Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday 2:49 p.m.

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.

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