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For All the Women in the Car

For All the Women in the Car
by Rebecca Lynne Fullan

The first choice I made that night was to sit down.

It was crowded enough on the New York City subway that the empty middle seat looked like a prize, framed though it was by the butts of strangers. It wasn’t until after I sat that I felt a heavy-air tension around me. Then a man started yelling.

“I would’ve hit him! Wheelchair or no wheelchair, I would’ve hit him right here.”

My eyes flickered to this young man. White, wiry, tall. Dressed tough and poor, and talking the same way. My body closed in on itself.

Suddenly, in an angry rush, the man-in-the-wheelchair came barreling back through the car, aiming himself at the man-who-stood. The man-in-the-wheelchair raged. He had golden hair and skin, and his elbows bent and jabbed the air. His anger was intense and dissolute, filling the subway car up like a balloon.
The other man approached him, screaming.

I don’t know who began what happened next. Perhaps it was the white-haired woman sitting across from me, saying, “Stop, son. Take it easy, son,” to the man-who-stood. Perhaps it was the brown-skinned, black-haired man, leaning down to the man-in-the-wheelchair and talking, talking, talking. There was a rush of air around me, voices rising from all sides: “Stop, stop, stop.” I found my mouth joining them, quietly.

The man-who-stood screamed. The man-in-the-wheelchair spun.

And a young woman stood up, and put her body at the pole between them, hung on, and looked at the man-who-stood.
I felt her decision like a jolt of electricity, and then I was standing too, hanging on to the pole with her. I didn’t want to leave her alone.

The conflict whirled around us. She went and sat down, leaning her head in her hands. I kept standing. The man-in-the-wheelchair retreated down the car. The man-who-stood kept screaming.

“You saw what he was doing, looking up the girls’ skirts, masturbating. I’m doing this for all the women in the car. For all the women in the car!”

He slammed his hand into the pole I was holding onto, hard. I felt the reverberation all through me. For me? For me like a shark is for a fish, like a bomb is for the land.

Stop, stop, stop.

I kept my body still and silent, in the space between.

Comments

sallysmithr's picture

Very Descriptive

You have a very descriptive writing style! Thank you so much for sharing your story I really appreciate it.

Thanks again,

Sally Smith

BeckyF's picture

Thank you!

Thanks, Sally! It means a lot to me that you liked my story and took the time to comment on it. I look forward to reading your writing, too!

Dear Becky,

Yes, there are so many instances of violence - physical, emotional - in the public spaces in which we find ourselves. Yet, there are too few instances in which bystanders become "stand-up-fors." This must have been a life-changing experience for you. For me, the reader, it is a call to action.

I read with fascination the unfolding of this story. However, the way you wrote the ending packed an emotional punch.

Thank you Becky for writing this story.

Your Sister in the US,

Jan

Jan Askin

BeckyF's picture

Dear Jan, I like your pairing

Dear Jan,

I like your pairing of interaction and call to action... I think that for me, actions I take for others can always be traced back to these personal interactions, even if the actions seem more detached and diffused.

One thing that was so powerful to me in this experience was how once somebody spoke up to try and stop the violence, so many people joined in. It sort of echoed backwards through all the times when no one did speak up, and made me realize that it is worth the risk.

Thank you so much for reading my story and taking the time to comment.

Yours,
Becky

Frances Faulkner's picture

layers

Becky -- I was very taken by this story. You have many layers here -- what is really going on? who is the victim? who is in charge? who is feeling what? there is no clarity and things are loaded. people in wheelchairs, low income people, women, men, people on public transportation thrown together....you do a beautiful job of just presenting the feeling of it and reminding us of how nothing is clear on the surface and meaning takes time and patience, and yet protection for somebody often takes quick action. How do we fit ourselves well into these situations?

I love that you bring this up for us to think about so we are in stronger positions to choose our actions when the times come. Keep up the nice writing!

Frances

BeckyF's picture

Hi Frances, Ah, I love that

Hi Frances,

Ah, I love that you like the layers and ambiguity. These layered, ambiguous circumstances are what drive my writing and my questioning, and, often, lead to my passions in life, but it is difficult to render them in ways that are comprehensible and immediate within their complexity.

Which is my complex way of saying that what you have seen in my writing is exactly what I was trying to present, and that makes your response extremely gratifying to me. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Becky

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