As the bickering between the two men intensified, phones emerged from pockets and purses around me—their eager eyes trained on the construction worker. He was not shy about lobbing racial stereotypes at the other man who kept assuring that he would, in turn, break him. It was apparent whatever transpired here would be on the Internet almost immediately. “Bigot Gets Broken” or “East Van SkyTrain Brawl,” Facebook’s trending headlines would read. I imagined GIFs populating comment sections and Huffington Post articles. Then someone would spot my shocked expression in the background and make a separate GIF of my mouth agape with a hand over one eye, which would then surrender itself to meme-dom. My face would be the response of anonymous commenters reacting to the new Star Wars series or some pop star’s abysmal prison gruel of a single. Thankfully an elderly man stood up, told them to cut it out and the phones bowed, dejected.
You were an excellent speaker and a fastidious listener. As your discussion on interview skills went on I could feel a fresh confidence swelling throughout the class. We were entertained as well as educated. Then, unfortunately, you tried to describe a scene of procrastination; a person who should’ve really been prepping while on their way to a big interview but wasn’t. Things would’ve been different if you had said they were “goofing off”, “screwing around” or even “picking their butt”, but instead you chose “jerking off”. It was almost audible, the sound of all of our lips pursing at once to contain a certain rupture of laughter. I know it was accidental but I had to pounce, offering that people shouldn’t be masturbating on the street anyways, interview or not. You turned scarlet. I felt terrible. It took a moment for the guffaws to subside. Then you countered: “Well, I can’t help what some people are into.”
There were moments when I thought you were going to pee your pants. In the midst of your frowning you crossed and uncrossed your legs and fidgeted in the seat as if you were scrambling to duct tape spidering cracks in the dam wall. Your transit ticket fell to the ground in the midst of the shuffling and a Good Samaritan picked it up and handed it back. After a brief, sheepish smile and a mumbled thanks you waited until his back was turned and immediately threw the ticket on the ground under your seat with deftness I’d never seen before. Your face stayed composed, and for a few moments, your body still. It was as if you were a character actor portraying the forgetful old man; the old, gentle soul. The transformation of which was quite impressive, even if you’d put it on just to litter.
“I love her more than anything,” you said into the iPad six-inches from your face. Alone, leaning against the wall of the Legion, you made your defense to whoever was on the other side of the tablet. Even with your head hung low and the heartbreak creasing your face, I didn’t believe you. The seconds it took to walk past you were enough to build a case: the headphones around your neck rumbled with incorrigible dubstep; your shoelaces laid untied—limp but responsive, like the deflated arms of a blow-up sex doll. The final strike of the gavel was your lips that smacked audibly with each chew of bubble gum. These facts lead me to doubt the sincerity behind the defense of your love. And while I’m still not sure of the context of your statement, I am sure that all of the crime dramas I’ve been watching lately have taught me to trust my gut, no matter how much beer I’ve had.