I. Am. Not. An. Animal.
Living in Los Angeles has taught me a lot of things, the least of which is that parking is not 1. cheap, or 2. worth the headache sometimes.
As such, I keep my almost ten-year old car undisturbed at home while I hoof it to and from the train station every day. Growing up on the East Coast, I’m no stranger to public transportation. It wasn’t long before my mom started trusting me to catch the city bus home every day from high school, and growing up spending full weekends in New York taught me a lot about navigating the subway system.
I got lost a lot, but I at least looked like I knew what I was doing.
One of the things you realize early on taking public transportation on a semi- to regular basis is that people suck. There’s no PC way to say that. They just do. I’m sure outside of the train, or off the bus, they’re lovely people. But it’s as if the minute you enter the train station or bus terminal, the mask falls off and people are unapologetically dickish.
I had the worst experience yet with someone on public transportation just a few days ago.
After stepping onto the train and realizing no seats were available, I grabbed on to one of the side rails by the window, put on my ‘microtherapy’ playlist on Spotify and cracked open my book. As everyone else poured into the train car, a guy carrying his bike decided to stand right in front of me. No biggie. People hop on the train all the time with their bikes, their pets, hell, even their bundles of incense. For sale of course.
There’s an unspoken role amongst everybody sharing a train car or a bus.
Keep. To. Yourself.
Whether you’re mindlessly scrolling through your phone, reading a book or just staring at the floor, Keep. To. Yourself. Don’t disturb anybody else. Ignore all suspicious smells. Pretend that impromptu performance by the guy in the Adidas tracksuit isn’t irking your last nerve. Whatever you do. Just. Keep. To. Yourself.
As this guy’s completely unsecured bike rolled into me, pinning my book to my chest and nearly crushing my foot, I guess he thought I was supposed to just keep to myself. And if this had been me a few years ago, I might’ve. But a few more years under my belt and the promise of my comfortable couch just 15 minutes away diminished what little fucks I had left to give.
After gently rolling his bike back towards him and off of my damn toe, he flew into a rage.
Bitch. Don’t you touch my fucking bike. You fucking animal. Don’t touch my bike. I can put it anywhere I want. You’re not supposed to be here. Don’t touch my shit.
He called me everything but a Child of God for daring to move his property off my foot. I brushed it off, trying to stay cool as eyes started to wander over in our direction. But when it happened again, I pushed his bike back towards him fully preparing myself for the impending verbal assault.
You fucking animal. I told you don’t touch my fucking bike. Fucking animal.
I’m not an animal.
I said it low at first, not wanting to yell and cause a scene. But as he continued to raise his voice, I repeated myself.
I’m. Not. An. Animal.
He continued his tirade, almost ignoring my presence as he began to yell towards the whole train about how the world was so unfair to him because God forbid, he hold on to the bike he decided to bring into a cramped train car. He assumed he had an ally in an older man sitting nearby with his own bike, and he began to badmouth me in Spanish to him, not realizing most of my best friends growing up were Spanish and I was practically fluent a few years ago.
Part of me wanted to scream. To yell. To tear this person down the way they were trying to do to me. But as I looked around at the eyes peering up from their phones or glancing over their shoulders, I knew what they would see.
An angry black woman.
It didn’t matter that this person had called me out of my name. Had threatened me and could’ve seriously hurt me. As soon as I raised my voice, I knew what I’d be.
And I hated it.
So instead of rightfully pummeling this guy with the very bike he refused to hold on to, I swallowed my tongue and just calmly repeated I. Am. Not. An. Animal. as I paused my music and recorded him. And as angry as I was in that moment, I wasn’t sure if this was for my protection, or his.
All I know is that as he continued, and the older man kept glancing worriedly over at me, I held it together. I countered every burro, puta and bitch with I. Am. Not. An. Animal. And I also kept the anticipatory masses waiting for a WorldStar-esque brawl at bay by keeping my energy focused on the camera app on my phone.
And when he finally got off the train, for a brief second, I wanted to chase after him and read him for the filth that he was to me. But then I thought of my long day at work, my couch and the therapeutic venting I’d be able to do with my boyfriend and my parents (who I swear, are the Black Widow to my Hulk in terms of calming me down), and I let it go.
Every time I take the train now, I look out for his bike, worried I won’t be so willing to hold my tongue if we ever crossed paths again. But then I switch my playlist over from ‘microtherapy’ to ‘Ratchet’ and allow Princess and Diamond of Crime Mobb to say everything I’d like to.