Are you a sheep, a cow, or an individual?
I was sitting on MARTA minding my own business. I ride this subway almost every day, and I am no longer that awkward suburb girl who stares at everybody. I’m still awkward; I’ve just learned the unspoken rules of public transportation.
The subway stops, and before the door opens I hear a loud joyous voice. The door slides open, and I see the voice. He bumbles onto the train, spreads his arm wide, and grins at all of us on the train welcoming us into his warmth. I realize too late that I shouldn’t be looking. He makes eye contact with me and walks straight toward me. Well, not straight, but he gets there anyways. In the meantime, I have become completely absorbed in my book.
“Darlin, can ya move that?” He points to the backpack that sits in the seat next to me feebly protecting me from mankind.
Begrudgingly, I move the backpack without looking at him. I turn back to the fascinating novel in my hand. The stench of a night that was extended into the next day’s noon invades my nose.
“Borderlands La Frontera.”
“Ohhhhhh. What’s it bout?”
“A Chicana. A Mexican-American.” I’m still looking at the novel.
“Ooooooo. Tex-Mex! Man, there are some fantaaaaaastic Tex-Mex restrants round heah. So, what’s it bout?”
“Her struggle to find her place in American culture because she isn’t American or Mexican. She’s both.”
“Mmmm. So is it French?”
“No. It’s in Spanish and English.”
He moves the book to better see the cover and peers at it. “La FronteRAAAAA. It’s French.”
“No. La FrontERa. It’s Spanish.” I turn the page, mentally marking the page number so that I can return later. I continue to intently “read”.
He takes a deep breath and begins to impart rambling wisdom upon me. He gestures widely and tries to make eye contact too often and for too long. He has an inebriated look of satisfaction and deep knowledge. He knows he is blessing me with deep thoughts. As the train slows to a stop, he pauses for dramatic effect and then asks me the question he has been building up to, “Are you a sheep? Are you a cow? Or are you an INDIVIDUAL?” He lightly punches my shoulder and stumbles off the train.
I return to the page I was reading when he first entered the train. A loud thump sounds by my head. He is standing outside the train, fist raised and I hear him ask, “WHAT ARE YOUUUUU?”
Oh, you know. Average day on the subway.