A former white nationalist is sitting at the table next to me, reaching for a miniature fruit tart. I want to tell him he is a goddamn motherfucker and doesn’t get to eat a miniature fruit tart. But I am at an anti-racism event and this man is no longer part of the white nationalist movement. He is now trying to help. He reformed because in college he made friends with Jews who presented him with research that showed that white people are not smarter than anyone else and holy shit is he reaching for a second fruit tart?
I drive home from this strange event and my stomach hurts. I stop at the Middle Eastern grocery store to buy some beans and hummus and the woman at the counter asks me how my day is going. I tell her that I am having a strange day. She asks why and I tell her about the reformed white nationalist. She peers at me over her reading glasses, and says, “Can someone change that much?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “He was homeschooled by racists so he was basically raised in a cult.” My voice trails off and I feel my stomachache return.
“I don’t think he can change. No way.”
I pay for my food. “I guess I like to think that people can change.”
“Maybe like someone who used to be allergic to peanuts. But not a racist.” She sighs and hands me a receipt. “Do you need a bag?”
I shake my head. “The whole thing made me feel weird.”
She laughs. “That’s because it is weird.”
I go home and eat carrots and hummus while finishing up something for work. There is an email from the event organizer. Thank you for helping move the conversation forward. And then something about talking about things is better than not talking about things.
A hummingbird is outside my window, fluttering in place. Its brightly colored feathers make me think of the delicate miniature fruit tarts, and the way his mouth opened and closed around them.