Leah and I were poring over our post-colonial texts on a Monday night, immersed in bell hooks and Fanon, reconciling terminologies like "imperialism" and "white-privilege" and "supremacy," when the coffee shop door whisked open like an impatient yawn, the brisk air of winter filling into the shop, and a res woman, clad in an oversized t-shirt and flip-flops, face besieged by years of nicotine and drink, a face intimately acquainted with hunger, with heartache, a face that has taken the fists of a man whose soul is filled with the cobwebs and dusty clouds of a post-colonial legacy.
She poised at the entrance tentatively as if thinking she couldn't ever belong within such a structure; taking in the view of mostly white people, their noses inside of books, their faces illuminated by laptop computers, literate and privileged people, who know true leisure, and who know entitlement, people who take for granted the comforts of their class.
The woman looked immediately in our direction, a cavalier posture masking her discomfort, her fear, and asked, "Are there any bars around here?" Without missing a beat, because we&re brought up to be helpful and courteous, we pointed her in the direction of The Alley, The Garden, and she cradled her bare elbows against the frigid air, waiting with resigned patience, while we courteously and with nice white girl smiles, plotted her course towards destruction, reinforcing the instruction of her ruin.
It happened so quickly, I didn't even think to call her Sister, to invite her in from the cold and offer her a cup of coffee instead.
I'm colonized. One of the civilized ones. Born and raised in the suburbs, half white, easy means towards an education. I am not still resisting or protesting the whites with the bottle. I have progressed into the twenty-first century. Now I am one of the ones contributing towards the world's devastation.
The res woman, small and quick, thanked us and returned to the dark street, her next destination, something warm to slide down her throat, to set a fire inside her belly, to nurse the warrior wounds, a bottle to make her forget.
(Published in North American Review, 2009.)
Tiffany Midge won the Diane Decorah Memorial Poetry Prize for her collection "Outlaws, Renegades and Saints; Diary of Mixed-up Halfbreed." She has a MFA from the University of Idaho and her latest chapbook is "Guiding the Stars to Their Campfire, Driving the Salmon to Their Beds."