So I’m walking up Sherbourne Street from visiting a friend. It’s about 7 PM. I’m dressed in a black turtleneck, jeans, wingtips and my French Connection overcoat. In other words, like any other distinguished semi-prosperous older gent trying to look one-third his age and partially succeeding only due to its being dark out.
A middle-aged black woman approaches me. She is about 5-foot nine – shorter than me – a bit pudgy, even solid; and with a creased, determined face that has seen its share of stress. She is wearing insouciantly mismatched items from, I’m guessing, the old Goodwill store.
You might imagine a cleaning lady, or someone who serves meals at a school cafeteria. She seems OK. Certainly not scary.
“Do you have a couple of spare cigarettes I could buy off of you?” she asks.
As I am friend to the poor, the tired and the huddled masses, I reach into my pocket and hand over the broken freebie she is yearning for.
Now she has me pegged. Do I have a light, can she have the filter (she calls it a “cotton”, which clues me in that she needs it for cooking a shot), do I want a blowjob?
Do I — ! But not, I regret, from Hattie McDaniel.
I laugh. “Sorry honey, playing on the other team”. I’m pleased with how sophisticatedly I’m handling all this.
Can she have two dollars?
I withdraw a bit. No, I say. No money on me (I actually have $100).
PLEASE can she have some money she needs to make five dollars to blah blah blah PLEASE CAN SHE HAVE
With one swift motion of her right claw, she reaches up and snatches my spectacles off my face. I can feel the scratching of her nails on my skin.
“Hey, don’t take my glasses! C’mon….!”
But she has taken them and she is holding on to them. I’m trying to play the shocked, disillusioned, hurt older male bleeding-heart self-serving white liberal. But she will have none of it.
I NEED MONEY YOU DON’T KNOW HOW ASHAMED
I turn around, fumble in my satchel for my wallet, carefully take out a $10 bill. I’m worried that she’ll see the other bills there, pull out some kind of weapon, grab the wallet, who knows what she’ll do.
She holds out her hand with the glasses. I want her to give the glasses back before she gets the money. She wants the money first.
Tug of war. Our fingers lock, tangle, pull. “You’re not going to give it to me are you?” she says.
With instinctive timing we both relinquish our treasures into the other’s hand.
“I’m so ashamed I did that,” she says, then turns and walks away. I suddenly realize she means offering the blowjob, not holding my glasses for ransom.
You know what? I’m lost in angry and astonished admiration for her. The whole universe supports you in being mugged, baby; we’re all mugged together.