the morning commute

i had one of those awful incidences this morning where you feel the world falling apart, where you watch other people make mistakes, compound one another's mistakes, and you are stuck there, mute, under-thighs sticking to the subway seat at a total loss about what to do next.

when i get on the train there are three cops standing in the car. Two in one doorway, one in the other. At the next stop a young kid gets on -- he's really tall and big, dark skinned. From far away he would seem adult, mid-twenties, but if you look at him closely you can tell that puberty happened post-Y2K. I'd say 17 tops. So when the kid gets on, he has to step between cop A and cop B, who sort of fold in around him, give him the stare down. He sits next to me, in the seat next to cop C's doorway. The kid returns the hard stares of the cops. He slumps way low in his seat, kicks his feet out, and clucks his tongue. It is the best possible reaction to have in that moment - one in which you do not return the obvious hostility of the cops, nor do you fold into yourself so much that you feel invisible, disapeared by their glares. The guy is taking up space -- probably a bit to macho for my taste -- but it is fair, his desire to be seen in that moment.

The train goes a few stops. The kid at some point stretches out one leg and puts it on the pole (between the two groups of cops) in order to twist around a remove a cd from his back pocket.

"You comfortable" Cop A sort of jeers in his direction.

"WHAT?" the kid asks.

Cop A steps forward and puts one hand on the pole. " I said, ARE YOU COMFORTABLE?"

The kid shakes his head, mumbles under his breath and lets a heavy boot drop back down to the floor. He is slumped now, spread out. He's at least 6'3" and he isn't the thinnest of men. At Atlantic Avenue the car gets more crowded, someone has to step over one of the kids legs and just as they finish doing so, Cop B steps forward.

"Sit up or get off the train."

"What?" The kid is jeering, snarly, hurt.

The cop steps forward and leans into his face, suddenly barking, angry. "I said sit the fuck up or I'll haul your ass off this train."

The kid has to sit up, to accomodate the frame of the cop's body, now so close to his. The cop smells like aftershave, he is that close to me to, but not fresh. He does not smell good. The cop glances at me sidelong, reassuring,. I feel worried that this is somehow related to me, to my proximity to the very large black man, that this is some demand of respect for the young white lady seated next to him.

"I said sit up or get off," Cop B shoves at one of the boots with his own foot. He is in his face, close, his eyes darting all over the boys face, not stopping long enough to really look at him.

The kid slowly, achingly slow, lifts his body up slightly. The cop steps back. As he does, the guy says "You ain't never going to break my spirit."

"What did you say?" Cop A steps forward, eager now, they both seem so eager to have this escalate, they both look so intent on forching some concession from the kid. It has been clear from moment one that humiliation is what they are pushing for.

The kid starts mumbling, kicks at the under part of the seat. It's quiet and subdued, but he doesn't sit still for an instant. Cops A & B fad back into the doorway. The kid shoves his hand under his t-shirt, toward the waist of his pants and the cops tense, their hands slide around their belts slowly. The kid sits there, mumbling slightly, with his hand under his shirt - clearly holding nothing, making sure there is no mistaking his motive, but also expressing a sort of desire, a small dangerous wish being communicated.

There are a few more exchanges. "What are you lookin' ats?" and "What's your problem?" spit across the aisle until the kid stands up, pacing slightly back and forth.

"I'm not afraid of you!" He shouts. "You not going to break my spirit and I am not going to be afraid of you. I will be." He keeps talking. "Not going to, not going to stop me doing."

By now there is an elderly black woman standing over me. She winces, closes her eyes and her body jerks with every word. We make eye contact, we both try not to cringe. Though I agree with him, I am afraid.

Cop C, who up to this point has been pretty mute leans out to the kid and says, "Why don't you chill out?"

The kid repeats himself. "Because I don't have to be afraid. I can sit and I am not afraid of you," he turns back to Cop A and Cop B, "I am not afraid of you mother. . ." he lets his voice fade and smirks. Cop C seems worried, more respectful. "Just..." he puts his hands out, palms down, and motions. Cop A and B have hands poised over hips, thumbs rubbing the snaps of their holsters.

Cop C says "Why don't you chill out, just sit back down. Just let it go." Good cop/bad cop.

The boy at this point seemed less eloquent, less sure of himself. He was walking close to Cop C, generally pacing, trying to appear menacing, but he was holding it all back at the same time. He was making no sudden gestures, he was walking up to where it might be uncomfortable and hovering, then moving away. He was flirting with something horrible, something that still would be entirely the cops fault for beginning. He was looking at it, he was considering it.

Then he just got off the train. He walked off at the next stop. Cop A & B came across the car to sort of stare him down as he walked toward the exit. They were not smiling, but they seemed happy. I kept thinking "Why, why, why are you doing that?"

Just then one of their radios crackled. "Park Place stop on the shuttle, there's a baby with no mother. There's a baby alone in a carriage on Park Place."

The woman over me shook her head, as she had been doing during the whole incident. We locked eyes again and she said, "A world where someone can do that, a world where they can just do that," loud enough for the cops to hear. "Is a world where babies get left out in the sun."


Blogger aimeeorleans said...

that story broke my heart in a thousand ways. thank you for re-telling it.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Body Mascot said...

Submit this.

7:54 PM  

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