Brewster Place

Mark has found himself an interesting gig down in Patagonia that will keep him there for a while longer. He’s no longer out of range — so he’s able to check the weather forecast for himself! His unlikely buddy, Allen, is on his way back to Seattle — and I have been warned that he might just show up in my neighborhood.

I took the opportunity to get back to some reading of my own — something just for me, rather than for Mark and I to experience together. Every now and then, I Google “black women writers” to get the list of 100 must-read books written by black women. Sounds a bit lame — but you gotta start somewhere. Then I see what I can find on Overdrive and download to my phone. The latest wandering (and wondering) is The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor — and I finished it at the end of last week.

After work on Thursday, I read the last-but-one chapter — which is when the rape happens. It’s the most brutally graphic account of a rape I’ve ever read – followed by the horrific and accidental murder of the kindly neighborhood wino by the rape victim as she briefly recovers consciousness.

The final chapter is short — and I knew I could finish it before leaving the coffee shop to walk home — but I needed time to digest what I had read. It was sunny so I was able to cry freely behind sunglasses on the way home. I save the last chapter for Friday afternoon — and cried as the women tore bricks from the wall that cut off Brewster Place from the comfortable world beyond — after rain had put a heartbreaking end to their valiant effort at a block party.


When I got home, I picked up my little globe ornament and paced around my apartment, talking it over with Mark. The women of Brewster Place had ended up there via unfortunate choices made along the way — not bad choices, necessarily — but choices that just didn’t turn out as hoped. And in Brewster Place, life had the women up against the wall — literally and figuratively. There’s no room for such choices anymore. Brewster Place is everywhere — waiting for all of us, perhaps — one day. Unforgiving.

I got the globe just before Mark showed up. It was one of the first things I showed him at my house — and he told me he had one too, gracing a shelf in his office in London. He had a larger version (about 15cm) in diameter. Mine fits in the palm of my hand — at least it has since it broke away from its pedestal after the cat knocked it off the dresser. It feels good in my hand — and has become an object of contemplation at moments like this.

I have to worry about where my own choices have taken me. I could have been a full professor by now, living in a house all paid for, looking forward to a comfortable retirement. But I chose to keep company with Mark — and while I am not in Brewster Place right now, I could very well end up there.

I’m very haunted by the prospect that the partnership is merely a product of my imagination — and that’s how I try to regard it most of the time. But then something makes me want to be real. Because if it’s real — then it opens the door for other fantastic things to be real — such as God. And then one day — in the megacities of a future world — no one will end up in a Brewster Place.


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