What was Wednesday? Was there something in the air? Did a be-mean-to-Stacie memo get handed out at subway entrances during the evening rush?
Whatever it was, I definitely had bad subway mojo Wednesday night. First there was the fighting couple sitting across from me. I hate seeing couples fight. In general, I hate seeing fights of any kind, but with couples I’m always on alert for signs of domestic violence … and then with the stress of figuring out what I could do to defuse the situation (yes, as if that’s my responsibility).
The focus of this fight was his anger over how nicely she put herself together. Who was she getting all dolled up for? And didn’t she know how much he hated to know that other men looked at her when he wasn’t around? Then he pointed across the aisle at me.
“Look at her,” he said. “Why can you go out like that: so plain no one would notice you at all, let alone look at you twice.”
Um, yeah. That would be me, the entirely sentient, sighted, hearing being that’s sitting right across the aisle seeing you point at her face and hearing you shout about her complete un-noticeable-ness. Thank you.
I guess, compared to his very made up girlfriend, I looked pretty plain. But hey, even if I am the plainest woman on the planet, that makes it ok to point at me and shout my plainness to the whole train car?
I transferred to the express and we chugged over the Manhattan Bridge and stopped at Grand Street. Many people got on, including a harried-looking Asian woman pushing a stroller full of packages and nudging her toddler son ahead of her. I was sitting in the third of a three-seat row, and the woman pushed her son toward the middle seat while she maneuvered the stroller. I looked at him and smiled. He recoiled in terror. Yes, complete and abject terror. His mother, unaware of me or what had just happened, kept pushing him toward the seat while he kept looking from her to me and back, pointing at me to help her understand why that middle seat was just not going to work for him. She finally settled the stroller and took her seat. She moved to push her son at me again, but noticed his face and his eternally pointing finger. She followed the point and looked at me.
Foolish me. I expected, at that moment, that she would give me one of those embarrassed, I-don’t-get-my-kid smiles that parents sometimes find themselves giving. I was prepared to smile back, even offer another smile to her son so he would see how not terrifying I am.
Rewind. She followed her son’s pointing finger and looked at me. Her face changed from harried to horrified, and she grabbed her son, pulled him to her tightly and leaned as far away from me as possible, stroking her son’s head and comforting him in the face of such a trauma as being anywhere near me.
* * *
While it’s true that flowers don’t spring up in my wake as I stroll the streets of the city, neither is it true that all life withers and dies beneath my gaze. I’m actually just a regular person — not too beautiful, not too unbeautiful, not too fancy, not too plain. And I’m pretty certain I don’t look like a demon.
Clearly, however, I should be walking around with a bag over my head.