He was going to be late for work… again. It was that stupid dream, the same one he had had on other nights. The running in fear down the dark street , trembling as the breath was being sucked from his lungs. Never looking back to see who and how many were chasing him. Then he would awaken, totally immersed in sweat! He should go to the shrink at work and finally find out what in the hell was causing this tremendous mega anxiety. Then he remembered the times his mother would comfort him when he awoke with similar fears. Then it hit him… like a ton of bricks! Those nightmares were about the imaginary ‘ Boogie Man’ who was stomping towards him, yet never able to catch up. So, that was it! Those childhood nightmares must be connected to these current ones. He had to go visit the shrink!
As he drank his last cup of coffee… until of course he was at work, he started to recall things. They became vivid now. Walking with his mother to the stores around the corner, holding her hand like little four year old boys do. He remembered the tall black man approaching them, and how his mother’s grip on his little boy hand got real tight. As the black man passed by her grip loosened. Then he recalled the seltzer man’s helper , big and muscular, walking into their kitchen carrying the heavy case on his shoulders. That ‘ black as night’ face always scared the shit out of him, even though the man would smile at him. The stories he would hear his parents share about some riots in adjoining neighborhoods between the Negroes ( as they were called ) and the police. ” They got real close to us” , his mother would say, ” Thank God they were arrested!” His father then added ” They should lock em all up and throw away the keys.”
He never saw many black people in his neighborhood growing up. There were the cleaning ladies who came by to the few families who could afford it. There were the few apartment building janitors in the area, and of course the delivery truck helpers like that seltzer guy. That was really it. If he wanted to see black people he needed to turn on a baseball game… and ironically Jackie Robinson was his first sports hero. To him and his young friends on the street it was the tales of the infamous ‘ Boogie Man’ that scared the shit out of them. To little five and six year olds the streets were not the place to be when it got dark. THAT was when the big, black Boogie Man could appear. This was how he was raised, like it or not. He was sure glad as hell that he carried his gun wherever he went.
When he arrived at work his partner was waiting outside for him. ” You’re late again, let’s roll.” Their squad car pulled out and off they went.