Erasure: A Story

by Mark Goldblatt (February 2011)

I knew I had come to the right man.


I napped for several hours, and then I laid out the outfit I had bought specially for the operation: a black turtleneck sweater, snug-fitting black jeans and black running shoes. It was a warm evening, 71 degrees, and for a moment I thought to substitute a navy blue tee shirt for the sweater. But in the end I decided to stick with the turtleneck. These were the tropes of the revolutionary. And I am a man who puts stock in tropes.

So be it, I thought: My project would wait for another evening.

I spun around. It was Kwame. He was smiling at me in a broad, welcoming way.

I wanted to feel betrayed, to feel outraged, but he was talking sense.

He began to smile again. Then he reached out his hand, and I clasped it tightly.

I strained to see it, but she had turned her back and was now mingling with other guests.

With that, he stepped past me and headed back in the direction of the entrance hall. So I was left alone in the reference room. With nothing else to do, I unrolled the map of Africa and stared first at Niger, then at Nigeria. I toyed for a moment with drawing a line through both of them, but in the end I decided against it. They were just places on a map. There was nothing to be accomplished by crossing them out. Even worse, the act might be misinterpreted. I could well imagine an African American student rolling out the map decades hence, for whatever reason, noticing the lines, and feeling himself, well, oppressed.

I rolled up the map and leaned it against a filing cabinet.

I took several steps in the direction of the entrance hall, but then I remembered the offense I had given Kwame. He would not be pleased to see me back in the entrance hall, among his guests. Let it go for tonight, I thought: I would make it up to him tomorrow. So I turned around and walked towards the freight elevator, which would take me down to the ground level, then out through the loading dock door.

Yes, I would make it up to Kwame tomorrow.

I had done enough for one night.

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