One of my pet peeves is when people don’t answer my direct question. You’d think I’d grown up with a drill sergeant of a dad or something, seriously. Yesterday at my bar, I asked some dude if he was over 21 and he said, “I have an I.D.” I repeated my question in the same tone. He said, “My birthday’s next week.” I wanted to pull my hair out. Really, what’s so hard about answering a simple yes or no question? Turns out it’s not always so easy to answer direct questions, and I got a taste of my medicine recently.
I was riding BART to work and torturing myself by reading Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, since I didn’t read it in 6th grade like “everyone else did”—according to the ruca. I was on the last pages, concentrating very hard on not crying when Lennie is asking George about the rabbits while George has a gun in his hand. My silent torment was broken as four girls who looked like they’d barely turned 21 stumbled aboard—wasted—with the drunkest of the four plopping down next to me. She was easily three hundred pounds. Now I’m in no way a fat-a-phobic like most of America. In fact, I think most of America is disgustingly obsessed with the anorexic look, and I also think that trains, planes and BART make their seats too small to begin with anyway. (Plus, anyone who knows me knows the ruca's got hips like no one's business.) What bothered me about homegirl sitting next to me was that she spread herself completely out, opening her legs and thrusting me and my book and my lunchbox and uniform against the wall. Then she let her head roll back on the cushioned seat, facing me, and began to snore. Her alcohol rancid breath spewed through the air of the clammed up train—I half expected a handful of flies to be dazing lazily around the invisible cloud. And her friends? Sitting right next to her, taking pictures with their phones. The one with the shirt that said Nasty Girl schemed, “Wait till everyone sees this shit on facebook.”
I was appalled. Sure I’ve been dumb and drunk and 21 before so I couldn’t really judge, but I also couldn’t move: my legs and nose were pressed against the window, and my rosemary ham and swiss-cheese sandwich was smushing like a pancake. I only had two stops left, about four minutes, but her breath was making me nauseous. I snorted tiny breaths through the coolness of the window, but the reek still found a way to spiral to my nose. I tried breathing through my mouth, but I could still feel the rancidness spoil on my lips. Her friends were all laughing, just sitting there taking pictures as she began to drool. Jesus Christ, all I wanted was to finish my book! But no— this drunk-ass chick who’d probably just drank the bar dry at the Kilowatt was ruining my tragic good-cry ending! What about the rabbits, George? What about the rabbits?!
We stopped at Civic Center. I should’ve gotten up but I froze; just sat there doing nada as the train filled up with 9-5ers off work going back to East Bay. I planned my exit route since my stop was next: she’d have to wake up as soon as I tapped her. Then she’d get up and move for me. Easy. Least it should’ve been.
The doors closed. The seats of the train had all filled up and some of the suits and skirts with briefcases were left standing. I put my plan into action. I stood up, the first of everyone on the train to stand, and very politely tapped the drunk.
“Excuse me?” I said. “I need to get off.”
She snorted. The three friends looked at me, bored.
“Umm,” I tapped her again, poking harder. “Hello? Can you please get up? I have to get off.”
Nada. An entire mariachi band could’ve been serenading Mi Cielito Lindo for her and homegirl wouldn’t have batted an eye. I was getting worried. Her legs, white and bare in cut-off daisy dukes, were completely blocking any chance I had of squeezing by in front of her.
Desperately, I looked at her homegirls. “Your friend needs to move,” I snapped.
Nasty Girl looked at me, her hair highlighted with blocks of blonde and black. “Jessie,” she said, snapping her hot pink acrylic nails in her face before she gave her a little slap. “JESSIE!”
The train was approaching Powell, the screech slowing down.
The friend looked at me. “Just climb over her.”
What? Oh come on. I’m not the 21-year old borracha—how did I get sucked into their world? Still, I had no choice. The train was about to stop and pretty soon people would be flooding on and filling up. Fuming, I climbed over her, stretching out one long leg and swinging around her, completely awkward as my purse fell off my shoulder and onto her lap. I felt slimy and sordid as I pinched my fingers like claws to pick it up—except it slid on the sweat of her thighs and into the crack of her legs. I finally grabbed it as she slurred some kind of moan and the three friends cracked up hysterically, either at her or at me or at both of us while they snapped away on their phones.
I couldn’t hold back any longer. “You guys are some fucked up friends,” I hurled at them.
Blonde and black and skunky-haired, Nasty Girl glared up at me, her heavy-coated pink glossed lips looking like shiny puss on her mouth. “Who the fuck asked you?” she retorted.
And since I hate not answering a direct question, I fumbled, not having an answer as all the standing suits stared blankly at us.
I was stumped. Who had asked me? Not one of those broads had asked for my opinion, not at all.
Seeing that they’d caught my weakness, all three friends laughed again as the train pulled to a stop, jerking us passengers slightly. There was already a mob of people impatiently waiting for us to get off so they could get on. I cut my losses, even though I hated the burn of humiliation for simply trying to school some 21-year olds with my 30-year old wisdom. The doors opened.
It wasn’t until people began shoving on and shoving off that my response came to me. I yelled like a crazy person as I got pushed like a fish swimming upstream against its school: “I don’t need to be asked, you girls need to be told!” I hollered, and made it out the train by seconds, the door almost snagging at my shoelace. I looked back, feeling quite proud of myself. From the windows, the friends were still laughing—as they held up the worn and torn copy of the book I’d somehow left behind.
The train’s engine roared loudly and pulled away, growing smaller in the tunnel until all that was left was its fading red light. “But what about the rabbits, George?” I squeaked weakly to myself.
And that, I did not have an answer for.
And that, I did not have an answer for.
© Sarah C. Jimenez 2011, All Rights Reserved