The light in the parlor was yellow-green,
and they were drinking lemonade. He,
saying his name was 'Bill', leaned over
to complain to me privately about his last
name. 'You know what it is? It always makes
people think I'm black. Robinson. Bill
Robinson.' I said, 'That's OK, what's the
problem there - that was Mr. Bojangles,
the dancer, he was Bill Robinson too.' He
made a face, and said, 'Yes, and he was
black; that's exactly my point. I sound black.'
Sure couldn't figure that one out. Two guys
were playing chess over at a corner set-up.
I wanted to say, 'See, chess, like chess, that's
black and white too.' This was, after all, the
University Club, and I couldn't see any reason,
nor matter, to make an issue of this. I couldn't
see what this guy saw.
We sat there, in a mellow room. I drank a slow
snifter of whatever they'd brought me - I'm not a
heavy liquor guy, but this was OK, if you like fire
tearing down your throat. It was only some ten
minutes later, and after the flames and gagging
subsided, that I barely managed to mutter, 'This
is good.' Social lying isn't yet a criminal offense.
If this guy seemed black, to himself, then I
looked like a rube, to the drinking class, for
sure. I finished what I had, but wanted no more.