Does nice sometimes slip into cowardly?  

niceguyindc2 65M
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2/23/2006 5:07 pm

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Does nice sometimes slip into cowardly?

Nice guy in D.C. How ... well ... nice. One tends (or at least I do) to use the term (nice, not D.C.) as descriptive of interactions with others. A certain gentleness (physical and emotional), a non-judgmental tolerance which seeks to see others more "whole" as opposed to in selective components that yield negative or positive judgments when viewed through the prism of self interest. Trying to see all of someone -- the good the bad, the whole. How nice. How good I usually feel about me as "nice". Indeed.

Yesterday, riding home on the subway, I sat on one of the seats near the door that faces the center aisle of the rail car. Its around 6:30 after the sort of hectic day that leaves one a bit drained and frazzled. Tired, but not in the good way that comes from physical work or exercise. More the sort of cloudy tired that seems to center from the neck up. I am all but oblivious to all around me for at least one stop. Maybe more.

After a while, I raise my head and begin to observe my surroundings and those who inhabit it. Across from me and slightly to my right, standing against the subway car door, is a couple with a young girl -- maybe 12 or 13 -- standing between them. The woman -- to the right in my gaze -- is plainly the girl's mother. You see it in the nose, the jaw line and around the eyes. Mom is a little on the heavy side, dressed in pink sweats and reading a magazine -- Self -- but looking more bored than absorbed with the textual tips on being more fit, more sexy, more the American fantasy. More filling the time 'til their stop instead of drinking in the Madison Avenue prescription for happiness and self-satisfaction.

To the left is the guy. Not a husband -- unless they are a married couple that has chosen to eschew wearing wedding rings. About 6'3", broad in the shoulders. A dung colored North Face coat envelops him. His long, black, greasy hair falls well below his shoulders. I see him only in profile, but even from the side view, there is a certain menace that envelops him much more tightly than his dirty coat.

Between them stands the little girl. Slight. Braided hair. A plaid school uniform one can see peeking out beneath her purple winter jacket.

When I first notice them, the girl is pressing herself up against her mother, her back to Boyfriend. As I watch, Boyfriend flexes the middle finger of his right hand to touch his thumb and flicks it out -- hard -- thumping the back of the little girl's head. The ambient noise is too great for me to tell if there is a sound of the contact, but I "hear" it nonetheless as she flinches on impact and seeks to push even closer to Mom. He thumps her again. And again. The little girl puts her arms around her mother and, apparently lets out a sound. Mom looks up from Self to see what prompted the more intense grasp from her daughter -- or maybe it was the noise. She glances down, then up to Boyfriend. Glower is the word. Boyfriend raises his right hand in a gesture that all but shouts "What? Me? What?" Mom glares a few more seconds. He says something that can't be heard and she then goes back to Self. Nothing happens for one more stop. Then another.

After the doors close on the third stop, the little girl makes a quarter turn to her right so that she is facing the center of the train aisle. She shrugs her shoulders upwards to reposition the backpack she carries -- a book and other stuff laden burden that seems at least half her body size. She appears to relax. But only for a moment.

As the train moves out again, gaining speed, Boyfriend casts his glance up and to his right, as if contemplating the deep Cosmos of Carl Sagan, and his right hand moves up from his side to grab the little girl's earlobe. He squeezes it. Hard. He pulls it. Harder. Enough to tilt the little girl's head to the side towards him. As her head is pulled towards him, Boyfriend bends forward so that his greasy black hair surrounds the little girl's face and he whispers something to her. He stands back up, leaving the little girl again in plain view. She starts to cry. Silently, but deafeningly, as her tears trace their way down her cheek to fall on to the dirty carpet of the subway car. Mom reads on. I sit.

My stop is announced and the train begins to slow as it enters the station. I stand up -- no more than five feet away from what I have been watching, silently, for four stops. Close enough to be heard if I chose to say something. Close enough for physical contact -- if that was the course I -- or Boyfriend -- chose or reacted to. As I stood there, feeling limper than limp, waiting for the train to glide to its stop, I thought of my own daughter -- 24, 5'2" 110 pounds with rocks in her pockets, living in Boston, and beginning to forge the contours of her own life. Happy. Vulnerable. Sometimes, I have to believe -- no, fuck it, KNOW -- scared of the vulnerability that here size, age and gender make potential prey to the evil that undoubtedly occasionally surrounds her.

And I did nothing. I said nothing. I stood -- literally -- silently and did not one thing in word or deed. Instead, when the door opened, I casually strode off the train.

As I did so, another passenger who had observed all that I had caught my eye. "Did you see that?", he asked. "Yes", I replied. "Can you believe someone behaving like that?" he asked again. "No", I said. But in my response I was already thinking more about my silence and inaction than anything I had seen during the last four stops of my ride home. I have thought more and more about it since then.

Nice guy. Swell. Fat lot of good it did that little girl. Feel good about that Niceguyindc2. Yeah.

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