They'd look after him here. Maybe set him up in the back room if the place got busy. Else, just leave him where he sat. So Luther put his stick back in the rack and took his hat from the wall and walked out into the Greenwood dusk. He thought of fi nding himself a game, just sit in for a few hands. There was one going on right now upstairs in the back room of Po's Gas Station, and just picturing it put an itch in his head. But he'd played in a few too many games already during his short time in Greenwood and it was all he could do hustling for tips at the hotel and running for the Deacon to keep Lila from getting any idea how much he'd lost.
Lila. He'd promised her he'd come home tonight before sunset and it was well past that now, the sky a deep dark blue and the Arkansas River gone silver and black, and while it was just about the last thing he wanted to do, what with the night filling up around him with music and loud, happy catcalls and such, Luther took a deep breath and headed home to be a husband.
Lila didn't care much for Jessie, no surprise, and she didn't care much for any of Luther's friends or his nights on the town or his moonlighting for Deacon Broscious, so the small house on Elwood Avenue had been getting smaller every day since.
A week ago when Luther had said, "Where the money going to come from then?" Lila said she'd get a job, too. Luther laughed, knowing that no white folk was going to want a pregnant colored scrubbing their pots and cleaning their floors because white women wouldn't want their husbands thinking about how that baby got in there and white men wouldn't like thinking about it either. Might have to explain to the children how come they'd never seen a black stork.
After supper tonight, she said, "You a man now, Luther. A husband. You got responsibilities."
"And I'm keeping 'em up, ain't I?" Luther said. "Ain't I?" "Well, you are, I'll grant you."
"But still, baby, you can spend some nights at home. You can get to fixing those things you said."
She cleared the table and Luther stood, went to the coat he'd placed on the hook when he'd come in, fished for his cigarettes.
"Things," Lila said. "You said you'd build a crib for the baby and fix the sag in the steps and--"
"And, and, and," Luther said. "Shit, woman, I work hard all day." "I know."
"Do you?" It came out a lot harder than he'd intended.
Lila said, "Why you so cross all the time?"
Luther hated these conversations. Seemed like it was the only kind they had anymore. He lit a cigarette. "I ain't cross," he said, even though he was.
"You cross all the time." She rubbed her belly where it had already begun to show.
"Well why the fuck not?" Luther said. He hadn't meant to cuss in front of her, but he could feel the liquor in him, liquor he barely noticed drinking when he was around Jessie because Jessie and his heroin made a little whiskey seem as dangerous as lemonade. "Two months ago, I wasn't a father-to-be."
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Lila placed the dishes in the sink and came back into the small living room.
"Shit mean what I said," Luther said. "A month ago--"
"What?" She stared at him, waiting.
"A month ago I wasn't in Tulsa and I wasn't shotgun-wed and I wasn't living in some shit little house on some shit little avenue in some shit little town, Lila. Now was I?"
"This ain't no shit town." Lila's voice went up with her back. "And you weren't shotgun-wed."
"May as well."
She got up into him, staring with stoked- coal eyes and curled fi sts. "You don't want me? You don't want your child?"
"I wanted a fucking choice," Luther said.
"You have your choice and you take it every night out on the streets. You ain't ever come home like a man should, and when you do, you drunk or high or both."
"Got to be," Luther said.
Her lips were trembling when she said, "And why's that?"
" 'Cause it's the only way I can put up with--" He stopped himself, but it was too late.
"With what, Luther? With me?"
"I'm going out."
She grabbed his arm. "With me, Luther? That it?"
"Go on over to your auntie's now," Luther said. "Ya'll can talk about what an un-Christian man I am. Tell yourselves how you gonna God me up."
"With me?" she said a third time, and her voice was small and soul sick.
Luther left before he could get the mind to bust something.
They spent Sundays at Aunt Marta and Uncle James's grand house on Detroit Avenue in what Luther'd come to think of as the Second Greenwood.
No one else wanted to think of it that way, but Luther knew there were two Greenwoods, just like there were two Tulsas. Which one you found yourself in depended on whether you were north or south of the Frisco depot. He was sure white Tulsa was several different Tulsas when you got under the surface, but he wasn't privy to any of that, since his interactions with it never got much past "Which floor, ma'am?"
But in Greenwood, the division had become a whole lot clearer. You had "bad" Greenwood, which was the alleys off Greenwood Avenue, well north of the intersection with Archer, and you had the several blocks down around First and Admiral, where guns were fi red on Friday nights and passersby could still catch a whiff of opium smoke in the Sunday-morning streets.
But "good" Greenwood, folks liked to believe, made up the other 99 percent of the community. It was Standpipe Hill and Detroit Avenue and the central business district of Greenwood Avenue. It was the First Baptist Church and the Bell & Little Restaurant and the Dreamland Theater where the Little Tramp or America's Sweetheart ambled across the screen for a fi fteen-cent ticket. It was the Tulsa Star and a black deputy sheriff walking the streets with a polished badge. It was Dr. Lewis T. Weldon and Lionel A. Garrity, Esquire, and John and Loula Williams who owned the Williams Confectionery and the Williams One- Stop Garage and the Dreamland itself. It was O. W. Gurley, who owned the grocery store, the mercantile store, and the Gurley Hotel to boot. It was Sunday-morning services and these Sunday- afternoon dinners with the fine china and the whitest linen and something classical and delicate tinkling from the Victrola, like the sounds from a past none of them could point to.
That's where the other Greenwood got to Luther most--in that music. You only had to hear but a few bars to know it was white. Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms. Luther could just picture them sitting at their pianos, tapping away in some big room with polished floors and high windows while the servants tiptoed around outside. This was music by and for men who whipped their stable boys and fucked their maids and went on weekend hunts to kill small animals they'd never eat. Men who loved the sound of baying hounds and sudden fl ight. They'd come back home, weary from lack of work, and compose or listen to music just like this, stare up at paintings of ancestors as hopeless and empty as they were, and preach to their children about right and wrong.