On my way home every evening I pass by at least a dozen cop cars cruising the city streets at rush hour. I am in a town abused by crime, whose streets are caked in the spoils of people and animals alike, and whose houses are too close together in the little alley I live down.
The guys who helped us were black. All of my friends, and myself, were white. Later, my boyfriend, Nick, said to me, “Did you see the bracelet on that guy's ankle?” I had not, in fact, seen the bracelet.
“Hopefully he was just bored,” I said. The next day at work I told some coworkers about my move-in, and Mark said, “He was scoping the place out.” And Olivia said, “He was so good at getting the couch in because he's used to getting them out.” And we laughed a little, because although it was stereotypical and a little cruel, it might also have been true; I mean, why was he on house-arrest? Was it because of drugs or break-ins or rape? I like to hope he got a little rough in a bar and accidentally broke something; or else someone busted him for something he just didn't do. But these are my naive hopes, and my way of seeing the best in people.
The doughy lady across the street has at least two adorable little toddlers—a boy and a girl. Those kids both have shit-eating grins whenever I see them, so much so, in fact, that the first time I thought, Oh, they're so cute and friendly! And then I immediately thought, Oh shit, did they do something to my car? Is that why they're smiling so much?
There's an alarm in my house. At the lease signing, the landlord told me that I might want to get renter's insurance to cover my stuff, in case anything happens. “The most expensive thing I own is my laptop,” I told him. “I'm not too worried.” My hope is that the neighbors got to see the very little that I have, and now know that none of it is worth much. Although I want to disprove the concerns of middle-class coworkers about my new city, my defenses remain; My things are worth nothing to me. If I lose them, so be it. I refuse to live in fear.
A friend sent me a Meme the other day with a list of cities to avoid when visiting Massachusetts. “Hey!” I said, “I've lived in three of those cities—Lawrence, Holyoke, and now Lowell. And I turned out just fine.”