Monday, April 24, 2017

Vignette City 31.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

It only takes about 45 minutes for the Streetcar to complete a full loop. A little more during rush hour. I like in most in the off times though. I like it on a rainy Sunday afternoon, nearer to dusk so that most of the people have all retreated home, but not yet so dark that I can’t make out the faces of people we rumble past on the street. 

I like to right in one of the backward facing seats so that I can look people in the eye as the Streetcar rumbles away from them. This has gotten me in trouble a few times before because I’ll rumble by and look right at a person on the street, really look at them, right in the eye and very directly and very obviously, I’ll study them and make no secret about it, but people don’t like to be looked at this way, it violates something. There is a decorum I guess, against really looking at each other. 

People don’t like to be seen. 

But then - only once or twice - I will be doing this and then I will feel the Streetcar lurch and grind down to a stop as we slide up to a platform. Then that person who just a moment ago I had mastery over, they step right inside the Streetcar with me and now they are in control because whereas before I’d been judging them, now they get to judge me. They get to see me and how lonely I must be just spending my time riding a loop around a wet city all by myself. They have all the moral high ground now because I violated them by seeing them, but now they are seeing me and though not once has any one of them ever said anything to me, once there was a man, very fat and with a thin worm of a mustache perched on the edge of his lower lip, who walked all the way to the very back of the Streetcar and looked right at me, right into me, as we clanked along. He was short and ugly and something about living his whole life like that had pushed him past the place where he cared anymore, so he was a little bit haughty now and having this power over me now made him exuberant in his anger. He had crawled over whatever shame he’d felt walking down the street seeing me see him, and he had emerged with an advantage over me. To me credit, I think, I hadn’t looked away. I’d met his gaze head on. I was not intimidated, but I was apologetic. I’m sorry, I tried to say with the meek angle of my shoulders and the down-turned edges of my mouth. I’m sorry that I saw you for what you are; a sad, insecure person, but I know your shame, I am that way too.

However effectively I communicated all that, I’ll never know. He got off the Streetcar a few stops later. I completed the rest of the loop and got off outside of my apartment building. 

I still look at people, still look at them just as closely, but I’ve gotten more careful, which just means I’ve grown more cunning.


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