A few mornings ago as I waited for the train, beyond the private place I inhabit at that time with my coffee and music, I sensed a disturbance. I muted my music (if you’re anything like me, you too cannot ‘see’ while music is pounding in your ears) and looked up in time to see a figure on the outside of the waiting area where I sat, approaching from the platform. I noticed her because all I saw was a head-full of natural hair piled beautifully on top. She was striding purposefully and right behind her was a shorter man trying to keep up. My initial thought was – a couple and he has pissed her the fuck off (yall know how we stride when we’re mad!)! He was keeping stride with her from behind; close enough to suggest intimacy. As the young lady pulled open the door to ‘my’ waiting area, two things happened simultaneously – I noticed how tall and extremely skinny she was and that the skirt she was wearing truly really could not be described as a skirt. It was what my mother back in my hoochie days would call a “belt”! The thing was barely there! The other happening was the woman who now joined the two-some and informed the young lady that the ‘man’ following closely behind her, was walking behind her with his camera taking pictures under her skirt! Yes, you heard me! He was being intimate… but not with her consent! This set off a chain of events that to this moment still disturbs me.
The young lady stood still while she insisted the ‘man’ go through his phone to show her his pictures. He did. He had pictures of whatever was (or wasn’t) under her skirt. Naturally, she was livid (as I was)! She proceeded to curse at him, reach for his phone to try and destroy it, grab at his shirt to detain him, as he pushed her off of him. She cursed and cursed, calling him a pedophile. Let’s address this… he was presumably in his forties or so; she was very early twenties (I concede however that she may have been even younger and I ‘aged’ her due to the outfit). The entire scene was disturbing and scary! As I struggled to regain myself enough to call the police, the ‘man’ ran off. The young lady removed her sky-high heels, put on flats and took off after him… disregarding her physical safety in an effort to protect her physical rights.
Seated next to me during this entire disturbing encounter was a Transit employee.
A man. In his fifties. A man who could easily have been the father or grandfather of this young lady. A man who works for the entity we were all waiting on. A man who neither stepped in to protect this young lady, nor raised his voice. A man who did nothing, but watch.
This morning as I got on the shuttle to Grand Central, I noticed a young lady seated a ways from where I stood, but close enough to catch my eye. Before I go on, I know you must be saying, “What is up with her and the Transit incidents?!” I concur. Moving on. There was nothing in her appearance that was the reason for my interest; rather it was because she was speaking to herself and gesturing wildly. Now, being a ‘New Yorker’, after all these years I have learned to avoid eye contact with anyone that seems a tad “off”. Wearing a hat this morning I was able to look without being caught. She talked. To herself. The train took a tad too long to pull off so I suspected something. A cop came. He entered from the door furthest from where she sat, looking. She saw him, got up and walked to him with the biggest smile ever. She extended her hand to shake his and introduce herself. He hesitated, then shook it. He asked her a few questions, she spoke. Then, he poked his head further into our car, asked us if she were “bothering” us, to which some said, “no”. He walked away. She walked back to her seat and on the way, informed us all that he was her cousin and they were “super tight”. Then she sat and resumed speaking to herself. She then threw me the ‘peace’ sign. I looked away; but continued to keep one corner of my eye on her the entire short skip to Grand Central.
In one week I was confronted with realities that plague so many – mental health and violation. Both with our very young.
In one instance, one may argue perhaps it could have been avoided – if she had worn a longer skirt, perhaps. Maybe if everything about her did not scream for attention she would not have gotten it. Right? Fucking wrong! The only culprit in that situation was the violator! The ‘man’ with such a sick and disgusting inside that that was the option he chose to exercise at 10:00am! A ‘man’ with the propensity to rape. Yes, I said, “rape’! See, cause if walking up on a woman and documenting what is under her clothing is a viable option for you, then acting on what you feel as a result of what you see is no stretch! Sickening!
Then today. What emanated from her eyes and lips was disturbing. The ability to switch from socializing with the voices in her head to responding (almost) coherently with the voice of authority was saddening. I listened to her and understood that she understood there was something ‘wrong’ with her. Her immediate recognition that that policeman was there for her, without his having to approach her, said this was not the first time.
There is an epidemic of illness that is plaguing our society; and, it is affecting old and young alike. There can be an argument made that that sickening voyeur is simply just sick. Yes; some will say that he must be. His disgusting behavior aside however, something must be done. And, one of what that is, is my race – Africans, Americans, West Indians, black folk everywhere – must stop ignoring our mental health! We must acknowledge that at times things get too much and sometimes when that happens, we break. We must stop thinking our inability to cope at times is a weakness and all that must happen is for us to ‘toughen up’! We must stop ascribing shame to each other and ourselves. We must recognize our mental the same as we do for our physical… health. And sometimes, we just get unhealthy. And, what may begin as a temporary malaise of the mind, left untreated, may result in a permanent irreversible condition.
All (with the exception of the cop) the ‘players’ (although none of what I said was a game) in these recountings were black. Including the Transit employee. I am saddened by this. I am saddened at the hopelessness that will and has touched all of us because of these experiences.
A young lady will forever remember the day she was violated and her private self was photographed. Another will again stand up and introduce herself the next time a cop pokes his head into a train car.