Encounters

Several days ago, I was on the train in the early morning when he entered. I knew before the doors shut that he was going to have something to say: he was the kind of person who stirred the air around him. He walked big and his gestures took up all the empty space on the train before the rest of his body even arrived. I reflexively entered my zombie zone and stared numbly down at my folded hands. And then he began, like so: “I am gonna sit down because I am tired. I have already traveled in many cars today preaching and I have many more to go. And I am tired. Yes, I am.

“But friends: I am here to talk to you today about something more important than how tired I am. I am here to talk to you about a word. One word. And that word is DIVERSITY. Now. God loves me and He loves you and He doesn’t care about the color of your skin. See my brown skin ? God doesn’t see my brown skin because He is gonna love me anyway, be I black, white or purple.

“I have a wife, her skin is the color of ebony. She’s beautiful, she used to be a model — and when I first met her, the only thing my friends could ask was whether she had a sister. We’ve been married 35 years and God loves both of us. He does. And He loves you too. So my friends, I just ask you for one thing. It ain’t for money. It ain’t for food. It’s that you think about diversity. God bless and amen.” On cue, the doors opened and he rushed off to the next awaiting train car. I was smiling.

But come today, I am standing on that same train engaging in my favorite commuting pastime: eavesdropping. The two men behind me are having a conversation, also about diversity. More specifically, about Donald Sterling and his recent comments and the ensuing actions taken by the NBA. But today, I am not smiling about their message. I am furious. I restrain myself from making comments, noises or faces and I study their shoes. And then I do the one thing I feel I can do: I fart. I fart right in to their tiny cramped space and I am so mad that I hope they smell it. I am so hot under the collar that I hope it smells as bad as their opinions sound. The doors open and I get off, leaving them to smell my stinky gas. And, now? Now, I am smiling.

When I piece together these encounters a few hours later, I marvel at my ability to survive in this town all these years…I mean, my best tough city girl act is silent flatulence as public confrontation and my very best avoidance pose features my hands folded in prayer. Yep, these are my weapons.

So, city folk, bring on more encounters like these. I am prepared.

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