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2003-11-21 | 7:20 p.m.

Strange day. Plodding along, still with this broken gait. At the library, making my way down a familiar corridor, I passed a woman hurrying, grimacing, looking over her shoulder at the bathroom door.

"Not too good?" I asked, imagining an overflowing toilet.

"Thereís a black person in the bathroom," she said with distaste, not troubling to lower her voice.

I couldnít think of a reply, so I just kept walking. I thought I heard her make a derisive noise in my direction, a just-you-wait-and-see noise, but I couldnít be sure. It might have been my imagination.

She had said such a strange thing. It seemed like decades since I had heard anyone say such a thing, and this was a total stranger in a public library. Had I misunderstood? Was she really being as horrible as she seemed? I assumed she was referring to a woman I had passed outside earlier; apparently homeless. But she had said 'person,' not woman or lady or girl. Perhaps there was a man in the bathroom? I kept walking. I really needed to go.

Alert, if not wary, I pushed open the door and took in everything at a glance. I found one teenage girl combing her hair at the mirror. Not a gaggle of laughing teenagers, not some smack-talking hoodlumette with a Magic Marker, just an attractive girl in a track suit fussing over her bangs. She looked like a student body president. She didnít even notice me.

Why don't you move up north? I said to that white woman in my head. I think somebody told me that once you get up in those small towns, like Auburn, it's all white people. Why don't you just move to Auburn? You don't belong here anymore.

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