Stranger on the bus

OK – I just got on the bus. I’m gonna try and do this undercover. Pretend to be on the phone. Then perhaps no one will notice. Or else they may be suspicious. Out of fear I guess. Or anger. You never really know with them. They will always find a way to make themselves look like a victim, justify any action against you – without them even knowing you. Driven by fear – fear to lose their grip over you – they feel safer when either there’s a fence or a voluntary seemingly satisfied inferiority.

Now I’m in their space. I don’t agree. I mean I’d rather not agree. This is public space. But it still feels like I’m in their space and that I’m being watched, being questioned about what I’m doing here. I don’t want them to be scared. I’d rather be invisible, anonymous. Like all of them. Just a stranger on the bus. I may be stranger. But I’m not neutral. Like they are to each other. Just a bunch of neutral strangers sharing a bus ride – a few stops. No. I’m the type of stranger that looks like will blow up their bus. And so I need to submit to their fears, make them feel comfortable in their space, the place I just intervened by getting on the bus. I have to watch my every move. Be conscious of all the eyes poking at me searching for clues. Either to get their assumptions confirmed or to calm them down. Postpone their judgment. Yet change their mind? No, a few stops is not sufficient to change someone’s mind. I’ve been living here for a decade and a half. And yet, their guts never intuitively signal ‘safe’. It’s either ‘guilty’ or ‘awaiting trial’. ‘Innocent’? Forget it.

Ah, she’s smiling at me. Thank you sweetie. Cute kid. Kids don’t judge color. Red is blue is yellow is green. All beautiful, all equal. I believe kids are born with a passion for aesthetics. But parents, like governments, kill this passion when the mind of the born artist gets to think for itself and pose too many questions – questions about the status quo. The ‘why’ sort of questions. Like “why daddy did not want to let in the black guy to fix our security camera but did not mind Black Pete to sneak into our house through the chimney”. And I ask myself why the mother of this child looks at me as though she’s gonna eat me alive because I smiled at her kid. But I can only ask myself. Because if I ask out loud, I’m disrupting the peace on this bus, making a fuss while I should be grateful I’m even allowed on this bus, I’ll be accused of being a racist because I asked a white woman why she is so scared of black people. So I don’t ask these questions. I silence myself. And thus, become a bystander. I am a bystander in this crowd. That’s what I am. In this system I will never be a victim, no matter how often I get scolded off public transport – while the dog gets the seat; spit on when I respond that I am not from a jungle; kicked during soccer because I played better than the white dude. Yet no, I am never the victim in this system. I am the other, a synonym for “must feel indebted for being given the benefit of the doubt despite all my signs of inhumanity”. I can choose to be a perpetrator – and thus fulfill their prophecy – or be a bystander and allow them to push me into submission, accept my inferior position and remain silent when my dignity screams for justice. I feel like a murderer of my own humanity.

Yes, that’s how I feel –  a murderer. I’d plead guilty if they’d accuse me of homicide. Coz here on this bus I’m allowing my humanity to be lynched. Dressed more stylish than any civilized person ever has, their eyes stare at me like a convict –  and so like a punished dog I stare shameful to the ground and breathe my last breath of masculinity.

Why am I doing this over and over again? Why did I not just walk? Why do I place myself in this position again – knowing that I’ll come home feeling drained off my manhood? And why the hell am I recording this – secretly? For whom? Who will listen? Who will listen to what I am saying. No one listens to me now – why would anyone listen to my dead voice in the future? Oh shit, I’m talking too loud, now they’re staring even more. “Baby, baby, calm down, you know I love you”. Good, they think I’m back on the phone with my girlfriend. I guess I better hang up. It’s over. I’m almost home anyways. And this recording monologue is making me feel schizophrenic. Well, at least it seemed like I had some company, someone listening to me, someone understanding what it feels like to remain standing when labeled as a dirty intruder. And one day, maybe one day, this voice will not need to be recorded in secret. Nor will it be silenced. I dream of that day I dare speak in public, to stand up for my humanity. But for tonight, I’m glad I spared my feet and took the bus like everyone else would, simply because I deserve it.


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