He was clearly drunk. Or was he? It’s easy for a drunk to clear the distance between you and them. They’re drunk, after all, and their understanding of what an appropriate boundary is has blurred along with their vision.
So, could it have been an act? Could he be playing at drunkenness in order to get close to me, close enough to attack me for my cashless wallet, expecting that I would simply pass off his behavior as drunkenness?
It’s impossible to know the intentions of any person, but it’s easy to imagine that a one-eared, possibly drunk, man is especially crafty. How did he lose that ear, anyway?
I took a step back with my right foot. Limited though it may be, my martial arts training took over unconsciously. That’s the whole point of training, isn’t it? I waited in a bow stance, calmly nodding in silent agreement to the things he would say, ready to break his arm if he made a sudden lunge at me.
Maybe he didn’t kill someone he was supposed to, or maybe the drugs he was supposed to be smuggling arrived in less than stellar condition. Maybe that’s why he lost his ear. Maybe he made someone very unhappy, and they aimed to make him very unhappy too.
“Those people,” he said, “bad people. Violent. All in gangs.” In broken and slurred English, he elaborated that he was talking about the black kids at the other end of the platform. All black people were violent and in gangs. And your people have never been in gangs before? I thought.
The more fear he expressed over violence being committed towards him by black gangbangers and police, the more I suspected that my deduction about his ear being cut off was correct. It’s a twisted world after all.
He continued to impress upon me the story of his life, and about how he’d be temporarily paralyzed. He still felt great pain in his back. He was an illegal alien, he said, and lived in constant fear.
My suspicions never let my fear of him wane, but certainly my fear for him was growing by the minute. Why the hell are you telling a complete stranger that you are in this country illegally? Why do you trust me? Go live quietly. You’ve had a rough enough life as it is. Make it easier on yourself and just shut up. These aren’t things that anyone needs to know.
And then his hand moved, reaching for me. Automatically, my body turned ever slightly. I flexed my fingers. I held my breath. My vision practiced some unholy focus.
And then he patted me on the back.
“You good person.”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
The tracks hissed with the vibration of an approaching train. It always amazed me how much racket the tracks themselves made as a train drew near, and I was never happier to hear that sound than I was now.
I gathered myself, and as the doors to the train opened, I stepped inside and found a seat far from the one-eared man.
I hope he is able to find a quiet and peaceful life, even if he scares the living shit out of me.
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