There’s a black lady who comes into the gas station where I work. She drives a silver Honda SUV. Her name is Wanda. She is fifty years old, but looks a wretched thirty-five. Her skin is leathery and cratered and her eyeballs pop from her head and dance around as if looking for something to go horribly wrong so that she can unleash her pent up rage that regenerates itself at superhuman speed. She wears shiny jewelry whether she’s in her going out mini-skirt or her going to work scrubs. She comes to the gas station because she refuses to pump her own gas.
“What the fuck do I look like? You pump gas, motherfucker. Pump my motherfucking gas,” she said to me one day when the gas had run out and I told her that the truck was late, so she’d have to go somewhere else and pump her own gas.
I love Wanda. She is one of my favorite people in the world.
I first met Wanda when she pulled into the gas station at seven-thirty on a Friday evening. She was playing Prince so loud that the bass crashed against the glass of her SUV. I danced my way over to her car in my Sunoco blue work shirt, my shoulders and head loosely bobbing to and fro, my bottom lip snug between my teeth. I arrived at her window, let loose a smooth improvised spin, and with a shit eating smile I said, “What could I getcha?”
I saw the rage in her eyes as I had crashed her personal dance party. Then, my smile steadfast, I saw that rage melt into a bewildered grin. “What the fuck do you know about Prince?” she asked me, gripping the ledge of her window as if to keep her balance.
“What the fuck do you know about me?” I said.
She gave me the warmest smile I had ever seen, as if she thought her entire life that she was the last human on earth and then, fifty years in, she stumbled upon me, one of the living, the breathing, the bleeding, the fucking. As Wanda’s gas pumped we shot the shit.
“I’m on my way to the motherfucking liquor store to get me some Coronas and Hennessey. It’s Friday, motherfucker. I’m about to get my drink on and find me some men.”
“Well. you have fun” I said, admiring her liberal use of the word motherfucker and her unadulterated bluntness. “I’m stuck here until eleven.”
“Shit. If I get to the liquor store I’ll come back and drink a
“Hell yes,” I said, lying but unwilling to break our bond over semantics. Besides, it’s not as if I wouldn’t drink Hennessey. I choose not to because anything that’s not cheap whiskey tastes like vomit, especially cognacs.
And so it would go. Wanda would come by the gas station on random nights and drink a
One day Wanda came in for gas. It was still day time but clouds painted the sky grey. She was parked at the pump, her car facing the entrance because she came in through the exit, as was her style. As her gas pumped, a blonde-haired white girl in her early twenties drove up in a red Taurus and edged past Wanda so that she could get to the pump just beyond her SUV. She drove with care and made it to the pump safely, no real chance of collision.
I went to her gas tank and opened the door, and as I did so the pretty white girl got out of the car and walked over to me so she could tell me what she wanted. I began pumping her gas, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Wanda get out of her SUV.
“You think you’re cute, don’t you. You think that was some pretty driving. Well I’m gonna fuck you up. Say I won’t,” she said, marching over to the white girl, rolling up her sleeves, the devil in her eyes.
The white girl looked over to her, then back to me, unsure of what was going on. She said nothing. I said nothing.
Wanda marched forward until she was within an arm’s reach of the girl and began to wag a finger in her face. I watched, smiling, completely thrown off guard, but smiling nonetheless.
“If you’da hit my car I’d rip your fucking face off, bitch,” she shouted in her face.
The girl began to shake and, near tears, slid out of Wanda’s reach and into her car. Wanda stood there for a moment, watched her retreat, and then went back to her car cursing the whole way.
I finished up the pretty white girl’s gas and collected her money. She gave me a two dollar tip, but neither of us spoke of the event. It was all in her eyes and she was clearly happy to leave.
As she pulled away I went over to Wanda’s car to finish up her gas.
“Damn. You’re ready for a fucking fight today, huh?”
“Stupid bitch thinks I won’t do it,” she said, pulling an unopened bottle of Hennessey from the backseat. She opened it, took a swig, and held it out to me. “Here, baby. Have a little something.”
I took a swig of the nasty liquor, collected her money, and bid adieu to my white hating friend who, for some reason, found a reason not to white hate on me.