Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Subway Harassment: A Triptych

A few yrs ago on a BK-bound subway, an older black woman offered me the seat next to her. I declined, she strongly insisted, so I sat down. She said was riding this train a few years ago and she didn't offer a seat to a man...so he slashed her face. She showed me the thin razor mark across her chin. By sitting down I was assuaging her fear but also serving as a shield from someone else who might be more threatening. I felt sick.

A few months later a deranged man was on the subway car yelling in people's faces. He started picking on a black woman who was just trying to read her book. I stood up and began walking across the car. I waited for other people to join in or voice disapproval at the harassment. No one said a word, so I continued walking. I was angry that everyone was silent, angry at all the people pretending to check their phones, angry at the last few months of creeps and old black women with slashed faces. I started to feel like I might literally kill this guy. I have only felt this a few times in my life. The last time I had this strange rage was in college. I broke a guy's leg...who also happened to be harassing women (it was during a snow football game). I saw this guy on the subway car and I could see myself punching through his heart, snapping his spine, wrapping his body around a pole. I caught myself. I just grabbed the guy from behind, threw him to the ground, and put my foot on top of him. He yelped that he was just playing. I waited until the next stop when the woman ran off the cart. I left afterward and realized I couldn't entertain my rage-filled fantasies any more. It was too toxic and dangerous. I meditated.

A few months later on a frigid blizzard night, I was heading back from rehearsal. An old guy entered into the subway car and started to leer and make sexual noises at a woman. She was dressed in sweat pants, rubber boots, hoodie...so clearly she was asking for it. He moved closer and closer to her. I didn't want to have to toss an old dude...so I started laughing. At him. Then she started laughing at him. He froze. A man and a woman teaming up to laugh at his leering was...emasculating. Our laughter said 'yes, yes. We are cutting your dick off with our giggles, snickering, and pointing.' I took out my phone and started snapping pictures of him. 'We are laughing as we cut your dick off and I am recording it.' He shriveled, edged away, and ran out of the subway car. We both stopped laughing and went back to our corners. I felt tired. I kept the picture to remember that maybe there are other ways.

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