I'm sitting on the Chicago #72 bus and feeling pretty decent, considering it's the morning and I'm headed to work. But wait, what's that noise? I take off my headphones and find that a middle-aged black man (that's pertinent, given his language) sitting behind me is shouting about the homosexuals. Them gays.
"John Wayne Gacy! He was a homosexual! He would have married young boys and fucked them in the ass! That's what he wanted to do!"
Classic. A couple of us chuckle, because what are you gonna do? But our failure to agree with him or acknowledge him pisses him off further. "Jeffrey Dahmer!" he shouts. "He wanted to fuck a n***er and then eat his ass! That's what homosexuals do! They want to marry each other and fuck the n***er in the ass and eat each other!" Then some other stuff about how gays are bad.
At that point my brain goes, "Oh, yeah, the gay marriage thing just happened here." When I saw it the night before, my reaction was, "Wait, we hadn't done this yet?" This man's reaction was clearly much more violent.
I think that he's finished, but then he starts up again with some of that classic cliché stuff -- you know, the "God hate this shit" stuff.
I am shaking with anger. Part of me sees how it's funny, but then he's right there, saying these real things to real people. All I can think is, "At least a couple of people on this bus are gay. How must they feel? What would he say to them if they spoke up? Why should the burden fall on them?" I see that he has a bottle in a brown paper bag, and I think that maybe I should just let it go, but he keeps shouting, and I just can't.
"OK, that's enough," I say to him, calmly but seriously. He shouts some more. I say, "That's enough. You're done."
I feel that I should mention at this point that once, when a man who was clearly mentally ill shouted at me that I was a prejudiced bitch and spat in my face (a definite chunk of spit, mind you), I took a deep breath, told myself that he was a sad man who needed help, and walked away. But the man on this bus was not like that. He knew what he was saying. He knew the effect it would have on people. He did it on purpose.
I tell him, "That's enough."
He says to me, "You should suck a dick! You'd be happier if you sucked a dick! You're a sinner! You got that p*ssy juice all over your face!"
I say, "You can see it?"*
Now, maybe I shouldn't have said that. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything at all. But I just could not let him feel like he'd won. I'm sorry, really, I'm sorry, fellow bus riders, but I just couldn't.
"Yeah, I can see it!" he says. "You got adult acne, bitch!"
Now, I didn't know that my acne is a curse from God, but at least now I know why these creams don't work. Or maybe he just lost his train of thought? Jesus, this stuff is so hard to understand! Thank God that Random Raving Lunatic Man is here to help!
"Yes, I do have acne," I say. "Thank you for noticing. Very useful. I'll get right on that."
He keeps yelling, and the bus driver pulls over and tells him to get off the very full bus. He refuses and shouts to call the police because he ain't leaving. He yells some pretty disturbing shit at the driver about not being a "house n***er" like her (maybe he? I couldn't see) and how he was going to come and rape her like she deserved. Too much here to unpack. When the driver says the man will be arrested for drinking on the CTA, he throws the bottle off the bus onto the sidewalk. Yeah, that'll fix it.
All this time, I'm literally shaking with rage, not for myself but for the people on the bus who may be hurt by his words, and, to be honest, because I'm going to be late again. I call in to work and say, "I don't know if you can hear this, but this is why I may be late," and hold up the phone. They hear a lot of ranting. My manager asks what's going on, so I hold the phone out at the man and say, "Would you like to tell my boss why I'm going to be late today?" He goes quiet for the first time.
When the cops come, he tries to wander off like nothing has happened. The bus driver yells, "Put his ass in jail!" I'd actually be OK with that.
I don't like to let myself be that affected by strangers, but I also can't just ignore it. We're told that we should speak up, but then again not, but we should, but just no. Was I wrong? What would you have done?
*For the record, I'm bisexual, leaning straight. No "juices" present at all, though.
An earlier version of this post appeared on Diana's personal blog.