A woman boards a train and is accosted.
|I got up, got dressed and got on the bus. I was trying to get myself out of debt so I kept my personal care expenditures to a minimum. I had skipped breakfast and was starving, but I still couldn’t pass up a chance to do a little window shopping on my day off.
When I arrived at the train station a seat was waiting for me. I was taking the E train to 34th Street and had a long way to go with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs. I looked at the people around me and noted how expensive their clothing looked. I reminisced about a time when I bought Guess jeans and Prada dresses. Sometimes I’d get them on sale and that would make them even more special, but now I couldn’t even afford that. Being twenty-thousand dollars in debt is no joke. Today, I was dressed in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. On days like this I always kept it low key so I didn’t wear out my good clothes. These particular sweats had a pattern of unintentional bleach stains and a hole in the crotch of the pants so that I had to keep my legs closed if I didn’t want to flash anybody. Admittedly, I was a little self-conscious, but it's not like there weren’t any other poor people living in New York, especially people who much like myself had previously been enamored with the latest trends and were now in debt.
The train started on its way to Manhattan. Along the way a man came on at Union Turnpike. He had white hair, an old face and a terrible cough which hindered him from singing his familiar intro. “People around the world, join hands. Start a love train, love train,” he sang. He had a small cart filled with sandwiches and he rolled it between the poles in front of me. The sandwiches weren’t much but I’d been starving myself for a while now and I was salivating. He gave his spiel about how he collected money to buy food to give to the homeless. He passed around to collect donations. As he was about to pass me he stopped and crouched down. He leaned in close to my ear and asked, “Would you like a sandwich?”
Though I did, it was something that I couldn’t admit to someone other than myself. I still had some pride left so I put my guard up and got on the defensive. “No,” I said, “I don’t want your stinkin’ sandwich.” I made a hurt/disgusted/infuriated expression to prove my point.
“Sorry,” he said, “You don’t have to be homeless to be hungry.”
God, did I know that was true. I said nothing. He made his way to another car. I wasn’t the only one who had been embarrassed by the incident. He had been embarrassed by my outburst, when he had only been trying to help me. I felt a little sad inside. However, that small glimmer of conscience did not keep me from yelling, “How Ignorant,” to nobody in particular when he had left the car.
That incident had thrown me off balance, and for the rest of the train ride, humiliated and not knowing what to do with myself, I accosted other train riders who otherwise I would have ignored and even got into an argument with another young woman over something trivial. I got off the train feeling like crap. When I went up to street level, I splurged and gorged myself on some greasy McDonalds’ food.