The Corner of James Street & Chesterfield

Content Warning: use of slurs

I can remember the 1st time I was called Nigger. 

I can remember the 2nd time I was called Nigger

I was 34 & then I was 35. 

Both times at a bus stop. Both times 
the impotent strike flung from a rusted used-to-be White Pickup truck 

The first time I was called Nigger.

I lived in Turtle creek.That was the first time I got to know her. Racism. No black ass room for her in Wilkinsburg.
Not even Churchill. 
I came to know western Pennsylvania racism 
lived off of forgotten 
edges of yinzer soaked suburbias

I stood at the corner of James Street parallel to the 7/11 &
slurped on what seemed to be 2 days old coffee. Waited on the 68D 
so I could take care of stranger’s babies. 

Humidity had stripped my curls of purpose & was left alone with gorgeous chaos. Height & cloud softness. Beyonce to Tina in less time than it took to swallow down my cup of sour coffee.
My sweat shined at the 11 o’clock fireball in the sky…


Was screamed
& it scraped
Landed on the shotty asphalt
dissipated into the thick of white smoke behind the pickup. 

The funeral home just stood there.
I looked to the 7/11 

it seemed his ghoul’s squall was mine

Cuz there wasn’t no other Nigger Around. 

No offense. 
No insult taken. 
Only astoundment. 

What had taken them so long? (I had made it to the middle ages & thought I had side stepped this Middle rites of Passage)

What kind of black woman was I? One that is mixed with English, German, Scottish, 
One who disgraced those who sat on her shoulders

The second time I was called a Nigger.

I was alone & in Oakland standing in front of Carlow’s campus. I had put in my  hours of loving & quasi raising other’s babies. The soft chill of the October air made my 8 minute wait seem 25 & it was oh so very black. Blacker than black. Blacker than it should have been for it to have barely been 6 o’clock. Carlow’s cemented wall stood over me like a charcoal guarded prison wall that held centuries old secrets

From the bottoms of his rib cage to the tops of the heavens.
A man screamed. His crew rattled along past me. He stood in the back of the jalopy truck


A scream so deafening 
It was lost, 
Distorted in the delivery 
& carried away by the sharp knife of the Fifth Avenue wind.
It took a lifetime of two minutes to realize I had been called


Again. I shamed my ancestors.

I stepped on to the 71D

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Shaun McCarthy
Shaun McCarthy (she/her) is an adult learner and an English major with a concentration in creative writing. She is also a local comedian and stage actor.