I am stepping into the subway heading downtown from Uptown Manhattan. Two guys who are friends begin talking about me in Spanish not knowing that I understand them perfectly clear.
Guy 1: “Por que ellos (them—meaning Muslims) no se visten normal?” (Why don’t they dress normally?)
Guy 2: “La mujeres se ven mejor desnudas” (((Women look better naked. Hahahahaha—-laughter follows from both))).
I feel the sudden urge to make it known that I am one of “them” too. From their accents and appearance, I guessed they were Dominican. I am Cuban-American. I am one of “them” too, damn it.
A few stops later, about 10 minutes down, an African American preacher steps into the subway and starts preaching about Jesus. I ducked. The two boys sensed my fear and started whispering again:
Guy 1: “Se esta cagando, la arabe”. (((they were under the impression that I was shitting in my pants))).
As the preacher approached me, I plugged in my headphones trying to drown away his voice. I looked up. I looked down. At my embarrassed face. I gave up and just looked at the two boys who were waiting for me to do something…anything. I looked down again (((I’m invisible—lallalalaalala)))).
Preacher: “JESUS!,” he yelled!
And in my head I yell back, “I love Jesus, too.”
The train stopped. I grabbed my girlfriend’s wrist and ran out the subway. When I looked behind me, the two Dominican boys kept looking at me until the subway moved me out of sight. Our eyes met for the last time, but they weren’t laughing at me this time. They noticed that I panicked and left the subway to escape the condemning preacher. Perhaps they began to see me as a human who is capable of feeling fear, too…
This made me wonder if I should purchase an “I LOVE NY” t-shirt and print out apology letters that say “I’m an American. I have nothing in my bag, just an iPod and anti-bacterial lotion. Yes, I love Jesus too. What? The headscarf? I bought it at Forever XXI.” I can hand them out to terrified subway passengers who look at me in suspicious ways.