This election cycle is, among many other things, a reminder how fear-based living creates suffering. It also embraces authoritarianism and I’m not talking about the Orange One.
Feeding the Demon
Fear: Fuck Everything And Run
The following is based on a true event, but it reminds of a story I read about a long time ago…
I took the train one night and, as is often the case on weekends, the NYC mass transit system (MTA) is a complicated mess. Most of the construction and structural upgrades occur during the weekends, so trains are re-routed, stations by-passed and it’s almost impossible to keep track. As a result, there are usually mobs of clueless tourists moving about aimlessly in our transit system. As a result, part of being a New Yorker is often adopting the duty of a de facto tour guide.
And so it was that night, when a tourist (don’t ask, you can tell) approached me for assistance. I assured her the oncoming train would take her to her destination (she and I were getting off on the same stop) and, as she struck up small talk, the train began to roll into the station.
As we entered, I immediately sensed something weird in the car. Everyone seemed tense and, sure enough, there was a person talking very loud, using profanity, and it had everyone ill-at-ease. As a New Yorker you learn to ignore such outbursts. Paying too much attention, or being obvious about one’s attention, often serves to encourage unwanted behavior. So being able to ignore unusual behavior becomes second nature to most New Yorkers. Unfortunately, Tourist Lady wasn’t a New Yorker and she committed infraction no.1: she made eye contact with the individual, who seemed especially belligerent. I took her by the elbow, guiding her to a transit map with the outward intention of showing her where she should get off. My real intention was to try to deflect the unwanted attention she was unwittingly inviting. I hoped that this would help sever the connection between Belligerent Subway Dude and Tourist Lady.
Belligerent Dude, who was apparently drunk, sidles up to us and asks Tourist Lady if she needs some assistance with directions. Tourist Lady (who’s not drunk, merely naïve), answers, in what could have been construed as a snobby dismissal, that no, she didn’t need help (and I believe she even threw in a little eye-roll to boot).
This, of course, sets Belligerent Dude off who starts in on her, making comments about her that weren’t too nice. Naïve Tourist Lady, instinctively edges closer to me and realizes, too late, that she probably shouldn’t have paid any mind to Belligerent Dude because he’ drunk. Belligerent Dude thinks she is a snobby bitch and expresses that sentiment for all to hear.
Belligerent Dude begins talking about Tourist Lady’s breasts, her legs, I mean, he’s just going off on her, and I know she’s embarrassed. Out of the blue, from the other end of the car, a man yells out, “Shut the fuck up, already!” and Belligerent Dude, as if on cue, goes off on that individual. In fact, he threatens the individual, who I shall call Fake Brave Guy, with a severe “beat down.” Once Fake Brave Guy realizes that he will have to exert more than bravado in order to handle Belligerent Dude, he backs off a little, but Belligerent Dude, who’s also a big dude, gets right in Fake Brave Guy’s face and challenges him — actually calls him a “fuckin pussy,” adding that he will “kick his motherfuckin ass” for good measure.
Fake Brave Guy suddenly remembers the next stop is his and quickly makes his exit. Of course, I’m sitting there hoping Belligerent Dude finds something else to do, but fuckin Tourist Lady is still staring at him. So, Belligerent sits right across from us and continues his running commentary on Tourist Lady’s physical attributes. And I’m sitting there thinking that reading my ebook is all I want to do. And now, he’s starting to get on my nerves.
Finally, I tell Belligerent Dude, “Listen man, why you gotta disrespect me like that? Can’t you see she’s with me? I mean, how would you like it if someone talked about your woman like that right in front of you? That shit ain’t right… ” I added a few choice words of my own and stared right into his eyes, hoping that my once vaunted psycho-I-don’t-give-a-fuck-look hadn’t softened from lack of use, but it wasn’t working. Tourist Lady also chose this point in time to move away from me a little, apparently undecided whether I was the pan or the fire. In other words, my psycho look worked on her rather than on Belligerent Dude.
Belligerent Dude responded by informing me that he was, in fact, on his way to meet his woman, and if anybody spoke to his woman in the manner that he was speaking to Tourist Lady (now my woman), he would kick that motherfucker’s ass. It was an obvious challenge, but one I was determined to ignore.
I looked at him as if I was tired and before I could say anything more, an older man sat next to Belligerent Dude and, in a soothing voice, began talking to him. At first Belligerent Dude was hostile to the old man, but because the old man was non-threatening and seemed genuinely interested in him — asking him about his girlfriend and how she was — Belligerent Dude directed his focus from me and started talking to the old man.
In a loud voice, Belligerent Dude began talking about his woman, in the process enumerating all her great qualities, and how he couldn’t wait to see her. The old man continued in this vein, asking more questions, and generally managing to communicate the feeling that he was interested in Belligerent Dude’s story — in him as an individual. Eventually, as Belligerent Dude continued to vent and he disclosed more and more, he revealed that he hadn’t seen his woman in a long time, and that he wasn’t sure that she would see him, and with the old man’s prompting, Belligerent Dude’s tough facade cracked a little as he continued to talk.
He had just come out of jail, he told the old man, and he didn’t really have anyone. All he had, he said, was that he was headed to the last known address of the woman he loved, but he was afraid that she wouldn’t be there, or if she was, if she would even accept him.
As the train arrived at my stop and I got off (with Tourist Lady close behind), the last thing I saw was the old man comforting Belligerent Dude, who had completely broken down sobbing like a child…
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…