I reach the subway platform at 1:00am. I study the gang graffiti on the wall across from me, something I don’t see when the sun is up, when the platform is filled with clicking feet and impatient coffee drinkers.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a shadow slip behind a concrete pillar. I snap my head, watch, investigate. Nothing. I turn back to the graffiti and I as I do, the shadow appears again, this time in human form, dark complexion, wearing an Oakland Raider’s jacket.
He walks slowly in my direction. I look at the clock. The train will arrive in 5 minutes. I can already feel its vibrations. But he will reach me before then, so I pull out my baton and wait. My sweat turns to ice. I’ve never been robbed before.
The time clicks to one minute and by now I can clearly see the guys face, wrinkled and sick, red eyes dripping with alcohol. A knife sticking in his leg explains why he is walking like a turtle.
He loses his balance and falls towards me. I catch him, put him on the ground, call 911. As I’m talking with the operator, the train stops for a minute. I breathe in the stale wind it produces as it speeds away.
I feel so guilty that I ride with him to the hospital. I kick myself with shame, because if the guy had been white, my baton would have never left my pocket.