The man bounced in and out of James’ vision, which was impeded by the rotten window frame, the half-grown spruce in the front yard, the 1992 grey Plymouth Horizon parked across the street, and the girl bouncing and twisting drunkenly just feet ahead of him. His phone chirped and then a distant voice garbled out short phrases, and the man replied by putting the cell up to his face and firing back staccato words between the steps of his gangsta gait.
James watched as the man bobbled in and out of frame nervously, but not without his apparent sense of cool. He was a perfect example of what has come to be known as the “Lansing White,” the vanilla Caucasian whose standards of dress and behavior were completely determined by the blacks he grew up around. His voice was deep and self-aware, as if he were calculating each word against what he perceived to be the hip-hop standard, he walked as if his left leg were two inches shorter than his right, and his XXXL jeans seemed to defy gravity by remaining up just centimeters under his ass.
The girl in front of him tumbled to the ground in hysterics, and the Lansing White tucked his phone away, adjusted his sideways Detroit Tigers baseball cap, and said “Get up, girl” in a voice not unlike the ones heard at the beginning of the R. Kelly songs that seemed to dominate the only radio station that people listened to on the south side. The girl just laughed louder and rolled around some more. “I said GET UP GIRL.” He sounded like a cheap imitation of the guy at the roller rink before introducing a Lakeside track. He rocked back in forth nervously and glanced down the sidewalk, waiting for somebody, maybe the voice on the other end of his cell.