by Roy L. Pickering Jr.
The subway train rumbled steadily onward, an encapsulated mobile community beneath the city streets. At four o'clock in the morning, few passengers were on board. The most inhabited car was the one pulling up the rear, which contained all of five people. Sleeping against each other in a corner was a homeless, but nonetheless happily inebriated couple. Immersed in conversation was a casually clad black youth of about 16, and a conservatively attired white man in his thirties. The final member of the rolling soiree was a blonde woman in her late twenties, decked out in party gear of the Bring Your Own variety, distractedly reading the latest romance novel to grace the NY Times Best Seller list.
"Yo, check it out, Larry. Girlie is peeping you out. Don't let me hold you back now. I know you want a piece of that. Her body is boomin’."
"I don’t think so," said the urban professional to his eager travel companion. Attractive certainly, but I doubt we’d have very much in common.”
"You don't think so? Don't tell me you're a mo."
"A faggot, a queer boy."
"I'm quite heterosexual, thank you."
"Then what's the problem?” asked the young man, genuinely perplexed at Larry’s apathy. “You gots to think that honey is fine."
"She really isn't my type."
"Not your type. Check out those titties. Those are fucking siliconed works of art. And did you get a good look when she walked in? That's one serious bootie. Somewhere out there is a sista wondering who the hell stole her ass."
Larry cast a glance at the leopard print tights that painted the woman's legs. "She's a little too showy for me."
"I know what homegirl can show me. Man would I wax that ass good. Now stop playing me. I refuse to believe you don't want to get up on that."
"I guess I find her appealing in a Staten Island sort of way," Larry conceded.
"Damn straight you do. Now go over there and bust a Wall Street rap on that fly honey."
"I'm not interested.” It seemed unnecessary to explain that he didn’t actually work on Wall Street. The kid’s characterization was clear enough. “Why don't you talk to her?"
"First of all, she's a bit too old for me. More importantly, she doesn't strike me as being into dark and lovely. You know what I'm saying?"
"I think so,” Larry said. “But you see, I have a barrier just as great as you do."
"Unless you're the lightest mulatto brother I've ever seen, I don't know what you're talking about."
"You may have noticed that the necklace she's wearing has a cross on it. I happen to be Jewish."
"So, who gives a fuck?"
"She very well might," Larry answered, a feint trace of resignation in his voice caused by a long ago love affair that ended for this very reason.
"I'm not saying you should step to the girl and ask to meet her parents. Just bullshit a little and get her digits. Next week you take her out, spend a few bucks, and then butter that biscuit. I thought you guys were smart."
"I resent that."
"The anti-Semitic tone of your last comment."
"The what of my what?"
"Your statement was prejudicial against Jewish people."
"By calling you smart? You’d rather be called an ignorant nigger? Look Lar, I ain't got nothing against Jews. Man you guys are sensitive. You own half the money in the goddamn world. What you got to complain about?"
"I got ... I mean, I have just as much reason for complaint as you. Jewish people have been persecuted as much as your race. More so even."
"You're talking out your ass now. You guys own all the movie studios, the banks, the law firms. That don't sound too much like suffering to me."
"You ever hear of the holocaust?” Larry asked, his voice rising from the whisper they had been trying to maintain as the conversation took on an unexpectedly political tone. “You ever read in the newspaper about what's going on in Israel? The people there are living in a war zone."
"You want to see a war zone? Come by my hood. Take a stroll through good old Harlem, USA. And how about slavery?"
"I'd take cotton picking over a concentration camp any day."
"At least the holocaust ended. Cotton just got exchanged for welfare checks and food stamps. Alright, enough of this bullshit. Let's get back to the topic at hand. Homegirl has been scoping you out since she sat down. You got the fly gear. Shorties be into that Brooks Brothers look nowadays. It shows you got an important job. It shows you have no shortage of Benjamins." He noticed the perplexed look that pass over Larry’s face and clarified. “Plenty of money.”
"I happen to be involved in a serious relationship. My girlfriend and I have been together for three years."
"So? You ain't down with OPP?"
"Am I down with Opie?"
The kid shook his head and suppressed a laugh at Larry's ignorance of slang. “Is your girl as dope as this one here?" he re-phrased.
"Is dope a good thing?"
"Not in such an obvious way," Larry confessed.
"More importantly, is your girl here right now?"
"So then there ain't nothing to it, but to do it."
"Okay, enough of this badgering," said Larry testily. "Why don't you go about the business you were conducting and leave me be."
"Sure, Larry, no problem. I was getting off at this stop anyway. You like to work solo. I can understand that. Just take some good advice. Whatever you do, make sure to wear a jimmy hat. That's a condom. These are dangerous times we're living in."
The knife being pressed against Larry's back was removed.
"I'll take that phat watch you got on too."
Larry was somewhat puzzled over the description of his rather thin timepiece, but did as he was instructed. He grimaced as his hard earned money went into someone else's pocket, but was pleasantly surprised when the wallet he had handed over earlier was returned with his numerous credit cards still contained.
"Ordinarily I don't do this. But I like you, Larry. You're all right."
The kid got up and stood by the doors as the train pulled into the next station. "Shalom, my brother," he said when the doors opened.
"Keep the faith, homey," Larry responded.
The young bandit bounded off the train. Larry watched after him for a moment, wondering how much his Rolex would go for uptown. When he turned back, he noticed that he was being observed. The couple in the corner had awakened, or rather, they no longer pretended to be asleep now that the crime they chose not to witness was over with. Larry shrugged his shoulders as if to say that he might very well have done the same thing had the situation been reversed. Then he straightened his tie, brushed back his hair, switched to a seat on the opposite side of the car, and proceeded to introduce himself to the young woman without a hint of the caution or trepidation he would typically experience. He would soon be exiting the train with no money in his pockets, but perhaps he could even the score a little by obtaining a phone number to fill the empty space.