Original published September 11, 2008.
Ew wee, I had a thorn in my paw the other day, didn’t I? That’s what happens when Caramel spends too much time with triflin’ folks. She gets can-tankerous. But I’m back to my sweet and spicy self today. Ain’t ya’ll glad?
Let me tell ya, I was out and about the other day doing the errand thing and I heard my train coming up on the platform, so I ran for it. Chile, it was a workout too, ’cause this stop is one I like to call “up in the air”. You know, an outside el. I was huffin’ and puffin’ and pumpin’ my arms so bad, I got a runner’s high. And don’t you know I still missed the train? I watched the thing pull away. And some bratty NY chilluns waving and laughin’ at me from the back of the train.
(NYC kids are a trip. They the only breed of youngster who ain’t fazed by a thing. They’ll watch a crazy homeless person gum some bread and talk to hisself and then laugh. Then give ‘em a quarter. They’re tough, you hear me? A tough crowd.)
I didn’t get mad at ‘em, no sir. Caramel was too busy feelin’ the beautiful day. (Honey, a warm, sunny day with a sweet breeze and no humidity is where it’s at, ok? My hair doesn’t poof into a mulatto afro and I feel so light and skinny. Love it.) I waved back at the little bastards.
The platform was vacant. Stone quiet. How often are you by yourself outside in this town? Hardly ever. So, I sat on a bench to wait for the next train and just soaked in the warmth and the peace and quiet. I even closed my eyes for a minute and leaned back.
Mmm. So nice.
My hand hits something. I open my eyes.
It’s a bag!
Oh, lawd. My heart skips.
A black messenger bag is lying on the bench a seat away from me looking like the last thing a villain sees in a 007 movie.
And I’m the only fool up here too.
Caramel gonna die on a good hair day.
Ain’t that a blip?!
That dumb ass campaign starts to rollin’ through my noggin. “If you see something, say something! If you see something, say something! If you see something, say something!!”
You want me to see something, say something? Alright, here it is: Why you think you have to tell us that, City of NY government folk? Helloooo! You the one’s who’s puttin’ fewer and fewer attendants in the stations and providing fewer and fewer services, but charging us more money. (I ain’t seen this many hikes since I was at nature camp.) And when you replaced people with machines, you made it a lot easier for some dirty deeds to go down. Did you know that? “But the machines are faster.”, you say. Honey, where I’m from, “fast” ain’t always good. Sometimes “fast” can get you pregnant with a GED instead of a high school diploma. Where am I goin’ with this? Unless there happens to be someone in the booth (Like a WELL-TRAINED attendant who knows their job and wants to actually do their job! Please, don’t get me started.) to “say something” to, most folks, if they “see something”, are gonna run. Especially if that bitch is tickin’, ok?
Remember the LOST AND FOUND? Where you took somebody’s stuff if you happened to find it? And if you lost it, you’d know where to go, instead of freaking out once you realized it was missing? Remember that? Well, that’s what came floodin’ into my mind next. Why not just run the bag down to the attendant and then get back up here to catch my train? (Mmm, mmm, mm, I shole am southern, ya’ll.)
Then again, I should toughen up and try to be more like a city girl: “Yeah, screw it. I’ll leave the damn thing here. Why is this my responsibility? Am I my brother’s bag keeper?!”
Then again, do unto others as you would have them do unto you: “The bag looks normal. You know, books and stuff. It’s probably fine. A good turn for some good karma.”
Then again, isn’t that how they’d make it look…normal: “That way they could plant it and no one would think anything about it ’til it was too late!”
Then again… “Oh, where the hell is that train?!!”
Now, don’t trip Caramel.
A few other folks come up on the platform on the opposite side. Thank goodness. I relax a bit. I try not to notice the fact that none of them are white.
(In the movies, the bad scenes always go down when the light-skinned folk leave the room. It’s like, “Well, see you later Raheem. Bob, Frank, Skip and I are going to grab some lunch at the country club, you sure you don’t want to join us?” Then Raheem says, “Uh, that’s ok, Jim, I have to remain here so the building can blow up. Catch you later?” “Stay cool, Raheem.”, and Jim leaves. Poor Raheem.)
I’m driftin’. Bringing it back…
It started to get hot up on that platform. What happened to the nice day I was having? All because of this damn bag. You wait until this terrorist comes back for this thing, I’m gonna whup his ass for ruining my good hair skinny day with this red alert BS! Dammit!
Hold on. Wait a minute…
A big beautiful blond girl comes up on my side of the platform, smiles, then sits on the bench near the bag! I nod to the bag, “Someone left that.” She chuckles, “Someone’s having a bad day, no?”
Shit!, she ain’t white, she’s German or something. Lawd have mercy, Bush done pissed off the German’s too. And now they using blond people for they suicide bombin’!
(BTW, something I’ve noticed in the airport that troubles me. (Way more than the fact that I am pulled out of the line and searched EVERY time I fly. At first I thought it was ’cause they just had to lay they hands on Caramel, but then I realized from a colonel friend of mine, that it was ’cause I look like a foreigner!!) It troubles me that I have never seen a blond woman pulled out of the line in airport security? Seems to me that if you really wanted to start some shit on an airplane, you’d let one of them carry the boom boom.)
Anyway, back to it…
In a fit of unparalleled altruism and opposition to living in fear, I grab the bag and head downstairs to the booth.
Number 1: I do not blow up.
Number 2: The blond does not try to stop me by throwing herself on the bag to detonate it.
And A: I do not get a call from Miss Moneypenny on my shoe.
I race down the stairs, and on the way, pass a few more folks headed up. This hot to trot little Latin couple who can’t wait to get up to the platform so they can really stretch out and have pure d sex. (Young folks is haughty these days! My young women especially. Have some respect for yourself, sugah, you a diamond, not cut glass. Meanwhile, what is up with Lauren Hill, ya’ll?!)
And two women in burkas or whatever. (You know, they’s head’s covered and such.) Hauling up two kids and a baby carriage.
Uh, ya’ll gone think I’m bad, but Caramel feels a little pang in her heart everytime I see these ladies covered up from head to toe. I mean, why? Was women butt ugly back in the old days in the Middle East? (Even so, if you fell out the ugly tree and hit ev’ry branch, don’t you deserve to show yourself and walk with pride? I mean, my goodness, ain’t we all beautiful flowers of the garden of the world?) I always get the Underground Railroad itch and wanna start singin’ “Wade in the Water” or something at ‘em, and help ‘em get free. To each his own though, you know.
I get to the booth and explain everything to the attendant…(Silence)
Let’s try that again.
I get to the booth and explain everything to the attendant…(More silence)
I step back. See, now this woman behind the glass suspects me of something fishy. Now, I’m being looked at like I planted the thing and this is all a ploy to get her to take it and then, kaboom! I try to explain that I would hardly be holding the bag and standing there in the wide open like that if I meant harm, but apparently what they taught in terrorist identification school is that, yeah, actually, I would be standing there in the wide open with a suspicious bag asking her to hold it etc.
I was in a real pickle. I almost just set the thing down right outside the booth, but she let me know that while she wouldn’t lift a finger to replenish my Metrocard (If I see another one of these folks just sittin’ in the booth DOING NOTHING, but pointing folks to the machines, I’m gonna go crazy! What are we paying these people for!!), she would have no problem calling the heat if I even thought of doing that.
So the female Barney Fife stares at me blankly, and mouths “I can’t take it.”, from behind the bulletproof glass after I ask what I should do.
I don’t get it. What’s happening? Did the terrorists win? Can we not help each other at all? Did 9/11 rip the Lost and Found from the fabric of our existence? Or is it just that my southern hospitality has caused me to be in yet another crazy situation in this city? When will it end? When will it end?! I pace for a bit and try to figure what next.
I hear my train coming.
Hell, at this point, I’d just as soon take it back to the bench, forget all this, catch my train and get to Pay Less before BOGO ended today, ok? (I know, I know, they cheap. But I can stock up on little sandals and not spend over $20. I’m sorry, but spending $60 for some Donna Karan flip flops just cause you can, and then gettin’ swole at me ’cause my little $8 ones look better than yours makes you a crazy ole “fancy pants”! Sorry Bettina, girl.)
Caramel Code 101: Fancy Pants = A high falutin’ so and so who thinks they too good for what regular folks thinks is fine. They order the most expensive thing on the menu every time when you all go out, or they look down with a sniff as if summering in North Carolina is beneath doing so in the Hamptons. (Who cares! As long as I gets to “summer” at all, honey, I’m grinnin’!)
So, I’m about to miss my train and/or get arrested for being southern, when out of this back door comes a little brown man in a MTA uniform. He reaches for the bag. (After he gives the attendant a look.)
“I’ll take care of it. You found it on the bench?”
“Yes. I guess I should have left it there, but you never know. It feels like books or something, but I didn’t open it.”
I hand him the bag. It makes a funny, rattling sound. We both freeze.
Lawd ham mercy, the blond upstairs done activated the detonator! She knew my southern ass would bring this bag bomb down here and kill us all!!!
He boldly takes it and lifts the flap.
Along with some books and a wallet, was a half empty can of nuts.
Honey chile, this town is crazier than a mattress full o’ bed bugs!
In this gossamer light we are all angels. None more important than the other. All with the same ability; to set one another free. Call forth in your hearts a kindness to see each of you as holy. Now is the time and this is the way. Now is the time to remember and shape our beliefs on what is true, not what is concocted to isolate us from each other. Now is the time to step out of the place of fear and embrace our humanity before there is nothing left to embrace. Now is the time to lift one another up, to regain our faith in the impossible, and to brilliantly combat confusion and violence with empathy and wisdom.
- Angela Forrest
The Revolution will be Caramelized.