by Renee Simms

I was driving to Walter P. Reuther Library to research a city, Detroit, that was once my city, but is not my city anymore. That’s when I saw the flashing lights. Then a man at a bus stop holding a bottle. Then officers: two of them, uniformed, on either side of this man. I watched a cop turn the man’s bottle upside down, watched amber liquid rush to the ground. A puddle grew on the sidewalk at the man’s feet. Then it was over. He’d been punished for drinking in public.  

Days later, I saw a dozen people in shorts pedal a rolling pub down the street. “A mobile happy hour!” I thought, while driving to read more papers. This wasn’t far from the bus stop where the man had lost his beer. Did I mention the man waiting for the bus looked homeless? Did I say that the man was Black? 

Much later I watched a group of white women lift their party dresses in the middle of a street, revealing what lay underneath. This was on my last day spent hunched in the city’s archives. The women were so drunk they could barely stand. Their strip tease lasted thirty minutes outside of a hipster hotel. My friend and I looked on, unfazed. We were in the lobby saying our goodbyes. My research money was gone. 

This friend and I lived together once. One night, we were so drunk we shit all over a bathroom floor. We deserved the mean looks we received the next day from our
dormmates. Did I mention that we are women? Did I say that we are Black? What I’m trying to tell you is that this research has been all wrong. The city’s stories are crafty pigeons. We catch them if we can. 

Medium shot of Renee Simms.

Renee Simms’s stories and essays appear in GuernicaOxford AmericanCallalooThe Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, Ecotone, and elsewhere. Her short story collection, Meet Behind Mars, was an Indies Forward finalist and listed by The Root as one of 28 brilliant books by Black authors in 2018. She’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ragdale, and Vermont Studio Center. Renee is MFA faculty in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She is an associate professor of African American Studies at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA.

SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · June 2021
Header image by Matt Gowing.