Saturday, April 30, 2011

Street Shock

As we approach the small intersection where we will turn right, Scott and I pass a tall skinny white man with a long dark ponytail. From the sidewalk, the sullen stranger looks at me; lifts his right hand and adjusts his long fingers into the shape of a pistol. As we pass him, rolling toward the red light, he pulls the trigger of his middle finger and says, "yeah, ya freak." The yeah stretches between us as if he expects me to agree with him. Ya is plain and painfully general. Freak sticks into the air like a real bullet might. I stare at the man from inside a voiceless shock. I want to yell out my window that he is the freak. That he needs a haircut. That he can go fuck himself. But I can't. I am nauseous, numb and dumb. I look to Scott. He laughs. He probably mistook us for someone else, he says, but the gunman looked right at me for four or five full seconds, I tell him. Later, Scott retells the story to our roommates. "The guy was clearly crazy." He says and I laugh along while sharp shrapnel sinks into my flimsy skin. I am free of physical harm, but this particular brand of verbal violence lingers like a wet scab. 

It reminds me of a day in the year we lived in New York City.  I went to cross a street in midtown. I didn't have the walk signal, but there were no cars coming so I did what I always did and began to cross. When I reached a quarter of the way to the other side of this massive street, I noticed a yellow taxi driving toward me. It'll slow down, I thought to myself, but it didn't and after two more timid steps, I began to retreat, turning and running back to the curb. Once safely on the sidewalk, I watched the cab speed by. There was no time to give the driver my favorite finger gesture, only fleeting eye contact. As he passed by, the driver glared at me, grimaced even. He wanted to strike me dead in the middle of the street, I knew. He wanted hit me and drive away, aiming his wheels to squish my skin and crunch my bones into the hot mid-afternoon city cement. As my body laid flat and bloodied, my guts torn out by black rubber tires and plastic windshield wipers, the driver would successfully flee the scene (for a yellow taxi in New York City is like a blond in Los Angeles: they are everywhere and they all look the same.) Shame on me. Such unessessary judgement against a particularly pretty demographic. But my shallow aggression toward blonds derives entirely from dull, imature insecurities where big boobied blond Barbies stand on the tip toes of my childhood bedrooms anxiously waiting for their next costume change, haircut, or private make-out session with Ken. It is nothing compared to the contageous hatred that festers in the puckered eyes of these grown men. 

Was the driver's day so bad, filled with so many mindless jaywalkers that he just wanted to hit one of them to revenge himself against every person who had ever caused him to tap his break pedal since the day he started driving the New York City's streets for tips? Was he caught inside the enchanting thrill of a death threat? At the time, I couldn't help but think the dark skinned taxi driver wanted to hit me because he saw me as a self-entitled white girl tramping across the street like a glutonous Goldilocks, trespassing and stealing the property of strangers, but that's racist to think and embarrassing to admit. Besides, my locks, as I have previously implied, are not gold. Was the man with the imaginary gun angry because we were driving an old beige Toyota Camry? Was he jealous of how openly we flaunt our fortune?  I knew we never should have gotten those spinning diamond rims, gold leafed license plates or that slammin' sound system. 

Perhaps the problem is that most of us fill our bellies with 20 ounce bottles of carbonated anger and any one little thing can tip them over, causing enormous amounts of emotion to spew out of us in unexpecteded explosions. I think that probably was the case of the cab driver. Yet when it comes to the man on the side of the road, I am still somewhat speechless. I have decided that he is crazy. Yet the real scary thing is that this man might be eligible to purchase a real weapon one day. Actually, he might already own one. The cab driver had a weapon, his yellow taxi. When his bottles tipped and broke, he tried to kill me with his car, or at least that's what it felt like. What if the man with the ponytail is packing a real pistol one day and I pass him again and for some reason my eye contact causes some kind of chemical reaction in his body and he draws a real gun on me and all I can do is stare back at him in a silent shock?