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ON THE TOWN

THE EVIL EYE : If Looks Could Kill, She and Her Husband Would Be Dead on Arrival

August 14, 1994|Wanda Coleman

Love conquers all? Imagine living in a post-strife-torn city where those who marry across barriers of class, color and religion are discreetly tolerated in sophisticated settings but constantly denigrated in the streets. Imagine yourself--if you dare--in my skin, unable to go anywhere without anticipating trouble:

* We duck into a mid-Wilshire hang for appetizers, find the music enticing and ditch the buffet for a few rhythmic twirls. We're unaware that we've become an issue until we sense the laserlike stare of a young black man. I'm the object of his vibes. In the darkness, he doesn't notice I'm at least 12 years his senior and sport a wedding ring. He's blinded by the sight of a mixed couple and huffs around us in a hostile orbit. We shine him on. Not to be ignored, he tries to cut in, rudely thumping my man's shoulder. Huz grimaces and shakes his head. Youngblood stomps off to a dark corner, an altercation brewing.

Our fun spoiled, we make for the exit.

* While my husband nurses his frozen yogurt at a Glendale mall rest stop, I step into a luggage boutique. I answer the ugly glare of the Semitic owner with an awkward nod, then examine the stock. I decide on a slender, wine-colored tote. At the register, I present my check and requisite IDs. "Credit card or cash," he admonishes.

Thrown, I leave, angrily swallowing epithets.

"Did you find anything?" Huz asks.

"Yeah, but my check was refused. I'm too black for 'em."

"Ridiculous. Come on, I'll get it for you." He marches me back into the shop. "My wife was in here to buy a briefcase. Where is it?" Flustered, the owner reaches under the counter. "Sweetheart, is that the one?" I nod.

"We'll take it!" Authoritatively, Huz plucks a check from his wallet. Without a word, the owner bags the case. "I told you they'd take a check," Huz says when we get outside. "Yeah," I smirk, "from you. "

* We bogart through heavy traffic to the nearest pump at the Melrose self-serve station, unintentionally cutting off another car. My man jumps out, tugs the recalcitrant nozzle to the rear. There's a screech of rubber and scream of brakes. The incensed driver roars up on our bumper, threatening my beloved with below-the-knee amputations. Unintimidated, Huz shouts: "You dirty mutha--!"

The driver, an American of African descent, inches taller and outweighing my man by 30 pounds, mushrooms out onto the blacktop. Succumbing to heat and gridlock-inspired tensions, Huz continues the tongue-lashing. The driver, insulted by being badmouthed in front of his family, silently goes into his trunk for a tire iron.

I scramble out of our car and buffalo up behind my man. The driver is surprised. That I'm black matters and uncomfortably complicates his rage. A grudging truce ensues. The driver lowers the tire iron, and we finish getting our gas. But there are no apologies.

* I'm satisfied with my cafe latte to go, but Huz wants a real breakfast elsewhere. At his favorite Los Feliz cafe, there are no more spaces in the lot. We contemplate street parking as a white coupe pulls up behind us. I don't think my brimming latte will survive the gyrations, so I climb out, aware that the white male driver is watching. I catch his eyes, don't recognize him and turn away.

While Huz parks, I wait at a nearby lamppost. The white coupe swerves curbside in front of me, the electronic window lowered. The driver's fly is unzipped. He's flapping his circumcision at me. I break into unrestrained laughter. He speeds off.

"What's so funny?" Huz asks. I tell him. He wants to kill the guy. "It was an absurdly pathetic act," I say. He is amazed that I'm so philosophical.

* Our favorite Thai eatery is packed, so we take a number, then briefly stroll the grungy Vermont Avenue business strip. We're in an exceptionally romantic mood, holding hands, sneaking a kiss. Suddenly, we're being stared down by a group of Latino men. As they pass, one turns and shouts at my back. " Puta !"

* At a Pacoima gathering, an old acquaintance greets me with a warm hello, then: "Are you still with that Jewish fellow?" I look at her thoughtfully, then smile--"Yesssss."

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