The drunk shoved the cigarette between his lips and continued muttering. “You’re allergic to smoke? Yeah, well I’m allergic to bubblegum”, I guess referencing the carefully placed decorations in my hair. He continued to loudly and aggressively speak to no one. The full train continued to stare at their books, stare at their feet, stare anywhere but at the spectacle. Every once in awhile he asked loudly, “so really, no one minds if I smoke?” staring at me in the window opposite of us to watch for a reaction. I continued to read the same sentence of Edwidge Danticat’s prose repeatedly, without meaning, only glancing occasionally up to check if he was still glaring. “Yeah, tough crowd – no one wants to talk, huh?” His protestations grew louder, over the wine and squeak of the rattling cars. “Fucking bitch, I’ll show you what kind of asshole I am. Yeah, you’ll see. I’m a five star asshole, you won’t forget it.” I began to tick off the stops in my head. At each station, I held my breath, hoping he’d get off as the train slowly emptied, stop-by-stop. Still, no one said anything, and he continued to rant. “I’m a man. Pushing a broom ain’t no job for a man. I’ll show these fucking bitches. Yeah, got nothing to say now, do you? Wanna express yourself now?” I continued to pretend I could comprehend even a word of my book, continued to pretend that the ear bud closest to him, still pounding out a quiet beat, blocked the sound of his nasty voice. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of existing to me, didn’t want to let him have a taste of my fear. And yet, I also was fighting within myself, fighting with every breath not to “express myself” and let him know that he had no fucking right at all, not one fucking bit, to intimidate a carful of people going home after a night out, and not even me. I had not wronged him – he asked a question, I answered, in as friendly a way as possible. My rage bubbled behind my lips but the icy clutch around my heart and my common sense stifled my tongue.
#subway #rage #harassment #EdwidgeDanticat