There is always a choice

I was coming home and thought I would stop by an Asian supermarket to get some stuff for dinner. When I entered, I saw a man, wearing black clothes, a beer in the hand, chatting with the cashier lady. He looked inebriated and was talking loudly but I assumed he was paying for whatever he had bought and was leaving the shop anyway. I could see the young woman behind the cashier visibly uncomfortable but first thought that, as he would leave, there was no need to intervene. I always intervene. I’m actually trying hard to be indifferent about life in general, and sometimes I’m quite successful at it. For, like, a moment.

Anyway, back to the shop. I’m staring at frozen edamame bags further down the aisle but can still hear the man talking very loudly. So instead of hearing, I eavesdrop and clearly catch a German version of “yeah with you fucking Asians I know what I would do” amidst a rant against the cashier lady. I turn around and see the young woman answering in Vietnamese. I first think “Ok, she’s got things under control”. But no, the man’s reaction to her answering is a high pitched mimicry of Vietnamese language with a kind of stupid dance and when I look I can see that the woman is far from amused or comfortable with that situation.

What to do? I too would be afraid. But I always intervene. So I go over with my bag of edamame which I confess I thought of throwing over the shop to hit at that stupid’s man back to make him stop and I calmly come over to the check out before interrupting the rant: “Hey, would you mind keeping in down and stop shouting now, I think that’s enough”. I say, staring at him coldly. The man stops his stupid dance and leans very close to my face: “Oh but I’m talking sweet vietnamese things to her you see?”, he hisses. He isn’t even that drunk, his breath doesn’t smell of alcohol and I can clearly see pure malevolence in his eyes. At least a drunkard can be forgiven, he’s under influence. This man is just a plain, gross and weak racist of a man whose fantasy of having a go with an Asian lady probably failed in the past. He leans closer and looks completely crazed. It would take more to impress me so I tell him, very firmly: “First you’re going to move away from me right now, second it seems you were talking shit and not Vietnamese, third I think it’s time for you to get the f*** out of here”. The triumphant and malevolent look in his eyes slightly fades as he realizes he didn’t succeed in scaring me by coming closer. He seems to hesitate and sneers before backing up slightly. He looks unsure as to what to do next now. He comes up with another great idea: “I’m the police!”. “Yeah I don’t think so, but I’m going to call your colleagues right now to verify if you don’t leave this place. right. now.” I say. The cashier lady is pretrified behind her cashier. It crossed my mind that should the guy has any sort of weapon she wouldn’t really be able to help me right this second but right now it’s about not losing it so I stare as determinedly as I can. With the stupid frozen edamame bag burning my hand as I’m still holding it.

He gives in. He gives a last look to his former prey and throws five cent coins at her, saying she can keep that. “Get the f*** out of here”, I demand, a third time. He does. He goes out. The shop is silent. There was only the cashier lady, another customer, and myself. Three women, and that excuse of a man. The cashier lady is shaking, she scans the two items I got and looks up: “Thank you for having defending me”. I think it’s the first time anyone says that so I don’t know how to react. It’s simply what I hope someone would do for me would I be placed in such a situation. “Just never show anyone that they succeed in scaring you, they relish the thought…” I say. “I just didn’t know what to do”, she answers. I know that feeling. How many times have I been bullied and didn’t know better either. “What did he want, I didn’t understand!” she continues. Well, my dear, he was a big stupid fat racist who is probably sexually frustrated, is what comes to mind, from what he told her. But I just say “you know, he was probably just crazy, just forget about him”, I offer, trying to sound light-hearted and casual. She probably felt the racism very acutely but I just want her to feel better. To feel that not all people are that bloody stupid and think they are entitled to bully someone else because they are smaller, bigger, thinner, fatter, darker or lighter. I would like to hug her but I don’t know her and I wouldn’t want to give her a second shock this evening so I just briefly squeeze her hand and told her “it’s going to be alright, those people feed themselves on fear. Just don’t give them the satisfaction and they’ll go away.” Her eyes are still full of tears and she looks shaken but I think knowing someone intervened will make up for the bad encounter. I hope so.

As I get out of the shop, here’s the man, seemingly waiting for me. He sports his malevolent look again and begins “Well, you…” I give him neither the time nor the pleasure to pursue, it’s me now who comes too close his taste when I point my finger at his chest and say “get out of my way this second and go to hell”. I didn’t wait to see his reaction after the stunned silence that followed and immediately walked away. I wasn’t about to give him any chance to frighten me or mess with my well-being in anyway. But when I looked in a window’s reflection a moment later I could see him walking away. From me and from the shop.

It’s often the case of not knowing how you would react until it happens. Well, don’t look away if you have a choice. Ironically, once at home, it also dawned on me: maybe he needed help too.

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