Why are we disbelieved? Why am I skeptical of women’s chatter? Why does my husband think I don’t smell gas? Later, in the same piece, Baldwin writes, “There was a moment, in time, and in this place, when my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my sister, had to convey to me, for example, the danger in which I was standing from the white man standing just behind me, and to convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man could not possibly understand, and that, indeed, he cannot understand, until today. He cannot afford to understand it. This understanding would reveal to him too much about himself, and smash that mirror before which he has been frozen for so long.” Maybe this is why we don’t believe women. If their experience is true, we can’t stand to see our role in it.
But what if this story had a different ending? What if his reader hadn’t picked anything up? What if there had been no gas? I was so relieved there was gas, so afraid I was crazy. If I smell gas and there is no gas, am I different than if I smell gas and there is? Am I crazy, then, and does my value come from not being crazy? Does my value come from being right? If there is no gas, am I not right? Does it mean I didn’t smell gas or does my experience of smelling gas still remain?