I was riding into Manhattan from my apartment in Brooklyn one Saturday night at 10 p.m. not too long ago when a little Latina lady with frizzy red hair, a tiny brown tee, and 80s jeans stepped into my car and planted herself in the doorway, one foot in the train and one foot on the platform. The doors tried to close several times, but she kept pushing them open and yelling something back to some unseen person in the station. Finally, a very tall, very well-dressed, very clean-cut young black man said in a friendly, familiar tone, “Mami, please decide if you’re in or out. I have to get to work.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the woman shouted back, “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?! I’M RIGHT HERE! I’M RIGHT HERE! SAY IT!”
At that moment, her son ran into the car with a scooter, which he must have had problems getting through the turnstile. The man kept his friendly tone and told her that he was just trying to keep things moving for everyone else, but the woman screamed over him, “WHAT’S YOUR POINT?! WHAT’S YOUR POINT?! I’M RIGHT HERE! IT’S A FREE COUNTRY!” The man kept on talking in a level tone, but I couldn’t hear him, because the woman kept shouting, “MY OTHER SON WILL FUCK YOU UP! MY OTHER SON WILL FUCK YOU UP! GET OFF AT 103RD STREET WITH ME! MY SON IS LOUIE, AND HE WILL TEAR YOUR ASS UP!”
The man was talking quietly, but he was evidently getting into the spirit and egging the woman on, because she got even angrier and yelled, “YOU CAN SUCK MY PUSSY!” At this point, I naturally had to uncontrollably laugh out loud and say, “Oh, my god!”, which prompted the entire train to turn and look at me. Except for the woman, of course, who screamed, “GET OFF AT 103RD STREET WITH ME, MY NIGGA! 103RD AND LEX, MY NIGGA!” Her young son finally got embarrassed by the display and patted her stomach, saying, “Mooo-ooom. Stop it.” The woman advanced on the black guy and said, “YOU EXPECT ME TO LEAVE MY 9-YEAR-OLD SON BEHIND?! MY OTHER SON LOUIE IS YOUR AGE! HE’S AS TALL AS YOU! HE WILL FUCK YOU UP!” Her son grabbed her arm to hold her back and half-smiled at how ridiculous she was acting.
A random white guy seated between the two of them suddenly clapped his hands several times very loudly and said, “You must calm down!” The woman yelled, “HE STARTED IT! I WAS JUST DEFENDING MYSELF!” The white guy said, “I know, I know,” trying to appease her, but she couldn’t seem to lower her voice. People throughout the train were laughing at her, and the black man had stopped talking back to her, but she continued shouting, repeating phrases that didn’t make sense in context. We were all looking at each other like, “This woman is insane.”
The train stopped at Grand Central, and as a bunch of us filed out of the car–the air filled with the sort of shared feeling of relief that all survivors must feel–the black man turned to us, smiled, and said, “Sorry about that, everyone.” And then he continued on his way to work.