You and Your Partner…
Claudia Rankine is the winner of the 2015 PEN Open Book Award for Citizen: An American Lyric, a provocative meditation on race in contemporary American society. The following is an excerpt from the book.
You and your partner go to see the film The House We Live In. You ask your friend to pick up your child from school. On your way home your phone rings. Your neighbor tells you he is standing at his window watching a menacing black guy casing both your homes. The guy is walking back and forth talking to himself and seems disturbed.
You tell your neighbor that your friend, whom he has met, is babysitting. He says, no, it’s not him. He’s met your friend and this isn’t that nice young man. Anyway, he wants you to know, he’s called the police.
Your partner calls your friend and asks him if there’s a guy walking back and forth in front of your home. Your friend says that if anyone were outside he would see him because he is standing outside. You hear the sirens through the speakerphone.
Your friend is speaking to your neighbor when you arrive home. The four police cars are gone. Your neighbor has apologized to your friend and is now apologizing to you. Feeling somewhat responsible for the actions of your neighbor, you clumsily tell your friend that the next time he wants to talk on the phone he should just go in the backyard. He looks at you a long minute before saying he can speak on the phone wherever he wants. Yes, of course, you say. Yes, of course.
“You and Your Partner” by Claudia Rankine is excerpted from Citizen: An American Lyric, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2014 by Claudia Rankine.
Read more from the 2015 PEN Open Book Award Finalists
• “The Messenger,” from City Son by Samrat Upadhyay
• “Amina,” from Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole
• “Our Own Maps,” from An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
• “The Beiruti Hustle,” from An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine