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‘Excuse Me’
The Woman We Need
© 2013 James LaFond
DEC/7/13
I have recently been writing a lot on gender roles past, present and future. Ironically, as this subject occupies my writing time I have been distancing myself from women in my personal life. I see myself winding down my life as a writer. For me conversations are no longer about an end game, but as an interaction that will help me connect with another part of the human puzzle and hopefully learn better how to depict us on the page.
A few years back when I was making money many young women approached me as a potential sugar daddy. Now, as destitute—though articulate—white trash, I find myself regularly approached by middle-aged women as a potential provider or full-filler of some other need. It seems women in my age bracket still believe they are incomplete without a man, and will even settle for a suicidal, misogynistic, recluse, if he can only hold up his end of the conversation.
I have recently begun avoiding conversations with women, to the point of rudeness. I am still robotically polite at work where women are concerned, but avoid eye-contact and conversation. On the street I am coldly rude, still stepping over bums even as I devolve into one. Over the past two years more women have been taking the bus, having lost cars to the plummeting economy. Unfortunately I am no longer as scary looking as I was a decade back, and am now sought out as a Harm City tour guide by any neophyte bus patron. If they smoke, or have the emaciated features of the junkie or drunk, I ignore them coldly. If they are young and attractive they could be a vice cop posing as a prostitute, for which I could be worked over and locked up by a pack of vice pigs for even giving her the time of day [I have seen this].
Also, I recently got roped into a conversation with a female junkie that my friend is trying to straighten out. In two-minutes flat I wanted to light the world with a torch. Nothing infuriates me more than being verbally assaulted by some creature that I cannot get physical with without wrecking my three-point caveman credo. I have opted for homeless over henpecked often. I burned another hole in my gut and walked away. I hardly ever run into a woman on the streets of my neighborhood who is not a junkie, a crazy, or the consort of some thug. I have recently begun placing unknown women into the same soundproof Darwinian mental lockbox that I place the men of the urban world.
Last night I walked to a major transfer point in the driving rain, so I could stand under an overhang, as opposed to under my usual lonely street light. I arrived at 10:23, 11 minutes ahead of the last schedule run. I like dark, cold, rainy nights which keep the scum of the earth billeted in their dens. When I arrived in my trench-coat and hood a tall young person stood to my right. It was a female by the hip-heavy outline of the stretched floral spandex, so I ignored her. Heads up for bush league assassins: hire a chick to whack me. It will be the easiest kill imaginable. They drop off my radar screen immediately unless they are the tacky arm candy of some goon or punk, in which case they could be a useful speed bump.
As I looked up the street, straining my rapidly fading eyes to pick out the header on the bus that I used to be able to read without glasses from a half-mile off, a voice picked up behind me, a sweet, delicate voice, “Excuse me sir.”
I ignored her.
“Excuse me sir, are you waiting for the fifty-five?”
I ignored her. Yes, I know Erique. I am a jerk and have no game. That is the point, after all.
Her voice rose no higher, did not grate with the frustration of the user, the indignity of the divorcee, the desperation of the panhandler—just stayed musically complete, like the kind of voice that would sing a baby to sleep, “Excuse me sir, are you okay?”
No. I’m not okay! I’m praying to Crom for the apocalypse so that I can stack up bodies like Uncle Bernie did in Korea before I’m too old!
“Good evening. I’m glad I’m not alone anymore.”
I turned and looked up into the big brown eyes of this six foot tall college student, who was smiling with her entire face, despite the fact that she was speaking to a bitter chunk of negativity who just wanted to be left alone. She was not dressed for the rain, and she was not quite white, so would not be used for Jon bait by the cops.
She smiled as she spoke—even as she shivered, “I was hoping you were here for the fifty-five. I’ve been here for two-and-a-half-hours. I’ve been out since early this morning when it was warm: school, work, my friend’s. This is really tough.”
She was built nicely, and pretty, so I made sure I didn’t look at her again, but did speak, “I never come for the 9:34 bus. It fails to show two-nights-in-three. My boss lets me start an hour later.”
She had a shiver to her voice, “That’s nice to know. Thanks.”
I nodded behind me to the ghetto diner, “Next time you’re stuck here at nine, go in for dinner. Don’t stand out here.”
“That’s a good idea. You look prepared—I’m sorry for talking so much. I’m just trying to stay warm.”
“You’re doing good. You’re spirit is better than most in this situation. Most men would be begging me for money for a cab. Most women would be angry, ready to chew out the driver, who has no control over this.”
“Really, how does this happen?”
I then realized that she wasn’t researching a city planning paper, but trying to keep her mind off of the fact that she was miserable and freezing. So I regaled her with bus misadventures, told her how the bus routes are staffed, warned her about taking the bus during Raven’s football games, and reminded her to keep cab money on her incase this last bus ever failed to show, because she did not want to end up stuck downtown with all of the freaks outside of Larry Flint’s Hustler Club, taking the long way over to the East Side.
She was the first woman in a long while who was not surprised, and seemed to appreciate, the fact that I waited for her to board first. Her money was soaked, so the driver let her board for free.
I never asked her name, and have wondered all night and into the day, how it was that she brightened up my night and made those six pallets of freight easier to work. Her attitude carried the same positive energy as that demonstrated by the young people I coach and train with. And, somehow, something way beyond sex appeal was different about being out in the rain with a positive woman than a like-minded man. It recalled for me the woman I have been training as a stick-fighter, who manages to motivate me with a simple technical question, to the level that men motivate me with a challenge. This is something I’m far from understanding. I do know this, there is something motivating about the words of a woman who is not bent on advantage and has her eye on something brighter than what is around her.
Usually, when I get off that bus at night, the first thought that flashes across my mind is the best angle for a counterattack. I check for oncoming cars primarily to determine if pushing some hood-rat in front of one will be my best option. Last night I paused in the rain for a full minute and watched the bus pull off, and then didn’t bother to look either way as I crossed the street in my black coat and hood. I haven’t felt that good in a while.
I don’t expect I’ll ever see the lady again. I just did not want to forget meeting her.
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