Union Square. Crowded Uptown bound 4/5/6 train platform.
We pack into the train car tight like sardines. I'm standing, holding on to a bar above that I cannot comfortably reach. I'm estimating which one of the passengers is going to get up from their seat when the train stops at Grand Central. My eyes are watchful like a hawk. They have to be to secure a seat.
"Excuse me, excuse me!" he bellowed. "I'm not making this up. I know y'all heard about this." There was emphasis on the first word of every statement. "A woman killed by a stray bullet through a window. That was my sister! The funeral is tomorrow... Gun Hill Road... I need $18 more dollars for flowers..." He was screaming. Screaming like he was in mourning. Screaming at an inescapable decibel and still young people carried on conversations without missing a beat.
"I am poor. I am on welfare. We don't have the money to bury her. This is not a scam." Each statement was so definitive. "I have a death certificate, police reports, all the documents... Please!" he begged. "...it's not about color. It never should have been. We are people..."
All of this for $18? His voice got louder. A large gray-haired black man emerged pushing through the crowd. Can I just give him $20? Well... no. That's my spending money for the week. I won't be able to take class. Meanwhile folks are stopping him, putting bills in his hand.
The train finally screeches to a halt. I slide into a seat. The man stands at the train exit right next to me and then continues to scream:
"Watch out for these tramp ass b*tches and hoes. A lot of them usually come in my color."
What?! You've got to be kidding me.