My friend Haran and ride the A train from Brooklyn in to Manhattan. He's meeting friends and I'm going to a musical performance. The ride generally takes about an hour and a half. After standing and chatting for nearly an hour, a couple of seats open up and I move quickly to occupy one, loudly asking Haran if he wants the other, to alert other passengers of our intention, thereby hoping to avoid being cursed at.
A man boards the train and literally bolts towards me and the open seat next to me. I know that he's spotted the empty seat. And I know that he's heard me question Haran. And I know that he can see Haran making way over to me, as Haran tries not to elbow and bump the other passengers in his very uncharacteristically stereotypically New Yorker way. And this other man in his tight jeans, leather jacket and red cowboy boots knows that I know that he's heard me offer the seat to Haran. And all of this is happening simultaneously, as if in slow motion. People shuffle about the train, shifting, coughing and trying desperately not to stare at the woman with the large purple and green hat and matching sarong, teetering on her six-inch heels. Someone sneezes. Someone steps on another's feet and mutters an apology. A couple argues about finances. A father chides his son for forgetting his lunchbox at school.
And all the while, Haran is moving to sit next to me. I see him, this man stepping from the platform and in to the car, haphazardly weaving his way to sit next to me in the coveted empty seat. He stands in front of me, bitter breath of stale cigarettes and beer and I place my left hand on the seat and say, "My friend is going to sit here. We've been standing for over an hour, and you've just gotten on the train".
Dark green eyes shoot me a look of disgust as Haran finally sits. Cowboy-biker man grumbles and continues to stand in front of me, grumbling and glaring at me. I meet his stare. I know this is an unspoken no-no in New York City, but I refuse to be intimidated by him and figure that in a train full of people, if he tries anything, I'm at least not alone.
Because my friend Haran is soft and kind, with an aura that oozes peace and goodness, my frustration at this stranger quickly fades and the next time I look up at him, I smile. Now I realize that this could go either way; either he smiles back or he hisses at me. No surprise, he hisses.
Two stops later, a seat opens up across from us and fuming cowboy-biker man takes it and I can feel his staring and glaring even though I'm engaged with Haran and not looking back over at him, which takes a great deal of concentration not to do.
I imagine that when Haran and I stand to exit in just one more stop, this man will yell "bitch" and even though I'm next to Haran and his soft, sweet, loving energy should rub off on me, Bad Christina automatically emerges and before I catch my next breath, I hear myself shouting back "asshole".
But, our stop comes and we stand and we exit and no one hisses at me, all is well with the world and Haran and I go our separate ways. Two days later, Haran emails me, commenting on how proud he was of my New York attitude on the train. Smiling, I write back, asking if I get a medal, award or certificate for my New Yorker conduct. Haran in turn responds with, "No, just a seat on the train".