A fence behind my parent’s house separated the white neighborhood from the black. We often walked down the street and through the break in the woods into the black neighborhood. Our black friends took us to buy ice cream sandwiches from an old lady’s deep freeze for $0.75. She always looked at us kind of funny until she got the nod from our friends, and then she took our money. The deep freeze sat in the back of her house on a sagging, patched linoleum sun porch. Screened in walls separated it from the outside world, and the only entrance was a creaky screen door. The spring snapped it back into place as soon as we crossed the threshold.
As we left, people in the neighborhood often asked us white boys if we were lost. We tucked our chins and ran, the sun melting our ice cream sandwiches in each hand. A dirt trail ran parallel to the last yard of each neighborhood, the small break in the woods—a portal from one world to the next. Nervous laughter was our only conversation as we made it through to the other side. Our friends came through the portal behind us laughing, asking us why we ran.
A different set of rules applied for evenings. I assumed our friends’ parents gave them the same ones. They always disappeared before dinner, never returning to play after dark.