They call him Street Corner Kid, which is odd to me because he's got gray in his beard and those old man eyes that seem to tell you two things:  I've seen it all and I wouldn't mind another beer.  I pull a beer from my brown paper grocery bag and hand it to him; he takes it silently, cracks it open and takes a long hard pull, his Adam's apple bumping up and down like a buoy in rough seas. 

"How's 22nd street doing?" I ask him about the street only because you don't ask the Kid about Kid.  He's like the traffic around here.  Or like a rusting street sign or a honking horn.  He's part of it.  Not separate from it. 

"Uh huh," he says, which means nothing and everything all at once.  With that "uh huh" he's telling me that the world is the same, that the neighborhood changes every day and that the game stays the same.  And that I am white and middle class and don't belong.  He tells me all this without telling me anything.  “I am not a part of this street corner,” that "uh huh" says and furthermore, that "uh huh" tells me that I would have to be crazy to want to be part of this street corner. 

A police cruiser rolls by with all the speed and deliberation of a few leaves in a soft gust of wind.  The driver looks up at us and sees a picture of American diversity: an old black man and a young white man, drinking beer as the sun sets.  The officer looks confused for a second or two, stops the car and looks up at Kid. 

The cop has a face like pale play dough, all smooshed and fat.  He snaps his gum loudly, his eyes hidden beneath his Aviator glasses.  He looks like he wants to say something.  I keep my mouth shut and stare straight ahead.  Kid smiles and offers a half-wave.

"Officer," he says, not like it's a question or a greeting, but more like someone would talk if they were answering a question.  It's as if someone had asked him, "Hey Kid, what is that right there in front of your face?" And he just answered all bored and matter-of-fact.  Like it could have been "pavement" or "Michelob Light" or really any damn thing. 

The cop turns his head toward his partner, the rolls of fat crinkling up on the back of his neck as he sticks his chubby thumb in our direction.  They both laugh; though what's funny is beyond me. 

I pull a crab salad sandwich from my bag, hand it to Kid, then remove a chicken salad sandwich for myself.  The bread is soft rye and I love it.  I look over at Kid.  He seems to be enjoying his as well. 

"None for us?" says the cop, surprising me with his Yankee accent—either New York or New Jersey.  Most of the white cops down here are southerners, crackers and members of the Ole' Bubba Network.  No wonder this guy got stuck with this part of town.  The Rebs probably hate his guts. 

I shrug as if to indicate that I can't help the man.  He laughs again.  I hear his still-invisible-to-my-eye partner laugh.  Nothing is really that funny. 

They drive off laughing, two idiots into the setting sun.  I pop another beer, pull out a bag of chips and hand it to Kid.  He opens them one handed, his beer finished and his sandwich almost gone.  I use my teeth to open my bag of chips, swallow some more Michelob Light and continue gazing out at the traffic, as if it has answers to the questions I'm not smart enough to ask. 

I pull out a hundred dollar bill and hand it to Kid; he takes it silently, folds it gently and slides it in his back jeans pocket. 

I turn to leave, to go back to my car and ultimately back to a world of white people with whiter dreams. 

"See you next year, Kid," I say. 

"You ain't got to," he says.  It's more than he's said to me in the three years I've known him. 

"Yes I do," I say. 

"I testified.  I know what she was to you.  But I testified ‘cause what I saw wasn't right.  Nothing to do with your lily white ass."

I look back, into his dark and knowing eyes and I see nothing but disdain.  Disdain for me, for my sense of payback, disdain for the way the world works and disdain for his place in it.  Hell I can feel the sentiment coming off of him like I can feel the car-exhaust-filled air against me eyeballs.  He hates me.  Hates me like he hates those cops that just rolled by.  He really does want nothing to do with me: hundred dollar bill or no hundred dollar bill. 

"See you around," I say. 

He laughs hard and deep. 

Nothing's really that funny, though. 


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