Place: The L Train.
(What appears to be a Homeless Man is talking very animatedly to a creeped-out stranger. He is speaking gibberish. He looks terrified.)
Homeless Man: Otamad Krik. Ayulac! Niwre! Enialb Sonaj!
(This goes on for a long time, the whole train ignores it. Then suddenly:)
Him: Yes brother! Let it out! Let her hear the pain!
(A couple of people titter)
Him: He’s telling the WORLD!!!
(pause, nobody laughs)
Me: I think we’re witnessing aphasia.
Me: When someone has a stroke they sometimes can’t speak right. I just thought you should know what you’re ridiculing.
Him: Oh are you a doctor? Can you go and help him?
Me: No. I’m not a doctor, smart ass.
Her: Don’t talk to him. You don’t have to talk to him.
Me: You should know what you’re making fun of, at least, right? I think it’s aphasia.
Him: I was just being positive!
Me: You were ridiculing him.
Him: Yeah. Well. Yeah. I…
Her: You don’t have to be such an asshole. You don’t have to turn the whole train against my boyfriend. The guy is (whispers) homeless.
Me: And therefore less than human: I get it. Sure. He’s had a stroke or brain damage, but let’s consider your boyfriend’s feelings here! You’re right. I’m an asshole. In this whole situation, I’m the asshole.
Him: Hey, if you’re such an altruist why don’t you go help him? You have a chance to prove how good you are!!
Me: Oh no. You’ve got it wrong. I’m not an altruist. I just couldn’t process my shock and anger at your behavior without pointing out that the man is clearly brain damaged. I’m just processing it.
Her: Are you taking photographs? DON’T TALK TO HIM. (then, to me:) He was just having fun. You made everyone on the train uncomfortable.
Me: Did I? Did I do that? Was it me?
(The train stops.)
Me: I believe this is your stop.
Conductor: Bedford Avenue.
(They leave the train.)
(I try to gather the courage to photograph the Homeless Man, but I feel icky about that, so I don’t.)
(I get off two stops later and tell the station agent there’s a sick passenger on the train.)