. YMCAs are always well run, immaculately clean and friendly. The pools are gorgeous and well life-guarded. I was not disappointed with the Harlem YMCA; it is an oasis, albeit an oasis amidst a wasteland.

And it is the images of that wasteland that woke me at 5 a.m. this morning, my heart pounding. I did not feel safe walking from the subway station to the Harlem Y. And this suprised and upset me. I am a street-smart native New Yorker. I have hung out in Harlem a lot since I returned to the US, but not this particular neighborhood. It’s a swath of neglect. And I was scared walking into it.

I write today from my immediate physical experience, traveling from a safe neighborhood into an unsafe neighborhood where there is no supermarket in sight and few people on the street in the middle of a weekend day.

Why is our city and our nation so divided? Are our neighborhoods still being redlined? That has been a great injustice in the past. Is it possible it is still going on?

I joined the Harlem Y even though I won’t be able to travel there after dark and my husband does not want me to travel there at all. I walked around the facilities filled with people of all ages and complexions, America’s dream fulfilled, except for the frustration of not being able to get there safely.

Be the first to comment