All the Times Nothing Happens

I started a new job in April, one that necessitates my taking the L downtown each day. I’ve been riding the train off and on since we moved here, and never had a problem except when with out-of-town friends or family members who already think I am about to be raped and murdered every day here in the urban hellhole.

Like I bring my mom on the very touristy Red Line, and of course that day there’s a guy peeing off the end of the platform and singing.

Yesterday the train was crowded, rush hour bodies crammed next to one another as we all tried not to notice the closeness and the coffee breath and the summer sweat. I could see, over a young woman’s shoulder, that she was reading Game of Thrones. Beside her a little girl was reading Harry Potter.

At every platform, we crushed in closer.

If you thought about what holds the world up, you’d go stark raving mad inside a second.

Passengers on the train called 911 to report the stabbing, and an officer was already near the 47th Street Red Line stop as the train pulled up, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

The suspect stepped off the train, saw the officer and surrendered, Guglielmi said.

Police still are conferring with prosecutors on charges. The weapon was recovered at the scene.

It’s not how often something happens here, I tell out of town friends and family. It’s how often something doesn’t. We gather in ways that would make us targets all the time here. Every morning commute is the next packed nightclub floor. Anyone with a gun could … anyone with a bomb could … anyone with a knife.

This many people, this close together, this often, and nine times out of ten the worst thing that happens is someone’s wallet gets lifted.

I’ve seen musicians jam on the train, total strangers dancing along. I’ve seen a whole car, Mr. A included, get involved in an argument about the precise ethnicity of Jesus, and collectively ignore a ranting panhandler into calming down, and help a woman whose stroller got stuck in the gap between the car and the steps. People have offered me water when I was hot and when it’s below zero everyone huddles under the warming lights and makes the why the hell do we live here face.

This isn’t me saying it isn’t that bad. It’s me saying that we exist in a state of fragile truce, at all times. If you thought about it too much, if you saw it moving past you, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.

We exist, in this country, in every country, in inescapable interdependence. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. I make accommodations, every day, for others. So do you. We do it without knowing it, looking past things, moving over, bending down.

What happens if that just stops?

This happens:

The first time I watched that video I looked at the two assholes yelling abuse at a dark-skinned man, in front of a woman wearing a hijab.

The second time I watched it, I looked at everyone else.

Yelling back. Saying stop. Saying this a disgrace. Saying that’s not fair. Saying that’s not right. Saying we’re not like this.

And it’s easy to say we are, because we are. I know the same Trump supporters you know. I’m a middle-class white chick and I don’t know all of the America you know, but three days after 9/11 I saw unemployed shitheads paint their chests red, white and blue and yell about “dune coons” up and down the street, and threaten good people, and do more than threaten.

It’s not that we’re not like this. It’s that we’re like this. And we’re like the people who yell back, too.

A.

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