Nevertheless, she’s agreed to open her life to me, so she’d like me to open mine a little to her. “To create a safe space, right here in your Camry?” I ask. Yes, she says, not brooking my backtalk. “Like, I’m not comfortable right now,” she says. She’d like to know a bit about my background. “I assume that you’re white. How might that impact our relationship? How might your understanding of the culture that I come from?”
I scroll through my mental hard-drive in an attempt to ameliorate her concerns by making appropriate multicultural noises. Should I tell her The White Shadow was my favorite show as a kid? Should I tell her I’ve visited black churches just because I like the music? I don’t tell her these things. Instead, I tell her that I’m a Gemini. (She’s a Virgo—and our horoscope-compatibility prognosis indicates that we’re both “excellent communicators and both very adaptable, a solid foundation to build on, however, your temperaments are very different, and a lot of give and take will probably be needed.”)
I tell her of my diverse military-brat upbringing, of healthily Latino-and-black-populated schools I attended growing up, of the heavily black private school my kids have attended. All of this makes me feel like a total fraud. Like I’m bean-counting my own life, trying to check boxes to impress a stranger who will gain no real insight into the content of my character (assuming it has any) as a result of this cosmetic exercise.
“I would like to relax with you. I would like to tell you all kinds of things,” Caprice worries aloud, “but I have these experiences. Is he tricking me? Is he being friendly?” I ask her if she’s so scared to do this, why’d she agree to let me come? Because you can’t always preach to the choir, she says, and because the stories of mine she looked up made her trust that I’ll give her a fair shake. When she was training to become a therapist, a professor of hers told her how to approach clients: “ ‘One of the first things you want to do is figure out what you like about them.’ People aren’t all bad, and it’s kind of easy to maintain that enemy image.” Besides, she adds, “I believe the work that I’m doing is God’s work. Right now, if you weren’t in the car with me, I’d be smoking my cigarettes and listening to Christian music. I see myself as an instrument for helping to make this world a better place for all human beings to live in.”