You’re afraid of black people.


Last night, right as I was getting ready to leave work… to go home and get ready for a fancy Valentine’s dinner with my husband… after a very full day at work… one of my clients tells me that there is someone outside.

That someone was an older man, dressed neatly in blue jeans, a button down shirt and grey suede shoes. The man reeked of alcohol and said he was looking for help.

I asked the man to come in to waiting area. It was bitter cold outside and I had done this countless other times. I asked him what was going on. He was shaking… his eyes were bleary… he said he was afraid that if he didn’t get some help that he might go into dt’s.

I asked if he needed an ambulance. He said no but he said needed detox. We don’t do direct admissions… I can’t drive him because he is not a client… so I called Mobile Crisis to see if they would come get him.

He was calm. He was well-spoken. He was neatly dressed. I was not afraid.

I called Mobile Crisis. The woman who answered the call said she was about a half an hour away but agreed to come. I was nervous that he might not be able to wait that long as his tremors seemed to be getting worse.

I asked him again about the ambulance but again he felt that wasn’t necessary. He agreed to wait.

He asked where she would be taking him. How long he would be there and what would he need. When I mentioned that it would be 3-5 days, he wanted to go home and get a few things.

I had to let him go. He wasn’t a client and I couldn’t make him stay. I got a phone number and the address from him and told him that we would call him if he didn’t come back. I was worried, but I recognized the address of a boarding house very close by.

I went and told the tech on duty what was going on and that I hoped he would come back.

I checked the clock. I was beginning to worry about the time. Dinner was at 8… in Greensboro… I was still on Burlington and waiting for the man to come back and for Mobile Crisis to get there.

I went back to work at my desk while I waited. The waiting area is right outside my office… I would know when either one of them got there.

At 620, I was beginning to think he wouldn’t come back. I called Mobile Crisis… she tried to call him… the call was answered with a message about only being able to receive texts… she wanted to call her boss… and call me back.

He came back.

I ran to call her back. One of the residents escorted him from the door to the waiting area and left him there.

She was on her way.

He said loud enough for me to hear in my office, “I smell red. Something smells like red in here.”

Then he called to me from the waiting area while i was getting off the phone.

“I need to tell you something.”

I was nervous. He told me not to be.

He told me he was schizophrenic and that he needed to be in a hospital.

He told me about his background. He told me about his family. He told me about his jobs. He told me about his diagnosis and when things changed for him. He told me what it’s been like living with the voices.

The voices that tell him that he’s bad. The voices that tell him to do bad things.

He changed. His look. His tone. He told me about the Assyrians. He recited a lengthy passage from the Bible. He told me about the Angel of Death.

He told me he had something for me.

Something about the tone. Something about the look. Suddenly I was very afraid.

As he reached into his coat, I knew that he was reaching for a weapon.

Maybe I watch too much TV.

Maybe I knew he could kill me.

My reaction only seemed to anger him.

He told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of black people.

He was angry. He was agitated.

I didn’t know what to do. I was scared.

Someone called my name.

An older black woman came around the corner.

The woman from Mobile Crisis had made it!

I met her in the hallway.

I told her he was agitated.

She entered the room.

She had forms to fill out.

He answered her questions.

He told her I was afraid of black people.

I left him with her.

I returned to my office.

I wanted to go to dinner.

I broke down and cried.

I was painfully aware of my inexperience.

I was afraid.