A guy got in my face on the bus today.
I had asked him to put his bag into his lap because there were two dozen people standing in the aisle and he was taking up two seats. He literally shoved people out of the way to get back to me.
To intimidate me.
To scream in my face that I was a faggot.
I had gotten what I had wanted, as two people were able to take his and his bag’s seats (though no one dared sit there until he had left the bus), but I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want to let him get away with that language.
Certainly I was made afraid by his threats of violence. More so for the number of people packed in around us who would have suffered the collateral damage of any reckless strike he threw than for myself, but more than anything I just didn’t want to escalate it further. I wanted it to stop, to go away, to be over. I regretted suggesting that he show some common courtesy and move his shit out of the way so that someone could have a slightly more comfortable ride home because by that time everyone was having a less comfortable ride home.
The passengers looked around uneasily, some snickering and some even recording as he, shorter but bulkier, shouted at me that I wasn’t his daddy and that I shouldn’t have been starting shit.
That he would fuck me in the ass.
That I was a bitch ass peckerwood punk.
And I felt like a bitch ass peckerwood punk, because I couldn’t stand up and say that it wasn’t cool to use “faggot” derogatorily. Because I couldn’t stand up for the people he had shoved. I could only return his stare and hope for it to end.
He disembarked from the bus as soon as the doors next opened, and asked from the street why I wasn’t getting off. It wasn’t my stop. There was a collective sigh of relief and conversation resumed on the bus. A man tried to explain to me that sometimes there are people on the bus that feel the need to prove shit. I smiled saying that as a bus commuter I was used to it. And it was the truth. I’ve been called faggot and threatened on the bus (or from the windows of passing cars) so many times in Seattle.
Admitting that he wasn’t the first stung more than anything else. Facing up to the fact that I have repeatedly been incapable of standing up against that kind of hateful language, that threatening verbal abuse, directed at me or others, frustrates me. But what can I even do in that situation, how can I turn that into a peaceful learning opportunity?