Today in America: a portrait of reality now
In the past I would have hid, put my hood up and turned towards the window, frustrations and
resentments simmering, held in my own body. Not so now. My thoughts spilled over now,
emboldened in Portland, in this strange election year.
The man stares at me directly, small eyes ablaze with lascivious intentions.
I turn back, startled by my own action- Will you stop looking at me please? You’re making me
Oh, you feel uncomfortable, do you?
I do, I say and turn away again. Thanks.
A black man behind me laughs.
Where you from? he calls out to the man,
Where you people from?
The man spits. We been here longer than you uh, longer than both of you.
What, so you Native?
Unless you Native Indian
Unless you Native Indian man, you not from here...
they was here before all of us man.
I fade in and out of listening to the exchange, unsure of my place in this conversation.
A smiling white man gets on the train. A new fervor erupts, subtly.
I turn around, fed up with my sickness, this pestilence of silence, thinking the black man behind
me thought I was concerned because this glaring man was of a darker skin.
It’s not about race, I say.
No, I gotcha girl, this man come in here and he gives you looks, I get it.. make you feel
At the same time, the other man sneers angrily, gets up from his seat and paces back and forth,
arguing with the smiling white man
Hey man, the white man puts up his hands, I’m just looking to see if y’all registered to vote?
Don’t vote for Hillary, that fucking bitch, snarls the angry man
Well the real question, says the white man, is who do you want on the supreme court? Because,
did you know that there were justices appointed who believed the bill to grant women the vote
was a mistake?
Well it was, in a way, mutters the snarling man.
Man, what the fuck you talkin about? the black man laughs, What, women don’t get to vote?
This woman here don’t get to vote? What, they just sit there and get fucked?
Yeah man, yeah, in a way...
They, what, just breed your fuckin babies?
The snarling man gets up again and resumes his pacing back and forth.
He fumes and boils, cursing the white man, a skinny guy,
fuck you motherfucker, limey fucking nigger bastard, you don’t know me get off this fucking
train fucking limey nigger get the fuck outta here he rants and rails in a rapid stream of shocking
The white man gets off the train at a park, shaking his head in disbelief and fear at the man still
spitting curses at him through the window.
What the fuck just happened? I ask. I laugh nervously. Bemused. Confounded. Sensing the
presence of danger.
I’m just trying to get to work, pipes up a fat white man nestled in the back corner, wearing a
construction vest, eating a something out of a brown paper bag.
I’m just trying to get to the dispensary, says the black man with a shrug.
The three of us laugh and share a feeling, teaming up in congratulatory good humor against the
He returns, flecks of spit foaming from his mouth. He seethes.
Don’t even start this shit with me you motherfucker i’ll fuckin end you i’ll fuck you up i’ll fuckin
The black man laughs, arms sprawled across the back row like a regal panther.
Man, what language was that? Is that what they speak on the fuckin loudspeaker? Bla bla bla,
bitch don’t even bring that to my table. You want me to get jazzed? I’m bout to get down on your
ass. I’ll fuck you right up in your asshole. With pleasure.
Don’t call me bitch, fuckin crip.
Man why you keep callin me crip huh? I ain’t no gangbanger.
Fuck you crip I’ll fuckin knife you and you bitch, he looks straight at me, I’m coming for you
I look him square in the face. Don’t talk to me like that, I say.
I’ll fuck you with pleasure, says the black man. I fuck boys.
Do you? I ask, turning to face him behind me.
Nah, I like coochy.
Me too, I say, but I don’t think he hears.
Ey, why you still on this train motherfucker? yells the black man to the man pacing. He turns
back to me-
I fingerfucked em before, when I was in prison. No problem. Ain’t nothin to it. Motherfucker, he
yells to the pacing man again, I said get off this train!
The man paces to the end of the train car, shoulders hunched, muttering to himself, eyes wide,
mustache bristling, cursing rapidly under his breath.
Man I’ll give you somethin to talk about, says the black man. He winks at me and both men get
off the train.
Dude dude dude, calls the black man to the white security officers on the train platform, this
man has a bomb. Dude, I’m serious. I’m serious. Yes, he was threatening. Yes, yes I’m serious.
The train doors close and the black man tries to hold the door but is too late.
He bangs on the closed doors as they start to depart and smiles at me through the window,
tipping his hat as the train pulls away.
I laugh nervously and a Latina woman smiles at me and shakes her head as if to say what
nonsense, but also why you starting such a fuss?
Because I did, somehow, start it.
I feel like I’ve entered an absurdist theater, and the play is called “Today in America”. Hatred
and racism simmering, sputtering, spew, boiling over in bursts, women fearing dark skinned
men fearing gay men and darker skinned men fearing each other. Everyone wary, eyes ablaze,
pacing, calling out to each other. Energy swirling in torrents of chaos: swirling from one body of
fear to another, spreading suspicion, alerting one girl on a train- me- to a widespread network of
problematic bombast. The shadows raise their head and look at a girl on a train with lascivious
intentions. The girl, unwittingly, catalyzes a microcosmic reflection of fear and loathing. Performs
a simple act of defiance. Of empowerment, she thinks. Tearing a hole in the skein of sweet
capitalist illusion: everything is fine! We are all inclusive! Land of the free, home of the melting
pot! Deception and fear look the girl in the eyes. The girl takes her hood down and pays
attention for once. The girl looks back.
Bio: Sara True is a visual and performance artist, poet, and world traveler. She hails from Los Angeles, CA, where she grew up with white privilege, a fear of her own sexuality, and proximity to the sea. She is a big fan of critical reevaluation of self and society, of values we hold to be inherent and true, and of redefinitions of beauty. She currently resides in snowy Portland, where her work focuses largely on examinations of the body, unraveling the effects of the body politic on the intimate, sensuous body. Her work can be found online at saratrueart.com or on Instagram as: @saratrueart.
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