I’m going to try and tell this as best I can. It’s a true story and emotions were charged, there was adrenaline flowing so while some parts are in high-definition, brilliant technicolour, and slow motion, there are some parts that are a hazy blur. Bear with me, I’ll do my best. Here goes:
My son and I had spent a lovely day at Taylor Creek Park in Toronto and we were on our way home. I had also picked up some super-bulky yarn for blankets or possibly snuggie’s so in addition to my large purse loaded with snacks, water, first aid kit, and all the usual accoutrements of shlepping a child around, I had a huge bag with ten very large balls of yarn in it.
We’d had a blast at Taylor Creek Park, if you call me almost having a heart attack every time my son got closer to the creek than I was comfortable with a blast. Oh, and him dropping his mitt in the creek in the process of tossing sticks in there and me having to dangle from a tree-limb like a damned spider monkey and use a large stick to fish it out for him – those mitts are handmade by moi, and so not easily sacrificed to the whims of the creek. And him fooling around and stepping out of his boot in the mud then landing back in the mud in his sock, so that I had to peel his sock off, roll up his pant cuff, and he basically went the rest of the day with one naked foot in his boot – where was I going with this? Oh yeah, aside from a few minor incidences, we had a blast. I’m grateful that my adventurous and hard-headed little monster didn’t go headlong into the creek or, worse, into the sharp rocks that line the bottom of the creek, just below the surface. I call that a win no matter what else may have gone sideways.
So we have two buses to take to get home. First the 23 Dawes to Main Station, which we ride without incident. Then the 64 Main south to Queen. The drama begins to unfold in the station.
I’m sitting on a bench at Main Station with my son and the first bus that arrives is marked ‘Not in Service.’ A bit of a letdown, but no big deal. I see a young man running for the bus. When he sees that it’s out of service he stops with a dejected sigh but no embarrassment at all which I find unusual, but nothing suspect. Maybe he’s just that confident.
Soon after an older woman catches up to him. The young man is slender and attractive, save for his rap-star getup. He’s really gone all out with the gold grill in his teeth, the super-baggy pants, the hat, the shoes. He looks like an extra for a Little Wayne music video.
I’m sitting on the bench with my son. Some time passes, and he asks me for a seat. I actually stand up because there was a woman behind me with her groceries so I’m not sure if there’s room for both of us, but there is because she has moved, and a few seconds later he pinches me, sort of like to get my attention. I think he was intending to say that we could both sit down and that he didn’t mean for me to give up my seat, but the bus is there and I’m so shocked about the pinch that I just drop it and so does he.
Now, he does something unusual getting on the bus, but I can’t remember exactly what. What I do remember is that it caused me and another woman to make eye contact.
“What is he on?” I ask.
She gives me that universal expression for ‘it sure beats me’ in response, and we board the bus.
My son, whom I shall call ‘Bob’, sits in his favourite seat, the very back corner, window, of course. I sit beside him. The young man sits in the very back on the other side of the bus along with his mature female companion, who was dressed in frumpy black clothing. The lady I had made eye contact with is sitting in the back, a seat or two in front of Bob and I.
A large Asian man boards the bus. As he is walking towards us, he makes the mistake of making eye contact with Little Wayne Junior.
“What the fuck you lookin’ at?” Shouts Junior. “If you ain’t got no money for me then sit your bitch ass down!”
The Asian takes a seat a few rows up with his back to us.
“Yeah, that’s right, punk.” Continues Junior. “You don’t know me, I’ll fuck your shit up!”
If my first clues weren’t obvious, then that one sure was. I was on high alert that trouble may be brewing. More clues were forthcoming. The next one came as we were pulling out of Main Station where he began mean-mugging a parked Police Cruiser through the bus-window, and throwing up what I can only assume are gang-signs. To this day I have no idea if there was an actual officer in the car, or if it was simply the car itself which caused this aggressive display of vitriol, what I do know is that if this guy is in a gang, he is a very small fry. First off, he’s riding the bus. Second, anybody with any type of clout at all is very low key. Only an idiot glares at the Police and throws up gang signs. The real big guys wear seat belts and drive no more than fifteen clicks over the speed limit.
So, I’ve already learned a lot about this guy. Namely that he’s probably on drugs, may be in a gang, and is definitely looking for trouble. What I was curious about was whether he already knew the Asian dude, or if he’d just randomly picked on him.
Our usual bus-ride on the 64 Main usually lasts about ten minutes, if that. I don’t even think we’ve made it to the first light when he pinches me again.
“Hey, you’re beautiful.” He slurs.
“Please don’t touch me.” I snap. He continues talking and I stare straight ahead, hitting him with an icy Dikembe Motumbo finger wag. Oh, no you don’t, is what I’m exuding. I’m really not too keen on being sexually harassed in front of my son.
I think this might have been when he mentions that he’s Colombian and that the woman with him is his mother. I don’t care. The answer is still no, but he’s still talking. The woman I’d made eye contact with takes this as her cue to move to the front of the bus. I consider moving, but this is Bob’s favourite seat, he won’t understand why I’m moving him and he may cause trouble, besides why should we move? For this punk? No. If anything does go down, I don’t want to be fettered by a very strong and frenzied little boy, angry about losing his seat for no reason discernible to him, so one goal is to keep my son as docile and cooperative as possible. Plus, in the seats we are in, I can completely block access to Bob with my body so he’s safest in the back corner with me beside him and able to quickly move in front. All of this I’m calculating in summing up my course of action, weighing options and considering all the variables. My hope is to be left alone to enjoy the rest of the ride without incident, but I’m not counting on anything but my own wits and strength. I believe the lady who has fled her seat for the front is informing the driver of the potential issue, but I can’t count on that either.
Our Colombian drug lord turns his attentions back to the Asian, all the while his mother sits in stony silence. I don’t remember what he’s saying, but he stands up, walks towards him, and begins swatting at the back of the man’s head. I assume this is the posturing men do when they want to fight, but the Asian is not responding. He wants to be left alone. He is standing just behind and to the right of the Asian man, with his left hand he is holding the railing, and I see him begin to ball up his right fist. He is about to sucker-punch the Asian, and the man has no way of seeing it coming. The other lady has moved, leaving only the mother, myself, and Bob as witnesses to what’s about to go down. My heart is pounding and this is so wrong.
I see a gaggle of young children have boarded the bus, I see elderly people, tired people, I think of my son, all in the twinkling of an eye.
The balled up fist gets tighter, then tighter, then begins to twitch.
“YOU WILL SIT DOWN AND BEHAVE YOURSELF ON THIS BUS!” I boom in a voice I rarely use and hardly recognize. There it is. The mommy-means-business voice and accompanying glare that my son laughs at and doesn’t take seriously. There’s only one difference; no matter what my son does, I’m not going to knock him the fuck out. This guy? I’ll lay him out like a… well, like a random stranger who is threatening people on the bus. No qualms. As a matter of fact, I’ll lay every beating on him that my ungrateful, hard-headed, heart-attack and grey hair inducing son should have gotten. Did you read about the snowsuit?!?
Every eye on the bus is on me. Colombia is so shocked that he obediently slinks down into the nearest seat, deflated. I’d like to think the matter settled, but it’s not.
“Mommy, you scared Bob.” My son accuses.
“I’m sorry, honey, don’t you worry. Everything is okay.” I say, in my normal, soothing tone.
Colombia stares at me with a blank expression of shock, then saunters over.
“You wanna start something?” He asks, towering over me. So now he’s posturing with me. I want to de-escalate the situation, but another part of me wants to kick his misbehaving ass. He has no right to be harassing and threatening people in the presence of children and ladies.
I’m sizing him up and deciding how to respond so he repeats the question, my son is still weakly whining about me scaring him.
“No,” I finally reply. “I’d like for you to sit in your seat and behave yourself. You are NOT going to fight in front of my son.” He continues to defiantly tower over me. “Sit down.” I say, firmly, but not unkindly. His eyes go from me to my son. I’m a little worried he’ll go for Bob but, finally, he sits. Then the bus driver shows up.
“Am I going to have to put you off the bus?” The driver asks.
Colombia stands up and mutters something about wanting his money back if he’s kicked off. The bus driver tells him he needs to behave and Colombia slinks back down and dismissively agrees to cool it. The driver returns to his post and we are on our way, once again.
It’s still not over. Colombia begins to apologize profusely, almost in tears. Apparently he just broke up with his girlfriend of four years. I do my best to sympathize without engaging too much. I really don’t want him to get the wrong idea, but I’m not made of stone and I’m a pretty understanding person when my only child and I are not being menaced. He’s laying across the seats and moaning about his difficulties, I know about hard times and I don’t hate the guy. I say something about him needing to go home and just sleep it off, and that everyone on the bus is going through their own issues. Then his eyes roll up and he slides onto the floor. I’m still not sure if something was wrong or if he was just being dramatic, but he laid there, cold, till I asked if he was okay and called out for the driver, saying I think he may need medical attention. I was concerned that he might be overdosing.
Finally his mother gets up and leans over him, liquid falls from her, and I’m not sure if she’s urinating or vomiting. It turned out that she was spilling her beer. She’s trying to wake him, the driver has stopped and is on the phone when he begins to come to. I’m thinking he’s going to wait for an ambulance, but he stands up and begins falling all over the other passengers. He’s fast approaching the gaggle of terrified children.
“Stay here, and don’t move.” I call to Bob as I rush forward, his mother is beside me.
“All right, that’s enough. Are you with him?” I say to his mother, “because it’s time for you to go.” I direct them both off the bus, keeping my arms out to make sure he doesn’t flop on anyone else. An elderly woman cries out in fear as he passes.
“Relax ma’am,” I say in my most soothing tone. “It’s alright.”
He’s off the bus and I quickly return to my seat. I feel bad for not comforting the elderly woman, but Bob is scared and alone and I need to get back to him, besides, what the hell is everybody else doing on the bus? It can’t possibly fall to me to do everything.
“Thank you,” says the Asian man, sheepishly. He’s a big guy with glasses. A gentle giant, probably accustomed to being picked on by tiny tough-guys. He doesn’t look like a fighter, but neither do I.
“No problem,” I say.
The woman sitting beside him turns around. “Are you okay?” She asks.
“I’m fine.” I say. “My adrenaline is pumping a bit. For a second I thought he was going to fight me.” All eyes on the bus are still on me. I feel a little embarrassed. I notice the men on the bus, the ones who did absolutely nothing to help, and I wonder if they would have just sat there, staring, if I’d gotten my ass whooped. They probably would have. Pussies.
My adrenaline was pumping for a while after that. I was pretty stoked up. Once I calmed down a bit I began to realize what a sad man I had dealt with and wonder if maybe I’d been a bit too harsh. He wants to be a gangster, but he’s riding the bus. He wants to be tough, but he just got put off the bus by a lady. Regardless of how he behaved he is still a human being and obviously one with problems. I know what it’s like to be sad, hurt, and painfully lonely. I know what it’s like to pretend to be something you’re not because fake friends and fake confidence are better than no friends and no confidence. My prayer is that he can make it through to the other side or at least find a happy balance and some wisdom on his journey. I wish him well.
As for the smattering of pussy men on the bus who failed to defend my honour, it’s just as well. I had everything under control and they’d likely have only made things worse. All’s well that ends well, although, I wonder how Colombia is doing and I have to admit it’s a bit of a stretch believing that he will be okay.