Derrik J. Johnson
As a little girl, I watched the chef make pastries at the café on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Every Saturday afternoon when I waited for my mother to pick me up from piano lessons, he was always there. With my hands and chubby cheeks pressed against the glass, I watched the chef position his freshly baked goods in the window display, pausing just a second to wink at potential customers.
One day, my mother was late picking me up. As usual, I waited in front of the café. Mesmerized, I entered the shop. I used all of my might to pull the door open and slip in. As I walked inside, I saw people sitting, eating, and enjoying the pastries on their tables. With each step I took, the patrons chewed slower and slower, until they stopped. Some looked amazed to see me; others looked concerned. I didn’t care. All I wanted was that flakey crusted chocolate covered croissant in the chef’s window display.
When I reached the counter, a pale blonde waitress stopped me. She seemed surprised when I took out my crumpled one dollar bill.
“What do you want, sweetie?” she bent down to speak to me.
I looked wide eyed at the chef and back at the waitress and said, “I want a chocolate covered croissant, please.”
The waitress shook her head and replied, “I’m sorry, but you can’t have a croissant.”
Indignant, I demanded, “Why can’t I have a chocolate covered croissant?”
“Because no coloreds are allowed in the café,” she said.
The waitress promptly turned me around and escorted me outside. She raised her boney finger and pointed to the window, the same glass window where I watched the chef arrange his pastries. Right above where I pressed my face against the glass hung a crusty wooden sign that I never lifted my eyes to read: “Whites Only.”
Years passed and the café started serving Black folks. Some tell me the old chef still creates his pastry tapestries to entice passers-by. But I wouldn’t know for sure. I grew up with the times and embraced many wonders. Indelible sights like beautiful sepia lithographs frame the walls of my mind. Interminable musical variations resonate in my ears. Permanent imprints of the indentations left on fleeting touches decorate my mind. Although the bittersweet taste of an uneaten chocolate covered croissant remains, the buds of my tongue cannot overshadow the buds blossoming in my soul.