Check My ID
Ask to see it. Ask to see if because sixteen year old white boys are
always coming in this shop trying to buy beer and youíve had it. Ask
to see it because I must be the butchest woman youíve ever seen. Itís
from Pennsylvania. The Keystone State. Keystone: wedge-shaped
piece at the summit of an arch. Take it from my small, soft hands. Look
at it. Turn it over and look at it some more. Look at it next to the credit
card. Those names: those are womenís names. They have to be. Ask
me where I live. The city. The street. But it doesnít sound how it looks
Ė Could you spell that for me? I spell it right. Ask the zip code, my birth
date, a date thirty years ago, but that canít be right. I speak with the
wrong voice: too strong, too deep. I am buying two beers: one for me
and one for my wife. They stand together on the glass counter,
their labels sweating on each other. She said she had a bad day today, so
here I am with a single stout and a single IPA and a Snickerís bar. Sheís
sitting at home in her scrubs, waiting, but you donít know that. You
only know the giant binder of fifty states and their IDs. Find
Pennsylvania: after Oregon, before Rhode Island. Look me right in my
face and ask me to spell my street name again. Sepviva. The Norris
family, whose wealth came from rum and sugar plantations in Jamaica,
named their plantation Sepviva in the eighteenth century. They freed
their last slave in the 1740s; they were Quakers, peaceful people, they
said, and yet. Keystone: something on which other things depend.
Sepviva Street is not beautiful; it is just a street in Philadelphia with
row houses smashed all together, but itís my street. A street a thousand
miles from this small Michigan town. Look at the picture again: itís this
same face three years ago. If you were born in 1987, why are you wearing a
Class of 2011 sweatshirt? I look down at my hoodie. I was a high school
teacher in 2011, I say, and think but donít say that the class of 2011 is
well over drinking age now and you just want me to admit Iím a liar.
Confusing people, people like me, must be lying about something.
Keystone: a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely
depend, so much so that, if removed, the entire ecosystem would
collapse. Tilt my card, looking for who knows what. The face on the
card: a sadder gentler face. Pause a long long time. Sorry, you say, lots of
people try to jerk me around in here. But it is not a real sorry; people like me
arenít owed real apologies. We do this to ourselves. Take my money.
Give me my two beers and my candy. Watch me walk out into the crisp
evening, walk away.
–Krys Malcolm Belc (from The Adroit Journal)