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The Space Between by Channing Ritter

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  • “What did he say?” I ask Chin, staring off after the man walking away from us into the dancing crowd.

    Chin shakes his head. I ask several more times, genuinely confused about what just happened. We had been dancing close, holding each other tight with our foreheads dipped together, the space of our own private universe sandwiched between. The man had tapped Chin on the shoulder to say something, which was inaudible to me over the booming Verboten soundsystem. Chin had semi-acknowledged him in a neutral way (a nod, perhaps?), and the guy walked away beaming.

    Eventually, Chin repeats the man’s sentence in my ear:

    “Please take this as a joke, but thank you for stealing all of our white women.”

    I look back at Chin blankly. I look to the crowd beyond. Still confused, I ask a barrage of questions, trying to determine whether this was an insult or a “joke,” and on whom? Was he trying to praise Chin for being a black male, with swagger and physical prowess enough to steal the white man’s own woman away from him? Or, was it an insult towards me? As in, ‘Please take all the white women off our hands because we don’t want them.’

    I search Chin’s eyes, my own still full of uncertainties. He looks steadily back at me , into me. His look is one of knowing. Of utter lack of surprise. His eyes reveal a delicate balance of inner peace and turmoil — a reciprocal anger and acceptance so irrevocably intermixed that together they weave the texture of his life, of himself.

    I don’t know what it feels like to be black in this country but I love someone who does. My heart goes out to the black Americans who struggle daily. Who are systematically impoverished and imprisoned. Who see their loved ones harassed, and taken away, and sometimes murdered by the police.

    I'm not trying to be political, that's just how I feel. Really, I just want to be left alone when we are together, dancing close. Left to the space of our own universe between.
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