My route to yoga class takes me along one of the saddest blocks in my neighborhood. On one side of the street is a sprawling auto-body shop; busted-up, smashed vehicles, each mangled hood or bumper or smashed-in door telling a terrible story, wait their turn outside its multiple, side-by-side work stations. Across the street, next to a couple of derelict, abandoned buildings, lies a beery redemption center where the poorest of the poor redeem cans and bottles; a nickel per’s the going rate. (A tow truck company shares a driveway with the redemption center—not so much a poignant feature of the street as menacing, threatening. God forbid you’re walking past when one of their drivers pulls out of the driveway without looking or stopping!) No matter what the weather, leathery, bloodshot-eyed Hispanic men crouch between the waiting, mangled cars or in the doorways of the abandoned buildings to pass around a bottle of whatever their pooled nickels could buy. Haitian women, Asian women, scarfed women, mothers and grandmothers of every ethnicity push brimming shopping carts past the drinking or passed-out men; some sling giant-sized, bulging plastic bags over their shoulders as they maneuver the crowded sidewalk.
Last night, while at an evening yoga class, an idling car at a red light right outside the studio window played “gangsta rap”so loud our teacher felt compelled to apologize for the intrusion. As she were responsible. As if we, her white, affluent students, might be upset or offended by the rage and grating sounds outside—which lasted as long as it takes for a red light to turn green. As if none of us might be enraged that another unarmed black teenager has been shot dead. As we aren’t perpetually grated, horrified by the obscene gap between women like us and the women who tote bulky plastic bags to a redemption center (!?) to feed their children. As if being yoga students automatically means we’ve earned the right to ignore the reality right outside.