I do have a staring problem, in that you are staring at me
It’s good to know that, even in a big city like this one, there are complete strangers out there who are so deeply concerned about finding out just what the fuck my problem is.
I was leaving the office tonight just before 11:30, heading east to Sherbourne station. I noticed a hefty Native guy walk across my path, with his head turned toward me, giving me the hairy eyeball. He was heading from the east, so he might have been coming from the seedy St. James Town area nearby, though I suppose there’s an outside chance he was coming from the wealthy Rosedale neighbourhood. I looked away as he passed in front of me, then looked back. He was still staring at me. I ignored him. Then I looked warily for a third time. Still staring.
Then he stopped and started walking back in my direction with a challenging look. I took off my headphones.
“You got a problem, motherfucker?” he shouted.
Did I have a problem? Well, yes. I was being accosted late at night in the downtown area by a belligerent, probably unstable guy who seemed the type to carry a knife. Also, I was being called a motherfucker, which isn’t fair since I’ve never fucked anyone’s mother in my life. Plus, he was reinforcing negative stereotypes about Natives, and because of this experience, I’ll have to work that much harder to confront my own prejudices in the future. I certainly couldn’t tell him that my problem was that he wasn’t a credit to his race. But, yes, I had a problem.
“No,” I said.
“Then what are you staring at?” he said.
I don’t think this is fair, either. I’m pretty sure he was staring at me first, but at worst, we were staring at each other simultaneously. Really, he was the one staring while I was giving him a series of furtive, wary glances. I think you’re entitled to keep an alert eye on your surroundings when you’re walking alone late at night downtown. I mean, he was, and good for him.
“I’m not!” I said loudly.
“You better keep on fuckin’ walking then!” he said. This was my plan anyway, so I was happy to oblige.
“I will!” I said. “See you!” I hope I don’t, though.
I resumed walking toward the subway, keeping the headphones off, fighting the urge to peek back over my shoulder and settling for periodically turning my head to the side and using my peripheral vision to check for movement behind me. I had a Catch-22 here: He seemed like the sort of guy who might decide not to drop the issue after all and come running up behind me to stick a knife in me, so I didn’t want to be caught off guard. On the other hand, he also seemed like the kind of guy who might notice me looking back suspiciously and fly into a rage, run up behind me, and try to stick a knife in me. By attempting to observe whether my demise was imminent, I might be inadvertently causing it. I felt somehow like Schrödinger’s cat, although one of my other problems is that I don’t fully understand quantum mechanics, so I wasn’t sure if the analogy was sound.
I don’t know. Maybe I should have told that guy, “What’s my problem? It’s that you’re mad at me! I just want you to like me.” And then we could have hugged it out and cried a little and talked about our relationships with our fathers. But really, my problem is that, ironically enough, immediately before this happened, I’d been drinking in the pleasant summer night and thinking about how much I liked living in this city. And now I like it just a little less. That’s my problem, motherfucker.
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