Twilight. The time of day that is neither dark nor light. When shades of purple and grey fill the evening skies, yet shadows linger from the light. Stars struggle to be seen. Lady moon begins her watch. Twilight.
This was the time of day I felt most at home. A time, unique and special, neither day nor night, neither black nor white. This was the time of day that seemed to exist only for a blink of an eye and then it was gone. It didn't hold the hope of a new day like dawn, the fullness of the hour like noon, or the peacefulness of slumber like midnight, but it held something magical for me.
It was during twilight I was born at my parents' home in northern Kentucky. My father was Black, my mother White and I neither and both. Life isn't easy living in dusk, waiting for darkness to descend, the hope of light far away. But this was my life and both of my parents encouraged me daily, to live it fully.
I worked hard to earn a scholarship to the college of my dreams, but was treated as if it was given to me because of my color, not my talent. It's at the university during twilight that my story begins.
I kept to myself the first few weeks of school. It wasn't difficult. We were all new and trying to find our way. The diversity of the student body impressed me immensely. My grammar and high school years had been a sea of White, but here, I felt I might finally belong.
Then darkness descended. My father had been shot. He was in the hospital and though he would recover from his wounds, the experience would stay with him forever. He had been out with Mother when an ominous group of White men approached them. He tried to explain that they were married, but the men either didn't hear, or didn't care. They beat and shot him.
I wanted to go home but my parents insisted I stay, concerned I might risk my scholarship. So I remained, with a huge chip on my shoulder. Every White man in that school became loathsome to me.
As I was running to class one evening I ran smack into one particularly loathsome White man. Jeremy. He was an all-star on the basketball team. He was huge, standing nearly seven feet tall he towered over me when we collided. Of course I felt justified as I berated him.
"Insensitive, clumsy, self absorbed jerk!" I bellowed at him. "You think because you are big, White and athletic that you can do whatever you want!"
He actually laughed! Then he reached to help me up.
"You have no right to laugh!" I shoved his hand away irately.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean to offend you. Please, let me help you."
"Just get the hell away from me!" I shrieked, breaking down into tears.
"Hey," he said softly. "Are you okay? Come on, let me help you."
"Why are you being so nice?" I asked as I began to bawl. "Why can't you be the jerk you're supposed to be?"
He broke out in a sweet laughter that was so delightful even I couldn't be mad. I half laughed but choked on my tears. All the pain and anger I carried from the news of my dad to the lifetime of rejection bubbled up at that particular moment, even though I fought to keep it down. I collapsed into a heap of brokenness. Instead of running away, like any self-respecting White man would when dealing with a half-breed like me, Jeremy sat down next to me and put his arm around my shoulder. For the first time in years I felt safe. I cried.
When my sobbing subsided, he gently wiped my cheeks and helped me up. Carrying my books he suggested we get a cup of coffee.
"I'd like that." I said, feeling both amazed and exhausted.
"Good!" he smiled. "I'd like you to like something around here, even if you don't like me."
"I'm sorry." I started to apologize but his grin revealed he was teasing me. So I gave him a little shove. He took the opportunity to wrap his arm around my shoulder and we walked that way to the coffee shop.
"Why are you so angry?" he asked bluntly as we sat down with our mugs.
"Interesting. I thought it was me you were angry with, not yourself."
"I'm not angry with myself!"
"Then why is it personal?"
"Fine!" I acquiesced, "I'll tell you." and another tirade of anger poured out of me, but this time it wasn't directed toward him. It felt good to talk to someone. He listened without interrupting.
When I was done, he spoke. "Would you mind telling other people that story?"
"I'm leading a group at my church to promote racial harmony. Unfortunately many people believe there's no need. They believe that bigotry, hatred and racism are history. Your story tells the truth. And you, you who have been targeted by both Blacks and Whites, you know better than anyone the pain of that hate. But even more important, you are the product of what love that sees beyond the surface can create. You are the very essence of racial harmony."
"Wow!" I breathed. "Incredible."
"Well, will you?" he persisted.
"Yes!" I agreed. And then the most glorious thing happened. I kissed him. I had never been called anything as beautiful as the 'very essence of racial harmony' and I felt swept away by his words and his kindness. Even more wonderful, though, was the feeling when he kissed me back. We talked over coffee until twilight passed and darkness fell. We stayed there until dawn. For the first time in my life, I felt the hope of a new day.