Suddenly I am aware that my face is the only white one among these thousands of blacks. Evans has not returned. There is a fluttery feeling in my stomach, the kind actors must get before they go onstage before a vast audience. My head feels light, airy, as it must be with pot, and for the first time in my life I am acutely conscious of myself, of my presence, of existing somehow differently from those around me. I feel everyone must notice this difference, and that is why they stare. A girl walks by on the arm of her boyfriend. They do not even cast a curious glance in my direction. Was that deliberate? Three more girls pass, one looking quickly over her shoulder and then whispering to her friends, who begin to giggle among themselves.
When Evans reappears I relax slightly, but as we walk toward the stands I feel a tightening in my facial muscles and realize that for some insane reason I am smiling at his every word. When we reach the edge of the stands I am momentarily terrified. Is he going to lead me past all those black faces until he finds a seat on the 50-yard line? I can see them turning, an entire bleacher of black faces riveted to me as I walk past. But, mercifully, Evans sees a seat just above and begins climbing between people, motioning for me to follow. I step onto the first plank; a black man slides away without looking up at me. Was he angry that my foot almost touched his coat, annoyed, indifferent? I move between people who make room for my feet until halfway up, there is no opening. I am standing idiotically in front of a girl who does, really does, resemble Angela Davis. She makes believe she does not notice me. "Excuse me," I say. Again that uncontrollable smile. "Excuse me," I say louder, maybe too loud, I think. She looks up, unsmiling, and moves over. "Thank you," I say, and step quickly to the top of the bleachers where Evans has made a place for me a little apart from the other fans. I sit down, sweating, mentally exhausted from that climb.
I do not recall much of the game. It is a blur. I remember only being so conscious of my presence among those black faces that I did not say one word or raise a hand to scratch an itch or cross a leg without first replaying the word or act over and over in my mind until I was sure that it was an acceptable word or act and that certainly no one about me could take exception to it. I do remember Evans talking a lot and getting so engrossed in the game that he began yelling, "You stupid, boy, you just plain stupid" every time one of the NCC players fumbled or dropped a pass. I remember also the NCC band coming on the field at halftime, twisting and singing, and Evans telling me that once the school's bandleader had tried to get the group to perform like a white band and they were booed loudly by the fans. When the majorettes appeared in shimmering tights, the crowd began cheering and clapping. The girls began to twist, and a man a few seats down from us looked through his binoculars and started hollering, "Lorda mercy, Lorda mercy, I was born 20 years too soon."
"Hey, man, let me at those things," said Evans. The man handed him the glasses. Evans looked down at the girls and said to no one in particular, "Now, that's one helluva game. Yes sir, one helluva game down there." The man who owned the glasses laughed.
We left before the game was over. I followed Evans down the bleachers, making sure to move directly into the cleared spaces people made for him. He led me past the middle-aged men who had stood throughout the game on the rise at one end of the field. They waved and called to him.
"I usually stand over there at the games," Evans told me, "although lately they've been kidding me because I won't drink much with them. They say that since I got the job at Williams I've gone white. I try to remind them that I never drank that much at our games. But they'll never believe me now that I have showed up with a white man. You-know, you gonna get me in trouble. Ruin my name in the community," and he started laughing.
Was he kidding, I wondered. Or was he really ashamed to stand with his friends because of me?
When we arrived back in Burlington it was still light. I got out of the car, thanking Evans for taking me along. He said it was nothing and drove off. Across the street I could see William, the colored boy who served as the bellhop for the Alamance Motel. William, who is over 70, was helping a white man take the luggage out of his car. As I crossed the street, I realized that I had relaxed considerably. I was on familiar ground again.