I was freshly shaven, dressed to kill, and headed to church early on a Sabbath (Saturday) morning. You should have seen me. I was in worship mode and prepared to hear a great message so I hustled to take the train.
Then came the drama.
An old man was on the other side of the street, hobbling toward the corner and crossed without stopping. He just missed getting hit by a speeding truck and being splattered like chitterlings and chuck steak across the intersection. It was unreal to see how he was a few inches from death. It looked like a bad green screen job on a B-movie: he looked artificially superimposed next to the moving machine.
I said, “be careful, brother,” when he arrived on my side of the street and he became irate. The old man, maybe in his early 70s, was taller than me and had an athletic build as if he played sports when he was younger. His filthy clothing, acrid body, and cigarette breath with a tinge of Thunderbird (or was it Night Train?) was nauseating. He chest-bumped me and shouted every emasculating insult at me that he could muster. The choice few insults that I remember were faggot, punk, and wimp.
Insults from an inebriated senior citizen. Easy, I thought. I’ll just ignore the old man and go my way. He doesn’t mean any harm and, even if he did, I’m too big of a man to get called a faggot or a wimp and get bent out of shape.
Passersby noticed the scene and stared in confusion at the two men, visual contrasts, and didn’t know if they should intervene or go about their business. He followed me across the street hurling threats and expletives in my ear as if he were a frustrated drill sergeant with an inferiority complex and then blocked my access to the subway stairwell, chest bumping me again. That was not a good idea because the stairwell lead down, not up. He could have lost balance and fell down, certainly paralyzing himself.
I tried my best to get around him and he did his best to be an obstacle. I made it down some stairs, though. The pathetic scene escalated when, halfway down the flight, he spoke as bombastic as possible, making certain that his foamy spittle splashed my face.
Now you did it. I’m gonna kick your monkey…
The poor old man, standing wild eyed in front me on a downward staircase, two steps below me, was about to get smashed. Call me a faggot all you want. Call me an Uncle Tom. I don’t care. But spit in my face?
Thank God for grace and mercy. I mustered every ounce of “don’t-kick-his-behind” I could find at the critical last moment and walked past him. I almost made it to the bottom when he raced down to start more drama. There was a man standing at the bottom of the landing, watching with concern at what he must have thought was about to become a volatile situation.
More insults ensued: “I’m not your brother, mother f*r! Go ahead like that smiling cracker down there. Look at you! You punk! You soft punk! You ain’t nothing! You hear me?”
The “cracker” was the man watching the scene. He looked on with pity, unsure of what to do at this point. He swiped his MetroCard and went through, stopping once again to observe the situation. I was finally able to walk past the old man and swiped my card to go through. He was still haranguing me and calling my masculinity, blackness, and self-worth into question. Everyone on the platform was looking around in fear and confusion when they saw me coming from where all the noise came from.
I shook the man’s hand who was wondering if he should help or not. I told him that it was noble of him to stand there and observe, risking his safety. He was impressed and said that I handled the situation well.
Today could have been another instance of black on black crime. I could have easily called the police and reported the old man and had him spend some time in jail. Alternatively, I could have hammered him with a sweeping right hook that would have knocked him against the stairwell wall where he would have hit his head hard enough to momentarily lose consciousness. He would have fallen backward down the stairs and possibly broken his neck. There’d be no more blogging from me because I’d be behind bars. Black on black crime averted.
Not all black men fight to settle their differences. Not every black man desires to kill the other. Some of us are willing to take the higher road of forgiveness and move on. I did.
Read this: Matthew 5:39