I walked away from the Downtown Berkeley BART station, saddled down by a new purse (a gift from Goldie – thanks!), aromatic leftovers, my purse, my backpack, and three books. I carried the books outside of my backpack because two of them were the reason for this trip. Having just closed Phase II of my fascination with author Lorrie Moore, I needed to return these copies of Like Life and the fascinating Anagrams before their due date.
It was one of those days where I actually kinda dressed up, an unpredictable occurrence. I wore a dress with leggings, topped by a feminine Timo Weiland coat, tipped by Osborn skimmers. I was aware that, compared to the peddlers, temporarily homeless youth, permanently homeless adults, and hoodied college students packing up, loitering, loitering, and jetting from Walgreens to Jupiter, respectively, I stood out. Not quite college age. Not quite dressed like a grad student.
Plus, I had plucked my earbuds out of my ears at the end of my BART ride. The passengers next to me kept pointing in my direction and tucking into each other to whisper. I had no idea if they were being snide about the dumplings emanating from the cheap plastic bag hanging from my arms, if they were judging the counterfeit Louis Vuitton purse dangling by their heads, if they were being Those Racist People on BART, or if they were stunned – just stunned! – by the gorgeous cut of my jacket. To stay alert and give off deterrent vibes, I gave them “I see you” looks and bared “I hear you” ears. My earbuds were still coiled inside my purse by the time I was walking above ground on gritty Shattuck. I could hear everything.
I had already passed four or so of the homeless people who hang out on Shattuck. I’ve long grown accustomed to keeping my eyes on the prize and don’t look left or right as I aim forward. For some reason, I thought the three books in my hand would communicate how alone I should be, how alone I should be left. I was aware of the two Caucasian homeless men to my right as I walked to the library, one in his late thirties and the other in his twenties. I was actively aware, hoping that the usual would happen, that I would be able to pass by without being acknowledged by either one of them.
I was actively aware enough that I barely bristled when they stopped their conversation, and the younger one said to me, “Hello, miss!” I just kept walking. Three seconds later, he finished his thought: “Bitch.”
In the grand scale of heckles, this is some amateur level shit. So I pressed on to the library, dropped off my two books, and headed back to BART. The quickest route to the station would be a clean backtrack. It would mean passing by the same bikes, dogs, people, and peddlers I had ignored, but catalogued, before. I’d have to walk by the extra angsty Millennial who scoffed at me before.
There comes a point in every woman’s walk along a crowded urban street where she wonders: Will he act on it? Will he follow me down the street? Will he spit on my shoes? Will he tell his friend the latest one-liner about my ass in a loud stage whisper? Will the guy that jeered me before recognize me? Every inch closer escalates into make-or-break time, and hopefully you’re just overreacting.
The latitude of my shoulders was reapproaching the guy with the lame insult, and I pressed forward again, less two passive, seemingly introverted props in hand. He didn’t say anything this time. No audible acknowledgement. He really was just acting out for shits and giggles.
You often can’t tell until you get to Point B.