Friday, January 15, 2010

Voilence and Hair Extensions

This week I am posting a story writen for my by a friend of mine who goes by the name of Alex Kurt. Enjoy!

We were on the 16, going east on University, when the fists came out.
The bus had passed Dale and neared the capitol when I felt the first nudge of a fully-flung elbow at the very edge of its swing brush against my cheekbone. Having been placed the luckiest number of millimeters away from the appendage as it hinged about, I mistook it for an innocent swipe; the result of an a bodily adjustment, perhaps, and hardly meriting an acknowledgment, much less an apology.
Nonetheless, I turned to my left, curiously, instinctively, and was met by the sight of several adolescent girls beating the living hell out of each other. It appeared more a clash of factions than a free-for-all; the girl next to me, seated on the aisle, was joined in the struggle by at least one ally from the front, while two or three flung themselves from the back seats onto the pile, fists and arms and elbows and pink hair extensions a-flurry.
My iPod remains frozen on the song I was about to select.
The group had spelled trouble from the moment they boarded at the Snelling stop. They floated through the door and into the aisle amidst a loud barrage of cursing, bobbing swagger, swaying index fingers, and self-effacing racial epithets; seven or eight in number, aged eight to 14, they were led by a young adult woman (it might be a jump to suggest that she was anyone’s mother) dragging an empty stroller, upside down, and leading the foul-mouthed charge. It was clear some of them were angry at someone, or something, but what or who (or whether their pariah was on the bus) was unclear, as is often the case when preteen girls express angst.
As betting men might predict, the newest patrons of this University Avenue bus at four in the afternoon were African-American. Since my Republican father and his friends will invariably but indirectly attribute their behavior to their race by “just pointing out” a pattern of behavior – an attribution whose application here would be owed to bitterness toward Democratic-leaning populations – it behooves me to point out that a group of seven or eight girls, also African-American and aged eight to 12 or so, boarded the bus two stops later, led by a young adult woman with a right-side-up stroller, and none of them swore, at least loud enough for me to hear. Granted, I had put on my headphones two stops earlier. It was funny in a wow-I’m-out-of-touch-for-finding-this-funny…but-at-least-I-recognize-I’m-out-of-touch sort of way.
The second group of girls (this is also “funny”) appeared the most traumatized at the sudden and virulent outburst of violence a few stops later; many cowered and shielded their younger counterparts as the aisle became a spinning-turbine propeller engine room full of elbows, pumping, rotating, spinning fast against a backdrop of other spinning elbows. It became a veritable whirlwind as the engine overheated, spewing hair extensions and diapers and baby bottles and purses about the quarters; the squealing of the malfunctioning machine grew louder and more hate-filled.
Though it occupies a great proportion of space in my mind, the climactic piece of the ordeal lasted only seconds before being extinguished by two men who stepped in. Both men, it again merits attention, were African-American; it merits attention because despite my ideal position to restrain one of the elbow-peddlers, I simply stood up (so as to avoid an elbow with more inertia) and watched (had it been young men delving into a spat, I likely would have sought a quick exit). In so many words, I was a white kid in Frogtown, and lacked the will to convince anyone that I was a legitimate member of the north-of-94 bus-going community, or that it was my place to do anything but look on.
The bus had, by this time, stopped; the girls, clever as they were, would deceptively relax, free themselves of the restraining adults, and lunge at each other again. The shouting continued, scattered, taunting, and briefly united to yell “FUCK YOU” when the bus driver announced that he was calling the police.
All but a few of the girls got off the bus, supporting the warring factions theory. I imagined what they might have been fighting over. A boy? The first spot in line at the ice cream shoppe? Or perhaps the merits of micro-lending with flexible caps and production guidelines vs. direct mandated aide in the developing world?
Those still on board (given their indignation, they had likely advocated direct aide) continued taunting, and running toward the stairs of the side door with swinging fists: “IMMA KICK THAT DUMB BITCH’S SHIT!!” It went back and forth, the girls lurching toward the door, then reeling, until a woman in the back seats latched onto one by the collar and flung her backwards, declaring “I have to get to work, and I have to catch the next bus, so GETCHO ASS in the seat!”
Finally, peace was restored, albeit amidst a smattering of papers, trash, and – yes – pink hair extensions. The girls, now seated, shouted to each other across the rows as the bus rolled into downtown – less to communicate with each other than to inadvertently convince everyone on the bus that they were in the right and that they could, indeed, kick that bitch’s ass if they felt so inclined, but they were holding back, and she ought to be thankful. From what I gathered, the PR campaign was too little, too late, but oblivion is bliss. Just ask my Republican dad, or his friends, or white kids who volunteer in Frogtown.

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