One huge perk of being an at-home mama is that I don’t have to take the subway five days a week no mo’.
I am reminded of this blessing each time I end up on the train. The delays have gotten much worse. Commuters look like they are suffering from clinical depression. The shiny, happy ones are just visiting from Austin or Cleveland.
I had a couple appointments in deep Manhattan the other day. Unfortunately, I had brought a novel that turned out to be unreadable so I tried to practice mindfulness during this rare occasion for weekday solitude.
Sitting across from me was an older Black lady with her chin slumped down on her chest. She wore dark sunglasses, a hat, about 20 beaded bracelets on each forearm, multiple layers of clothes, including a thick beige wool coat on this fair, sunny day. On her feet were thick white socks and flip-flops. She looked like she was either in deep slumber or closing her eyes to shut out reality. Her big turquoise purse was taking up coveted sitting space on the crowded morning E train.
I noticed her but I didn’t pay her any mind as I let my thoughts wander off.
Suddenly, I heard her screaming.
“Don’t you dare lay a hand on me, you beater! I will hit you right back, you beater! I bet if I were a man, you wouldn’t have dared touched me! I am so sick of men always poking and touching me! I will fight back you hear me!?”
A man had tapped her to move her purse so he can sit.
She came undone and her rage came spewing forth like hot molten lava. Commuters either looked away, looked past her, or stared while smirking as she continued to shout at the man.
The man took the seat calmly and let her continue with her loud diatribe:
“Drink some kombucha, you bottom belly!”
“Try some fine arts to exercise your left brain, right brain, you pig!”
When the man got off at the next stop, another commuter offered him his condolences and pat him on his back as he wished him a great day. He was smiling and unfazed. He hadn’t let her get to him because she clearly was dealing with a whole lot of pain that had nothing to do with him.
His tap on her shoulder had simply released all that palpable rage hovering at the surface.
When these type of subway incidents occur, I only get surprised that more don’t occur with all of us jammed together, getting sloshed around as if in a snow globe.
I’ve had my share of them, from a visibly deranged White woman calling my genitalia racial slurs to a gay White man growling at me for being “so annoying.” (I was simply sitting and existing, not eating or pushing or singing or playing any music or even breathing stank breath when I noticed him glaring at me like he wanted to hit me. I had to ask him whassup before his eyes popped out of his head and he explained that I was “so annoying.” Let’s just say…we had words.)
This angry lady’s diatribe reminded me once again of how we all have different triggers from different hurts that we carry with us. And God help the stranger on the train or the colleague at work or acquaintance at your child’s school or close friend or spouse who picks the scabs offa those wounds.
Shortly after this angry lady got off the train, another lady got on. This one was White, trying to be blonde, maybe in her early to mid-50s, carrying a bright white Prada bag. She was not pretty but impeccably groomed, her face freshly treated to a facial and who knows what else. Very well-dressed. Her essence exuded a pampered, enviable existence.
She kept checking her reflection against the dark subway windows as she conversed with her subway companion, a young man, young enough to be her son (but just an acquaintance). I couldn’t help but overhear their entire conversation as they stood right in front of me.
I started feeling annoyed by this privileged aging princess who was saying some really conceited sh*t while standing in front of me.
She kept adjusting her expensive clothes and checking out her unlined face. I got the feeling she wanted others to hear her talking.
“…so I’ll be headed to the Amalfi Coast early June. My friends are already there so all I have to do is show up, you know. How easy is that?” she said as she looked around.
My annoyance began to bubble.
“Fuck you and the Amalfi Coast. Why don’t your privileged ass just stay there and DRINK SOME KOMBUCHA, YOU BOTTOM BELLY!”
That’s when I realized that the only thing separating me from the raging lady earlier was that she said her stuff out loud while I shouted on the inside.
What we shared in common was that we took out our “stuff” onto perfect strangers who happened to push our exposed triggers.
I didn’t know this lady at all but suddenly, my wounds regarding the Haves and Have Nots, my family’s struggles and er, their lack of Amalfi Coast vacations even in the sunset of their lives, were easy to lash out against her bright white Prada purse and unnaturally unlined, pampered face.
Suddenly, I wasn’t myself, not the self that I know. I was eyeing my Tory Birch tote bag and Gucci watch, both purchased during our Double Income No Kids days, as if those trifling labels proved my worth before this wealthy lady. I couldn’t believe myself. GROSS!
My lightweight Costco Calvin Klein coat that every other woman in Queens was sporting this winter and my black jeans, also from Costco, suddenly deemed me Less Than!?
I may have to give this kombucha tea a try though. Amalfi Coast, perhaps another time. Who said the subway wasn’t educational?