Who woulda seen that coming. Sitting right next to me on the subway today is a woman I’ve talked to some here at work. But there is never time for that. So this was different. She talked and talked a storm. As always. I barely caught half what she said. The recognition came when she noticed a cockroach climbing up the leg of the person sitting to her left. She pointed this out to the individual, then checked her own self to see if a roach found its way onto her person. Then she turned to me to further spread the word, becoming aware she was sitting next to an office-friend. She’s the only person from this job I’ve communicated with outside the workplace. She’s cute and funny and, gasp, in my age range.

I had started the day’s commute noticing the presence of the other woman, the subway passer-by whose identity became known to me through incidental means. She writes, photographs, and does interesting creative work. But at half my age I see nothing but fandom from me. I like some of her stuff. Her poetry not so much, despite its buoyance. The photography, though. I wonder if she regards me with as much consideration as I her. She probably has done no research into my identity or anything else. She doesn’t seem curious like that. She seems stolid. There was an incident a couple of months back where she was going down the stairs to the 4/5 train. As she readied to turn a corner I saw someone running about as fast as one could run up the stairs and toward the corner she was about to turn. They came within half an inch of colliding. I gasped loudly. Nothing came of the near-disaster but it was still scary to witness. At the bottom of the stairs I gave her a big smile, whispering “That was scary.” She briefly smiled, as much as one can behind the mask she seems determined to wear forever. A brief moment of warmth from her eyes before returning to stolid, returning to avoidance of creepers on the subway.

I was going to write about other things today. I was remembering the children. Children as I knew them. The bullies and the braggards. Arn. Krishna. Stephen. John. Derek. A number of other kids whose names I don’t remember. They bullied and threatened me, in 1st grade my eye got poked by a broomstick on a school bus. Everybody hit me. It was the game of the day. When it settled down two of the older kids were overheard discussing my removal from the bus. They simply did not like me. They disliked my shoes, my lunchbox, my haircut. They were talking about throwing me off the bus, physically, if they could get the back door open. Windows were too small. The front door would get the attention of the driver. They plotted openly, knowing I was listening, growning fearful as the discussion seemed to evolve toward kidnapping or some sort of ambush outside the bus, outside school grounds, where I could be beaten, left, and forgotten. Those are the plans the older kids had for me. One of them had punched me with an elbow to prove his seriousness of intent. The other had kicked me, I don’t remember where.

There were other, later incidents. That episode occurred in Laos, where one really could dump a body in the woods and expect it to stay undiscovered, eaten by snakes. Later occurrences in Tampa came late in high school, where long pent-up disgust with who I am, or who they thought I was, led to shoving me against a tree in a wooded area. I don’t know what brought us to this wooded area nor do I remember exactly where it was but it was some kind of yearend event in anticipation of high school graduation approaching. It was dark and the woods seemed thick enough that I would not know a way out, not easily. This is when Stephen started shoving me around, visibly aggressive and snarling, calling me a fagot and saying I deserved a beat down. He would have had his way with me. From before that day and to this day I have never thrown a punch at anybody. I would probably screw up if I tried. I’d look gawky and flustered and this would feed the wrath of the attacker.

In fact Stephen did not escalate his threats into actions. After shoving me against a tree and lightly punching my shoulder, then calling me a bunch of names and saying I deserved a beating, he moved on to other conversations. There were too many other people around, including his father, though he was not immediately present. The father was somewhere outside the wooded area, I think.

Nothing was ever as bad as in Laos. Those punches and pokes-in-the-eye were real, and caused lasting bruises and trauma. I was moved to another bus. Actual police were called in to lecture the kids on possible consequences of their actions, consequences including expulsion from the school and who knows what else… deportation back to the states? That last part would not amount to much of a punishment, really. I was not present for this speech by the police but my mother was, flanked by the school principal. I honestly don’t think I ever told anyone how bad it really was on that bus. I’d get summarily snapped on the head with a schoolbook by one kid as the others squealed with delight. I remember having food stolen but that is all I remember. No detail on what I did for food those days, if anything. First grade. All those kids are in the yearbooks. I could find them, let them know I still think about them. I’m using fake names for this but the real names are flooding my mind now. Should I look them up? Look for them on Laos American alumni groups on social media? Out them? Dox and shame them?

Naaah. Who has time for that? Who has time to sit here for an hour typing about it in the first place? Oh, wait…

I imagine it will come back, the abuse, from parties unknown to me now. I seem to invite it, abusive relationships, in all contexts.