NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 75

Fifteen minutes later , as I turned the corner onto Water Street , I saw to my disappointment that half the city had hit upon the same notion . The breakfast queue flowed out the door and onto the sidewalk . I paused for a minute to gaze inside the open-air structure , taking in the savory smells of spicy sausage patties and grilled onions , along with the lively buzz at the counter that encircled the grill . It was a welcome contrast , because I was starting to feel smothered by the drama unfolding around me at the house . In my heart of hearts , I was wishing desperately for an escape hatch , for some way I could just take the morning off and lap up the carefree normality of the fast food joint . But the urgent business I had with Eusi Kwayana , ascria ’ s Elder and guiding spirit , might just explode in both our faces , if I didn ’ t act quickly .
Just at that moment I noticed a man sitting alone at a table sipping a cup of coffee and writing something down in a tablet . As crowded as the restaurant was , it seemed unusual that he had a table all to himself . But what struck me more was that his concentration on his work seemed absolute , in spite of the hustle and bustle around him . Everything about his manner , even his posture — square-shouldered and etched with purpose — seemed solitary . He was a youngish man , early thirties , with flawless black skin that was pulled so taut over the frame of his face that he appeared to be sculpted out of marble or granite . He was dressed in freshly pressed dark gray trousers and a light gray shirt with a round white collar . Before I realized what was happening , I found myself gawking at him from the sidewalk , strangely captivated . Just then he relaxed his pen and gazed directly at me , flashing a smile that was surprisingly open and friendly , before turning back to his work .
I quickly diverted my eyes . What the hell was that about ? I thought as I checked my curiosity , suddenly embarrassed . The urgency of my mission at ascria pricked me like a thorn , and I decided to forgo the indulgence of a leisurely breakfast . I needed to have a powwow with Eusi ( who was also an advisor to President Forbes Burnham ) about the gang ’ s threats against myself as well as other fieldworkers , before the situation got out of hand . So I turned away from the stranger , made my way back onto the street , and pushed off with renewed zeal toward my destination .
After only a few steps , I came to a dead stop . A voice inside my head was telling me to go back to the restaurant , that the solitary figure sitting at the table had a message for me . I stood frozen in the middle of the sidewalk , pondering this strange but powerful intuition , while wondering if I should go back . I suppressed the urge and shoved off again only to advance four or five steps before coming to a halt . This scenario repeated itself several times before I reached the corner . Things were starting to get weird . I made another attempt to shut off the voice in my head as I moved toward the intersection . I paused at the curb and tried to laugh it off , refusing to believe that this was happening . Here I was going tit for tat with a voice inside my head . And for the record , not just any ole voice but one with an unequivocal and authoritative tone that couldn ’ t simply be dismissed . I was caught up . So much so that I was still standing at the curb with a silly grin on my face as the crowd surged across to the other side of the street .
Go back and speak to him ! The voice reverberated inside my head . I teetered at the curb , seriously perplexed . I laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the suggestion . I mean , what was I supposed to do ? Just walk up to the guy and say : “ A voice told me to talk to you !” I shrugged the whole thing off as just plain silly and stepped off the curb into the intersection . That ’ s when , like a lightning flash , I realized that it wasn ’ t just a voice inside my head , that I could actually feel a current of energy or force around me , much like a tractor beam that was arresting my efforts to move away from the restaurant . I abruptly copped a U turn in the middle of the street .
Believe me when I tell you that this was not my usual behavior , because the bent of my character was rigidly empirical and pragmatic at the time . I prided myself on being a “ realist ,” so I rejected out-of-hand any assertions regarding mystical phenomena or the supernatural . “ No nonsense ” was the byword that dogged my heels at every turn during this era of my life . To let Simba and the gang back at the house tell it , I was a veritable pin-up boy of sobriety and common sense . And yet here I was wrestling with “ powers and principalities ,” as the Apostle Paul put it , on the streets of Georgetown .
The import of this event on the trajectory of my life might be better understood if placed in a more familiar context . So , permit me to borrow a page from the book of the English bard :
There is a tide in the affairs of men , which ,
taken at the flood , leads on to fortune ;
omitted , all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries .